Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping call out Jeff Bezos, acolyte of the great god Mammon (AKA money) in a protest outside Bezos’s NY home (on YouTube) and in a podcast about Bezos and Amazon’s crimes against the Earth (and its own workers).
On Saturday, December 19, Black Lives Matter L.A. held its final protest of the year. Their recent victories include driving D.A. Jackie Lacey from office for her adamant refusal to prosecute killer cops, and blocking LA Mayor Eric Garcetti from a position in Joe Biden’s cabinet because of his horrible record on dealing with LA’s houseless population, which is disproportionately Black, his terrible record on promoting gentrification and displacement, and his appointment of the rubber stamp Police Commission that functions as an apologist for one of the most murderous PDs in the country.
But BLM-LA and their allies were not just celebrating their victories — they were stepping up their critique of and opposition to “violent white capitalism” in their annual “Black Xmas” protest.
A couple of hundred people gathered at Yvonne Burke Park in Marina del Rey, a tony beach-front community of high-priced developments and hotels built on what were once unique brackish wet-lands, emphasizing their demand for more affordable housing in Los Angeles. They announced their intention to march to an Amazon location in the neighborhood to protest Amazon’s grotesque profit-taking during the pandemic, while the corporation condemned thousands of its workers to contracting COVID-19 or needing to supplement their incomes with food stamps, as well as working under onerous sweat-shop type speed-up conditions.
BDS-LA photos by Michael Novick
After traditional BLM LA rituals, including pouring libations to and saying the names of those killed by police, as well as of Black and African freedom fighters who have passed to the ancestors, the crowd of about 200 Black people and some white and other allies marched out of the park, along Admiralty Way and over to the site of Amazon Books, a brick-and-mortar Amazon store open to promote Christmas shopping. They were trailed by police, who also blocked the entrance to Fiji Way at Lincoln Blvd. where the Amazon store is located, from the opposite side from where the marchers were approaching. People gathered in the parking lot outside Amazon Books, facing a flatbed truck with speakers, flags and sound equipment that had led the marchers over. Speakers denounced Amazon, and particularly “centibillionaire” owner Jeff Bezos. A member of the BLM-LA Youth Vanguard led the crowd in chants of “Power to the People.”
JEDI is not Luke Skywalker or Obiwan Kenobi. It’s the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, worth up to a billion dollars a year for at least the next decade.
Sadly for Amazon, the Pentagon, home of the massive and misnamed US Department of “Defense” (DoD) awarded it to Microsoft in October 2019, and again — after Amazon’s complaints forced a do-over — in September 2020.
But Amazon is back in court, a little like Donald Trump or any movie super-villain that keeps coming back even after you think he’s dead for sure this time.
The contract, which would put a commercial company in charge of global war cloud and swaths of secret and top secret data, could be worth up to $10 billion over the next decade. However, it was conceived nearly four years ago and has yet to get off the ground, having faced four separate legal challenges by various companies competing for it. JEDI remains under a court-ordered injunction.
On Wednesday, the court unsealed separate responses to AWS’ complaint filed by attorneys for the Defense Department and Microsoft. Attorneys for the Defense Department called AWS’ protest a “prohibited strategic gambit,” suggesting that AWS used the president’s public statements and tweets of dislike toward Amazon and founder Jeff Bezos as a means to cry bias if they lost JEDI.
In a statement responding to AWS’ complaint, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications, Frank Shaw, said, “Amazon seems to be saying the only way they can ever lose is if the procurement isn’t fair.” Shaw added, “But every month, the market tells them that’s not true. Large and sophisticated customers regularly choose Microsoft over AWS. They do this because of the strength of our technology, our understanding of complex projects, and our overall value.”
The world’s two richest men, who committed billions of dollars of their own money to a private space race, are now eligible for an extra boost from the federal government: a tax break intended to help poor communities.
Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk had competed for nearly a decade to develop engines and rockets through their privately owned space companies when the perk came their way in 2018. Their companies’ sites were included among the thousands of tracts across the U.S. designated as Qualified Opportunity Zones, part of President Donald Trump’s plan to use tax breaks to attract investments and jobs to distressed neighborhoods.
At the time, Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. was building a launch operation along the Texas-Mexico border. Bezos’s Blue Origin had struck a deal to build a $200 million rocket engine plant in an Alabama research park. The companies had already committed to job creation and secured local tax breaks.
The billionaires’ qualification for the federal benefit, which hasn’t been previously reported, enables them to avoid capital gains taxes on money they steer into opportunity zone operations. Those investments can then grow tax-free, and if the billionaires keep their investments in place for a decade, any appreciation can be shielded from federal capital gains taxes forever.
Today is Black Friday, the second busiest shopping day of the entire year.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is hoping to make billions of dollars between today and Cyber Monday, off of the work of thousands of warehouse employees across the country.
Warehouse workers at Amazon are twice as likely to be injured on the job than those in similar jobs.(1) Coronavirus cases are spiking but Amazon has ended its hazard pay and still does not have significant paid sick leave.(2) And while Bezos has made $70 billion since the start of the pandemic, warehouse employees in California aren’t being paid wages competitive to where they live.(3)
We’re encouraging everyone to shop local this Black Friday and Cyber Monday in order to support local businesses and send a strong message to Bezos that we won’t support his exploitation of warehouse workers.
Here are instructions for how to change your profile picture for various social medias:
EXCERPT FROM BLOOMBERG:
Amazon.com Inc. warehouse workers in Alabama filed a petition with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board to form a union, the latest sign of strife between the online retailer and its large blue-collar workforce.
The federal agency posted a notice dated Friday for a hearing to determine whether the petition meets the criteria to advance to the next step. With enough support, it’ll proceed to a vote among those working at the warehouse outside Birmingham on whether to unionize and be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The recently opened facility in Bessemer employs about 1,500 people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the plight of so-called essential workers, including those in Amazon’s logistics and delivery operations, whose labor helped many people reduce their exposure by having goods delivered to their homes.
Some Amazon warehouse workers in Europe are union members, but most of the company’s U.S. workforce isn’t unionized. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $181.9 billion, while many of Amazon’s workers earn so little that they receive government subsidies for food and healthcare.
In addition to dangers to privacy and being a step towards a “total surveillance society” hooked into law enforcement, Amazon’s Ring doorbells have been the subject of a recall by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission over a threat of causing fires. Some 350,000 units in the U.S. and 8,700 in Canada are being recalled over fire and burn concerns. The devices were on sale through Amazon’s sites and retail locations.
According to the CPSC, “This recall involves Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Generation), model number 5UM5E5 smart doorbell cameras. The video doorbells have a blue ring at the front and come in two color combinations: (black and silver) and (black and bronze). They were sold with a mounting bracket and a USB charging cable. The two-way audio doorbell can be hardwired or battery-powered and supports night vision. [Emphasis added.]
“The Ring logo is printed on the bottom front of the doorbell and the model and serial number are on a label on the back of the doorbell and the outer packaging. Consumers can determine if their doorbell is included in this recall by entering the doorbell’s serial number at http://support.ring.com/ring-2nd-gen-recall. Only Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Generation) models with certain serial numbers are included.”
The recall, joined in by Canada, notes that the doorbells are imported by Ring LLC of Santa Monica, CA from China. Perhaps we should consider Ring of Santa Monica as a site for a protest of Amazon’s surveillance activities and other involvements.
The CSPC says that Ring has received 85 incident reports of incorrect doorbell screws installed with 23 of those doorbells igniting, resulting in minor property damage. The firm has received eight reports of minor burns.
The U.K. government is considering using software from U.S. data analytics firm Palantir for coronavirus contact tracing in England, according to reports from Bloomberg and The Financial Times, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.
[NOTE: Palantir’s data mining functions on the backbone of Amazon Web Services (AWS).]
Officials are reportedly in talks about using the company’s Foundry software to manage sensitive contact-tracing data on the spread of the virus. It comes after the government failed to report 15,841 positive cases because an Excel spreadsheet containing contact-tracing data reached its maximum size and failed to automatically update.
Palantir has been described as the company that “knows everything about you” and its software is used by government surveillance agencies around the world for spying purposes.
From the Bloomberg Business news piece linked to above:
Founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel and some fellow PayPal alumni, Palantir cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company’s engineers and products don’t do any spying themselves; they’re more like a spy’s brain, collecting and analyzing information that’s fed in from the hands, eyes, nose, and ears. The software combs through disparate data sources—financial documents, airline reservations, cellphone records, social media postings—and searches for connections that human analysts might miss. It then presents the linkages in colorful, easy-to-interpret graphics that look like spider webs. U.S. spies and special forces loved it immediately; they deployed Palantir to synthesize and sort the blizzard of battlefield intelligence.
From LA Magazine on Peter Thiel’s relationship with Donald Trump:
In 2016, billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel became the first openly gay person to speak at a Republican convention in nearly a generation. Thiel was an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump from the get-go, ultimately donating around $1.25 million to help him become president. But, [t]hese days, Thiel reportedly describes the Trump campaign as the “S.S. Minnow,” a reference to the shipwrecked boat from Gilligan’s Island, and insiders say he has “ghosted” the campaign’s overtures.
A few hours of support for essential workers = Many days of services so we can shelter at home
UPDATE: About 50 people attended for a candle-light vigil. Bezos’ s mansion has the highest hedge I have ever seen, about four stories high.
PRIME DAY! OCTOBER 13, 2020 6pm to 8pm
CANDLELIGHT VIGIL AT THE BEZOS MANSION
1801 Angelo Drive, Beverly Hills, 90210
• Support the workers’ demand for safe PPE and a rank and file safety committee.
Amazon workers will be participating with facial covering to avoid retaliation.
“Even if Jeff Bezos gave $170,000 to every employee in Amazon he would still have the same wealth as before the pandemic. This is the extent to which he has profited from this historically tragic moment.
“Amazon workers are essential! Our lifeline to the basic things we need, yet they continue to put their health, and the health of loved ones they go home to every night at risk. We must stand in solidarity with them.”
- Adam Diaz, Warehouse Workers Resource Center http://www.warehouseworkers.org ( non-profit funded by private liberal charities like Liberty Hill)
AMAZON’S COVID NUMBERS
19,816 have tested positive for Covid-19. (does not include any 3rd party deliverers or contractors)
• Hawthorne Distribution Center, 2815 W. El Segundo = 42 cases. Includes first confirm death due to Covid-19.
• Eastvale Fulfillment Center, 4950 Goodman Road, Eastvale (San Bernardino County), CA= 55 cases.
Source: directly from workers inside.
• Amazon under investigation from CA Attorney General for unsafe practices during pandemic
- “Andy”-Amazon worker from Hawthorne distribution center. – “Please join us at our CEO’s mansion to demand PPE’s, a rank and file safety committee, paid sick days off.”
- Chris Smalls- fired Amazon worker. “Amazon smears Smalls with racist anti-union campaign”-The Real News. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTQiTliRxig
- Non-union Somali Amazon workers on one day strike in Minnesota.
- Adam Diaz, Director, Warehouse Workers Resource Center, PANA member
Amazon workers’ demographics for the US (50 states)
Total workers (July 2020) Approx. 1 million in USA. Amazon Net income – $225 billion, 2019.
65% – Non-White, 34.7% White
15.4% Asian – 154,000 API workers with a majority of them in California & Hawai’i.
3.6% 2 or more races
1.3% Native indigenous
53% male, 47% female
The Big Picture: How does Bezos make so much? While Amazon and all workers and community in the US must unite, it is our job in the US to educate and build solidarity with Amazon workers in the global south upon whose exploitation the Amazon empire and US Imperialism depends. Broad public exposure of inhumane conditions and pay makes it difficult for Amazon to “divide” US workers and consumers with “better” benefits (relative to the global south) and American racism about “immigrant” and or “foreign workers” threatening American jobs.
1.Philippines: Amazon-Product Research worker- $1.31 per hour Investigations are ongoing for allegations of “inhumane” treatment of workers forced to lock-down inside work facilities and sleep on floors due to the pandemic.
2. Hengyang, China: Amazon contractor Foxxconn assembler – $2.14 per hour
3. San Bernardino, CA: Fullfillment Center – $15.00 per hour entry level
4. Seattle, WA: Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO – $13 million per hour
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began PANA has supported the non-union Amazon workers through the Warehouse Workers Resource Center and we have supported nurses who have been fighting for adequate PPE and safe patient care procedures through the CA Nurses Association, AFL-CIO, at Kaiser Sunset and at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica.
• Healthcare workers, in particular nurses, have some of the highest death rates battling the pandemic as “essential” workers, like the Amazon workers. Both have been very visible in LA and the nation in their fights.
• Healthcare workers have one of the highest concentrations of API workers. In CA, about a quarter of all RNs are API, the majority Filipino/a.
• Amazon workers nationwide include about 154,000 Asian/Pacific Islander workers, with a significant number in CA, all non-union.
PANA: Peace, Justice & Equality for the 99%