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Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Labor actions Surveillance Capitalism

Bezos Kicks Himself Upstairs to Build Greater Monopoly Power

In the artist’s rendering of Amazon’s projected “HQ2”, is it melting, or burning?

https://www.axios.com/amazons-next-act-bezos-jassy-9cdfdb3c-0094-49fd-8d1a-966f69dd1d73.html

Excerpt and links:

In choosing top official Andy Jassy as the new CEO beginning in Q3, but staying on as executive chairman, Jeff Bezos, 57, is perpetuating Amazon ambitions that exceed the public’s imagination, Ina Fried writes.

  • Jassy, 53 — CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud services unit — gave Amazon a key profit engine to fuel its outsized ambitions. AWS boasts profit margins that outstrip retail’s.

Between the lines: When people thought Amazon was building “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore,” it was actually building “The Everything Store.”

  • When people thought it was focused on that, Amazon was expanding to web services and then advertising.
  • When people thought it was laser-focused on all things online, Amazon moved into physical retail, buying Whole Foods and launching the cashier-less Amazon Go convenience stores.
  • Amazon’s culture runs deep. Executives tend to either gain some experience and move on to places with more lavish perks or better work-life balance, or they buy into the Amazon approach and stay forever.There are few better examples of that than Jassy, who joined Amazon in 1997 — 24 years ago.
  • Yes, but: Many have awakened to Amazon’s size and power. Pressure from policymakers, and from within the company’s own ranks, won’t go away with a change in management.
    • Just Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission fined Amazon $62 million for allegedly stiffing delivery drivers. The FTC is also said to be working with states to investigate the company over antitrust concerns.
    • Activist employees, meanwhile, are increasingly looking to unionize, pressure the company on business and environmental issues, or both.
  • Stepping back from day-to-day operations will free Bezos to focus more on aspirations beyond the company:
    • Blue Origin, Bezos’ space venture, will benefit from more of Bezos’ drive and ambition.
    • Like Elon Musk, Bezos talks about the strategic importance of space as an exit plan for the human race if Earth becomes uninhabitable.
    • Amazon CFO Brian Olsavky said on an earnings call that Bezos will remain involved in many “large, one-way door” issues, including acquisitions and planning new lines of business.
    • [Not to mention, which it doesn’t, that Bezos personally owns the Washington Post. And that includes radio station WTWP (The Washington Post), successor to WTOP which the paper used to own but sold off.]
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Labor actions

Union Drive at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/25/business/amazon-union-alabama.html

EXCERPT:

The largest, most viable effort to unionize Amazon in many years began last summer not in a union stronghold like New York or Michigan, but at a Fairfield Inn outside Birmingham, in the right-to-work state of Alabama.

It was late in the summer and a group of employees from a nearby Amazon warehouse contacted an organizer in the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. They were fed up, they said, with the way the online retailer tracked their productivity, and wanted to discuss unionizing.

The RWDSU has a history of progressive unionism, Above, RWDSU District 65 members in the 1963 March on Washington for jobs and justice.

As the workers arrived at the hotel, union officials watched the parking lot to make sure they had not been followed.

Since that clandestine meeting, the unionizing campaign at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala., has moved faster and further than just about anyone has expected. By late December, more than 2,000 workers signed cards indicating they wanted an election, the union said. The National Labor Relations Board then determined there was “sufficient” interest in a union election among the warehouse’s roughly 5,800 workers, which is a significant bar to hit with the government agency that oversees the voting process. About a week ago, the board announced that voting by mail would start next month and continue through the end of March.

Follow-up:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/opinion/amazon-union-ballot.html

The everything store wants its workers to vote on unionization in person, in the middle of a pandemic.

Craig Becker and 

Mr. Becker is the general counsel to the AFL-CIO, of which the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is an affiliate. He was a member of the National Labor Relations Board from 2010 to 2012. Dr. Stanley is a professor of labor and legal history at the University of Chicago.

EXCERPT:

A battle over voting by mail is again being waged in an electoral contest. But now it’s Amazon that opposes a mail-ballot election in order to thwart a unionization effort at an Alabama fulfillment center.

In November, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, rejected Donald Trump’s falsehoods about voter fraud, writing on Instagram just after the election, “By voting in record numbers, the American people proved again that our democracy is strong.”

Now, however, Amazon’s opposition to mail balloting threatens to undermine workplace democracy. In the era of Covid-19, it also endangers public health.

The voters in the election are nearly 6,000 warehouse employees at an Amazon Robotics sortable fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala., a Birmingham suburb that was once a center of steel production. They receive, sort and package goods delivered across the South. They will cast ballots to decide whether to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a part of the United Food and Commercial Workers. With 40 coronavirus cases recently found at the warehouse, the union sought a mail-ballot election. The ballots are currently scheduled to be sent out on Feb. 8 and must be received by March 29.

 

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Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Labor actions

Resisting Amazon is Fertile

https://mronline.org/2020/12/16/resisting-amazon-is-not-futile/

Excerpt:

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice had forced CEO Jeff Bezos into an extraordinary concession, pledging to move the company to 100 per cent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions. The tech workers were celebrating their power even though their numbers represented a minuscule fraction of the company’s fifty thousand Seattle workers. Imagine what power they would have if tech, logistics, and warehouse workers united and organized global majority unions at Amazon.

That’s daunting to conceive. Amazon is huge. It plays the central role in American capitalism’s distribution and logistics web and also in technology and its control of the internet through Amazon Web Services (AWS). Amazon’s worldwide employee head count is 1.2 million and growing every day. Its market valuation exceeds the national GDPs of more than 90 per cent of the world’s nations.

A Very Modern Challenge

In the last fifteen years, the company that began as an online bookseller has consolidated extraordinary monopolistic control over our daily lives, monetizing the activities of workers and consumers, honing surveillance systems inside and out of the workplace, driving economies, capturing governments around the world, and deploying vast resources to keep workers atomized, intimidated, permanently precarious, and disempowered.

The challenge of how to organize at a company so vast and apparently omnipotent, whose CEO is on the way to becoming the world’s first trillionaire, can seem utterly overwhelming, a futile exercise. And yet any credible working-class theory of taking on late-stage monopoly capitalism in today’s Gilded Age must answer the question of how to organize worker power at Amazon.

The Cost of Free Shipping: Amazon in the Global Economy (edited by Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and Ellen Reese and out by Pluto Press this year) doesn’t purport to provide a comprehensive road map for organizing. But in essays by the editors bookending seventeen curated articles from around the world, the book offers important insights into Amazon’s insidious nature, the challenges of organizing, and also some glimmers of organizing success at the local and national levels.

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Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Labor actions

Amazon Squeezes Drivers as “Contractors”

Photo: Despite their Amazon-branded delivery vans and uniforms, subcontracted delivery drivers do not formally work for the e-commerce giant. Photo: Todd Van Hoosear, CC BY-SA 2.0.

https://labornotes.org/2020/12/building-its-own-delivery-network-amazon-puts-squeeze-drivers

EXCERPT:

In addition to Flex, the company is increasingly relying on its Delivery Service Partners program, rolled out in 2018. DSPs are small subcontracted parcel delivery firms with 20–40 delivery vans apiece—considered “independent” of Amazon, though they exclusively deliver packages for Amazon Prime customers.

Subcontracted Drivers

DSP fleets are limited to 40 vans to complicate unionization efforts and to increase Amazon’s flexibility and power over the price paid per delivery. Limiting their size makes it difficult for these small firms to gain leverage against Amazon. Each DSP manages between 40 and 100 employees.

Workers face extreme pressure to meet the demands of Amazon’s tight delivery terms. During peak holiday periods, the number of deliveries can reach as high as 400 per shift.

I live in Southern California, one of Amazon’s largest markets in the world. For years, it was most common here to see white unmarked delivery vans with workers wearing reflective vests hustling Amazon Prime packages through the streets. Today, however, most DSPs lease grey-blue Amazon-branded delivery vans and Amazon uniforms for their drivers. And yet, despite their appearance, these subcontracted delivery drivers do not formally work for Amazon.

The majority of these drivers in Southern California work eight- to 10-hour shifts and earn about $15 per hour. Many do not receive health insurance benefits.

These workers face extreme pressure to meet the demands of Amazon’s tight delivery terms. During peak holiday periods, the number of deliveries can reach as high as 400 per shift. Drivers complain of unpaid overtime, poor working conditions, and unrealistic expectations and pressures set by Amazon.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Labor actions

Amazon Hiring Subsidized by You

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/27/technology/pushed-by-pandemic-amazon-goes-on-a-hiring-spree-without-equal.html

“Amazon is hiring…2,800 people a day.”

While news of new job opportunities seems positive, Tiffany D. Cross pointed out that “Amazon⁩ employees top the list of those receiving public assistance like SNAP. ”

EXCERPTS from NY Times article:

The scale of hiring is even larger than it may seem because the numbers do not account for employee churn, nor do they include the 100,000 temporary workers who have been recruited for the holiday shopping season. They also do not include what internal documents show as roughly 500,000 delivery drivers, who are contractors and not direct Amazon employees.

[Note: I wonder if Amazon had a hand in passsing CA’s Measure 22 which exempted delivery driver contractors, along with Uber and Lyft, from being classified as employees?]

Adding so many new workers so fast in a pandemic has been a herculean task. Many workers feared catching the coronavirus in warehouses, so Amazon rolled out a fleet of safety measures to address Covid-19. And it revved up its hiring machine, which relies on technology and traditional recruitment.

That includes promoting its training, benefits and pay. Of its 810,000 workers who are in the United States, about 85 percent are frontline employees in warehouses and operations who earn a minimum of $15 an hour. That is higher than traditional retail work, where an average sales worker makes $13.19 an hour, but lower than typical warehousing jobs.

[Note: Warehouse work, especially under Amazon’s speed-up policies, is a lot more physically demanding and taxing than traditional retail, and given the confined quarters and large staff, a lot likelier to spread COVID.]

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Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Boycott Amazon Campaign Labor actions

#BlackOutBezos

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.

Will you change your profile picture to our #BlackOutBezos image from today through Cyber Monday and help convince others to shop local?

Here are instructions for how to change your profile picture for various social medias:

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Boycott Amazon Campaign Labor actions

Amazon Workers in Alabama Petition for Union

https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2020-11-24/amazon-warehouse-workers-in-alabama-petition-to-form-a-union

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.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Labor actions Surveillance Capitalism

Leaks Expose Amazon spying on labor, environmentalists, social movements

https://www.vice.com/en/article/5dp3yn/amazon-leaked-reports-expose-spying-warehouse-workers-labor-union-environmental-groups-social-movements

EXCERPT:

A trove of more than two dozen internal Amazon reports reveal in stark detail the company’s obsessive monitoring of organized labor and social and environmental movements in Europe, particularly during Amazon’s “peak season” between Black Friday and Christmas. The reports, obtained by Motherboard, were written in 2019 by Amazon intelligence analysts who work for the Global Security Operations Center, the company’s security division tasked with protecting Amazon employees, vendors, and assets at Amazon facilities around the world.

The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. They also indicate, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton operatives—from the notorious spy agency known for its union-busting activities—to gather intelligence on warehouse workers.

Pinkerton’s today: not your grandpa’s detective agency

Internal emails sent to Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center obtained by Motherboard reveal that all the division’s team members around the world receive updates on labor organizing activities at warehouses that include the exact date, time, location, the source who reported the action, the number of participants at an event (and in some cases a turnout rate of those expected to participate in a labor action), and a description of what happened, such as a “strike” or “the distribution of leaflets.”

<snip>

Amazon intelligence analysts appear to gather information on labor organizing and social movements to prevent any disruptions to order fulfillment operations. The new intelligence reports obtained by Motherboard reveal in detail how Amazon uses social media to track environmental activism and social movements in Europe—including Greenpeace and Fridays For Future, environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s global climate strike movement—and perceives such groups as a threat to its operations. In 2019, Amazon monitored the Yellow Vests movement, also known as the gilet jaunes, a grassroots uprising for economic justice that spread across France—and solidarity movements in Vienna and protests against state repression in Iran.

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Boycott Amazon Campaign Labor actions

Vigil at Bezos Mansion on Prime Day, Oct 13

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.”

AMAZON’S COVID NUMBERS

19,816 have tested positive for Covid-19. (does not include any 3rd party deliverers or contractors)

Source: Amazon/Rueters

 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

https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2020-07-27/amazons-warehouse-safety-spurs-investigation-by-california-attorney-general

  1. “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.”

  1. Chris Smalls- fired Amazon worker. “Amazon smears Smalls with racist anti-union campaign”-The Real News.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTQiTliRxig

  1. Non-union Somali Amazon workers on one day strike in Minnesota.

  1. 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

26.5% Black

18.5% Hispanic

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%

Categories
Amazon/Whole Foods Monopoly Power Labor actions

19,000+ Amazon Workers Contracted COVID-19

One former reality-TV host gets COVID and it’s world-wide news. But the 19,000 “essential workers” for Amazon who have caught it so far are only covered in “Business Insider,” as PayDay Report takes note:

 

Over 19,000 Amazon Workers Test Positive for COVID-19

 
With people choosing online over in-store shopping, Amazon’s business has boomed. However, it comes at a high cost for its workers. 

On Thursday Amazon announced that since March, 19,816 of its workers have contracted COVID-19. Amazon claims the rate is lower than the general population’s, but workplace safety advocates warn that the company has had a history of hiding injuries. 

More from Business Insider:

Frontline employees working for both Amazon and Whole Foods have repeatedly gone on strikefiled whistleblower complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and individual states’ workplace safety agencies, sued the company, and reached out to media organizations to draw attention to what they say are unsafe working conditions during the pandemic.

Amazon also has a long history of workers raising the alarm about workplace safety which resurfaced this week with a report from Reveal detailing how the company downplayed injury rates. The company has also aggressively cracked down on whistleblowers, firing multiple employees during the pandemic who spoke out about issues, monitoring their private social media conversations, and using technology to track workers seeking to organize for better conditions and pay.