A Worldwide Workers’ Revolt Against Amazon Has Begun
By Luis Feliz Leon
The union drive at Amazon’s 885,000-square-foot warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, failed. But the historic campaign nabbed global headlines and added fuel to ongoing workers’ revolts across the world.
Strikes by Amazon workers in Italy, Germany and India are coalescing into an international struggle against the world’s fourth-most valuable company and its grueling working conditions and intensive surveillance.
Since the dawn of capitalism, bosses have found innovations to oversee and extract more work from the overstressed bodies of their labor force. But Amazon’s minute surveillance of workers — who, at the Bessemer facility, are mostly Black and women — would make the Stasi blush. At the company’s warehouses, workers use hand-held devices that track their every move and assess their speed and accuracy. What is particularly novel about Amazon, as Joe DeManuelle-Hall writes in the movement publication Labor Notes, is how it brings together productivity innovations to create a régime of terror on the shop floor, with pressures that infamously force workers to pee in bottles rather than take breaks.
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Amazon Workers’ Defeat: The Trusts Are Back
April 15, 2021
On Friday, April 9, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union was defeated in its effort to organize Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, AL. The union accuses Amazon of unfairly interfering with the vote and plans to appeal.
However disappointing is the Amazon defeat, it signals something more telling. During the fin de siècle and the early-20th century, large corporations cornered whole segments of America’s economy using predatory pricing, exclusivity deals and other anti-competitive practices to undercut smaller local businesses. And numerous strikes were defeated, often leading striking workers injured, arrested or killed.
After the economic panic of 1893, a growing number of Americans questioned the capitalist system. Between 1897 and 1904, a total of 4,227 firms merged to form 257 corporations. The largest merger combined nine steel companies to create U.S. Steel. By 1904, some 318 companies controlled nearly 40 percent of the nation’s manufacturing output. A single firm produced over half the output in 78 industries. These corporations became known as “trusts” – and they have returned with a vengeance.
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Amazon’s Bezos: Union defeat does not bring ‘comfort’
Apr. 17, 2021
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has said the company’s recent victory in defeating a high-profile unionisation drive in the US did not bring him “comfort”.
In his final letter to shareholders as the company’s chief executive, he addressed concerns about the firm’s treatment of its workers.
The comments follow a year of blistering global criticism of Amazon’s work practices during the pandemic.
But Amazon decisively beat back the union effort, despite those complaints.
“Does your chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t,” wrote Mr Bezos, referring to the city in Alabama where the union drive occurred.
“I think we need to do a better job for our employees.”
Continue reading at www.bbc.com