Category Archives: Unions and Organized Labor

‘We Are Fighting Back’: Global Black Friday Strikes and Protests Seek to #MakeAmazonPay

“We are workers and activists divided by geography and our role in the global economy but united in our commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes, and for its impact on the planet.”

By Kenny Stancil.  Published 11-25-2021 by Common Dreams

Workers at the FRA3 Amazon datacenter in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo: Amazon Workers International/Twitter

On Black Friday, more than 70 labor unions and progressive advocacy groups shut down workplaces and hit the streets in cities around the globe to demand—on Amazon’s most profitable day of the year—that the sprawling tech and logistics corporation pay a living wage to its employees and a fair share of taxes to compensate the societies in which it operates.

“From oil refineries, to factories, to warehouses, to data centers, to corporate offices in countries across the world, workers and activists are rising up in strikes, protests, and actions to Make Amazon Pay,” reads the campaign’s website. While the international coalition held its first Black Friday day of action 12 months ago, opposition to Amazon’s abuses has only grown since then, and work stoppages and rallies targeting the e-commerce giant were expected in at least 20 countries on every inhabited continent this year.

According to the Make Amazon Pay coalition, planned actions include:

  • In Kathmandu, Nepal, organizers from the UNICOME Nepal and UNI Nepal Liaison Council will protest in defense of Amazon suppliers and their rights to decent conditions;
  • In Berlin, Germany, warehouse workers will march on the site of Amazon’s HQ to launch the Amazon Workers Against Surveillance;
  • In Toronto, Canada, postal workers and the Warehouse Worker Resource Center will march on the Brampton Amazon facility to demand better wages;
  • In Buenos Aires, Argentina, activists will take action at the Axion oil refinery against Amazon’s services to fossil fuel corporations like BP; and
  • In Warsaw, Poland, a broad coalition of unions and environmentalists will take to the streets to protest Amazon’s worker repression and arbitrary firings at its warehouses.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said Friday that people worldwide are demonstrating “to end corporate impunity, to end the scandal of [Amazon’s] monopoly power.”

“They pay little or no tax, yet their obscene wealth is actually untrammeled,” Burrow continued. She emphasized the need to “stan[d] with Amazon workers every day” and thanked unions for their solidarity.

Amazon is headquartered in the United States, but its reach is global—with a massive workforce of roughly 1.3 million people, excluding countless others employed by the company’s subcontractors, and a carbon footprint larger than two-thirds of the world’s countries. Resistance to one of the most powerful corporate empires in history—founded by Jeff Bezos, currently the second-richest person on the planet—is also transnational.

“Amazon is everywhere, involved in almost every step of the global economy, but we are too,” explains the coalition, which includes Progressive International, UNI Global Union, Amazon Workers International, and dozens of other trade unions and civil society organizations working to stamp out inequality, tax evasion, and climate injustice.

“At every link in this chain of abuse, we are fighting back,” the coalition says. “We are workers and activists divided by geography and our role in the global economy but united in our commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes, and for its impact on the planet.”

Campaigners from the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Bangladesh, Germany, Cambodia, and Poland described how “Amazon just doesn’t give a shit”—exploiting workers and consumers, despoiling the environment, dodging taxes, and using its ill-gotten gains to wield enormous, anti-democratic influence over lawmakers.

The Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, “has exposed how Amazon places profits ahead of workers, society, and our planet,” the Make Amazon Pay coalition notes on its website.

Last year, for instance, Amazon became a trillion-dollar corporation. According to a video on the coalition’s website, “Amazon’s wealth has increased so much during the pandemic that its owners could pay all 1.3 million of its employees a $690,000 Covid bonus and still be as rich as they were in 2020.”

Bezos—who paid a 1.1% true tax rate between 2006 and 2018, according to a June report from ProPublica—also became the first individual to amass a personal fortune of more than $200 billion. He surpassed that figure in August 2020, just a few months after he eliminated the short-lived hazard pay of Amazon employees, who have continued toiling at great risk to their own health.

In addition, Amazon’s union-busting tactics were on full display earlier this year in Bessemer, Alabama during a drive organized by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Union organizers at the Bessemer warehouse came up short in the April election, but an official at the National Labor Relations Board has recommended invalidating those results and mandating a new vote after RWDSU filed nearly two dozen complaints alleging that Amazon illegally threatened employees with loss of pay and benefits, installed and surveilled an unlawful ballot collection box, and expelled pro-union workers from so-called “captive audience” meetings during which management argued against unionization.

In addition to ruthlessly squashing unionization efforts, Amazon denies governments revenue “through its world-beating efforts at tax dodging,” says the Make Amazon Pay Coalition.

“Like all major corporations, Amazon’s success would be impossible without the public institutions that citizens built together over generations,” the coalition stresses. “But instead of giving back to the societies that helped it grow,” the e-commerce giant “paid just 1.2% tax in the U.S.” in 2019, “up from 0% the two previous years.”

As far as pollution goes, the coalition points out, “Amazon’s growing delivery and cloud computer businesses are accelerating global climate breakdown.”

Bezos, meanwhile, said in July—immediately following his first suborbital flight, which he admitted was paid for by Amazon workers—that he thinks it would be a good idea to relocate industrial production to outer space, threatening, however unrealistically, to push capitalism’s detrimental impacts beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

A study published earlier this month found that “the emissions from a single billionaire spaceflight would exceed the lifetime emissions of someone in the poorest billion people” in the world.

Highlighting Amazon’s environmental destruction here on planet Earth, Extinction Rebellion blocked a total of 15 fulfillment centers throughout Europe on Black Friday, in solidarity with striking workers.

In its list of demands, the Make Amazon Pay coalition says that it is fighting for better pay for Amazon’s workers—”in line with the increasing wealth of the corporation, including hazard pay and premium pay for peak times”—as well as improved working conditions and benefits, such as paid sick leave “so that no worker has to choose between their health or their job.”

The coalition also seeks to protect Amazon workers’ rights to organize as well as unions’ rights to promote the interests of employees—without fear of surveillance and retaliation, throughout the company’s global supply chains.

In addition, the campaign is pushing for Amazon to commit to zero emissions by 2030 and to eliminate “tax abuse through profit shifting, loopholes, and the use of tax havens,” among other demands to safeguard consumers’ data.

“Amazon is not alone in these bad practices,” the coalition acknowledges, “but it sits at the heart of a failed system that drives the inequality, climate breakdown, and democratic decay that scar our age.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
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‘Victory of Global Significance’: Modi to Repeal Laws That Sparked Year-Long Farmers’ Revolt

“After a year of strikes—and having faced brutal repression that claimed some 700 lives—India’s farmers are victorious in their struggle.”

By Kenny Stancil.  Published 11-19-2021 by Common Dreams.

Farmers in India have been organizing massive, sustained, historic protests against proposed neoliberal reforms. Photo: CAGJ

Workers’ rights activists around the globe rejoiced on Friday after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his government will repeal three corporate-friendly agricultural laws that the nation’s farmers have steadfastly resisted for more than a year.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a coalition of over 40 farmers’ unions that led the protests, called the development a “historic victory” for those “who struggled resolutely, unitedly, continuously, and peacefully for one year so far in the historic farmers’ struggle,” India Today reported, citing a statement from SKM. Continue reading

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‘Solidarity Forever’: 40,000 Kaiser Workers Set to Strike to Defend 700 Fellow Union Members

“An injury to one of us is an injury to all of us,” said one nurse and labor advocate.

By Julia Conley.  Published 11-18-2021 by Common Dreams.

Kaiser nurses and other health care workers rallied September 28. Photo: Labor Notes/Daniel O’Donnell

Tens of thousands of nurses, technicians, and other healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California staged a walkout Thursday in sympathy with about 700 engineers who have been on strike for two months, calling on the company to offer the employees a fair contract and, advocates said, demonstrating the power of labor unions and solidarity between workers.

About 40,000 workers represented by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare West (SEIU-UHW), Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 29, and International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 20 will go on strike from 7:00 Thursday morning until 7:00 Friday morning. Continue reading

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McDonald’s Workers Join ‘Striketober’ and Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment

One striker participated because “McDonald’s still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 10-26-2021

Employees of a McDonald’s in North Charleston, South Carolina walked out with workers across the United States for a one-day strike on October 26, 2021. (Photo: NC Raise Up/Twitter)

Amid of wave of worker walkouts that supporters are collectively calling “Striketober,” McDonald’s employees in at least 12 U.S. cities took to the streets Tuesday to raise concerns about how the fast food giant has handled sexual harassment and to demand a union.

Though McDonald’s in April announced new sexual harassment training standards that all of its restaurants worldwide will be required to meet by January 2022, workers still joined the one-day walkout from Chicago and Detroit to Houston and Miami, charging that the company has not done enough to keep employees safe on the job. Continue reading

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‘Striketober’ in Full Swing as Nearly 100,000 Workers Authorize Work Stoppages

“You might say workers have declared a national general strike until they get better pay and improved working conditions,” said former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Puplished 10-13-2021

Members and supporters of SEIU Local 49 picketed Aug. 21 at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro. Two days later Local 49 wrapped up strike balloting: The result was a 98% vote to authorize a strike. (Photo courtesy SEIU Local 49)

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich observed Wednesday that with employees in industries across the spectrum set to strike in the coming days following corporate leaders’ failure to meet their demands for fair pay and working conditions, the U.S. is closer than it has been in decades to experiencing a general strike.

“You might say workers have declared a national general strike until they get better pay and improved working conditions,” wrote Reich in The Guardian. “No one calls it a general strike. But in its own disorganized way it’s related to the organized strikes breaking out across the land—Hollywood TV and film crews, John Deere workers, Alabama coal miners, Nabisco workers, Kellogg workers, nurses in California, healthcare workers in Buffalo.” Continue reading

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‘Milestone Moment’ for Labor as 98% of Major TV-Film Union Votes to Strike

“Exactly the kind of mass-movement organizing we need right now,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the move by IATSE members.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 10=4=2021

Supporters at IATSE solidarity rally in Hollywood  Photo: IATSE Local 700 Organizing Department

Close to 100% of the 60,000-member film and television production employees union voted Monday to approve a strike in the coming days if studios don’t agree to a fair deal for the lowest-paid workers who make movies and television shows possible.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced that with nearly nine in 10 members taking part in the vote, 98.68% of workers approved a strike authorization amid negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents hundreds of TV and film production companies. Continue reading

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Nabisco Strike Ends After Union Members Approve New Contract

“Congratulations to these brave workers on their wins,” said one labor writer. “May their determination and grit be an inspiration for workers everywhere.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-19-2021

Nabisco workers on strike (Photo: BCTGM/bctgm.org)

A strike that started last month in Portland, Oregon and spread to other Nabisco bakeries and distribution centers across the United States ended Saturday after unionized workers voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of a new collective bargaining agreement.

Though some Portland employees opposed ratifying the four-year contract, calling for better terms, it ultimately garnered the necessary support from workers there and at facilities in Aurora, Colorado; Richmond, Virginia; Chicago, Illinois; and Norcross, Georgia. Continue reading

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The time for a four-day week has arrived

A new experiment from Iceland confirms what many of us have long suspected: reducing working hours improves wellbeing and productivity

By Jack Kellam.  Published 7-8-2021 by openDemocracy

Photo: Rawpixel Ltd/flickr/CC

Over the past six years, Iceland has been quietly conducting a major economic experiment. More than 2,500 public sector employees – representing over 1% of the country’s entire working population – reduced their working hours from 40 hours per week to 35 or 36 hours, with no loss of pay.

Trials of shorter working weeks are not new: in recent years a number of ‘four-day week’ experiments have taken place around the world – from Microsoft’s trial in Japan to Unilever’s experiment in New Zealand. But Iceland’s two trials, which took place between 2015 and 2021 among employees of the country’s national government and Reykjavík City Council, are unparalleled in terms of scale and scope. Progress was meticulously monitored by Icelandic researchers, which generated an unrivalled amount of evidence on the impact of shorter working hours. This week the key findings were published in a joint report published by Alda (Association for Sustainable Democracy) and Autonomy. Continue reading

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As Pandemic Wiped Out Workers, Covid Crisis Proved No Obstacle to Soaring CEO Pay

“This should have been a year for shared sacrifice,” said one economist. “Instead it became a year of shielding CEOs from risk while it was the frontline employees who paid the price.”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-28-2021

Carnival CEO Arnold Donald’s pay package in 2020 surged to $13.3 million, a 19% increase over the previous year, even though the cruise operator recorded losses of $10.2 billion. Photo: World Travel & Tourism Council/flickr/CC

Even as the Covid-19 pandemic created record losses in the second quarter of 2020—and claimed the lives and livelihoods of millions of workers—median CEO pay in the U.S. increased yet again last year, according to a new analysis.

At a time when “CEOs’ big pay packages seemed to be under as much threat as everything else,” many boards of directors “made changes to the intricate formulas that determine” executive compensation to “make up for losses created by the crisis,” the Associated Press reported Friday. Continue reading

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Progressive Groups Mark May Day With Rallies Urging Passage of PRO Act

“The fight for the PRO Act is a fight for a future of dignity for all workers,” said Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-1-2021

Protest at Amazon HQ on Cyber Monday 2019. Photo: War on Want/flickr/CC

A coalition of over 40 progressive organizations on Saturday rallied online and in person to support the PRO Act—legislation that would strengthen workers’ right to organize among other pro-worker provisions.

Groups behind the May Day actions include MoveOn, Indivisible, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Working Families Party.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act passed the House in March but has not yet faced a vote in the upper chamber, where it confronts the 60-vote legislative filibuster and no support from three Democrats—Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), and Mark Warner (Va.). Continue reading

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