Tag Archives: Amazon

‘This Is a Big Deal’: Amazon Settlement With NLRB Could Ease Worker Unionization Efforts

“This settlement agreement provides a crucial commitment from Amazon to millions of its workers across the United States that it will not interfere with their right to act collectively to improve their workplace by forming a union or taking other collective action.”

By Jessica Corbett.  Published 12-23-2021 by Common Dreams

A demonstration supporting Amazon workers in Philadelphia on Marh 20, 2021. Photo: Joe Piette/flickr/CC

As Amazon faces growing criticism over working conditions and its response to employee organizing, the online retail giant this week finalized a settlement with a federal labor agency that’s expected to make it easier for workers in the United States to unionize.

“This is a big deal,” Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 tweeted Thursday.

The union shared The New York Times‘ reporting on Amazon’s agreement with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is the result of six cases of workers saying the company limited their organizing abilities. Continue reading

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‘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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Record-Breaking Disasters Across World Have Root Cause in Common: Human Activity

“The solutions we conceive of as a global society,” a new report states, must “allow for interconnected ways of solving multiple problems at once.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 9-8-2021

Amazon deforestation. Phpto: Oregon State University/flickr/CC

A slew of recent record-breaking disasters that took place in faraway places across the world shouldn’t be seen in isolation but as interconnected events for which human activity is a major root cause, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday.

The study (pdf), released by the UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, took a “deep dive” into 10 extreme events that occurred in 2020 and 2021 that “were not only disastrous for people and the environment but were also the symptoms of underlying processes ingrained in our society.” Continue reading

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Secret IRS Files Reveal How Much the Ultrawealthy Gained by Shaping Trump’s “Big, Beautiful Tax Cut”

Billionaire business owners deployed lobbyists to make sure Trump’s 2017 tax bill was tailored to their benefit. Confidential IRS records show the windfall that followed.

by Justin Elliott and Robert Faturechi. Published 8-11-2021 by ProPublica

Image: Pixafree.org/CC BY-SA 3.0

 

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

 

Series:
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In November 2017, with the administration of President Donald Trump rushing to get a massive tax overhaul through Congress, Sen. Ron Johnson stunned his colleagues by announcing he would vote “no.”

Making the rounds on cable TV, the Wisconsin Republican became the first GOP senator to declare his opposition, spooking Senate leaders who were pushing to quickly pass the tax bill with their thin majority. “If they can pass it without me, let them,” Johnson declared. Continue reading

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Digital Rights Groups Hail Record €746 Million Amazon Data Privacy Fine

La Quadrature du Net, whose complaint led to the Luxembourg fine, called the penalty a “first step,” but said that “we need to remain vigilant” in the face of Amazon’s ongoing violations.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-30-2021

Amazon/AWS offices in Luxembourg. Photo: -wuppertaler, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Digital rights advocates on Friday applauded a €746 million fine levied against Amazon by a Luxembourg regulator for the tech giant’s violation of European Union data privacy laws.

The record penalty—which converts to about U.S. $886 million—was imposed on July 16 by CNPD, Luxembourg’s data protection agency, and disclosed in an Amazon regulatory filing (pdf) on Friday, according to Bloomberg. Continue reading

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New York AG Sues Amazon Over ‘Flagrant Disregard’ for Worker Safety During Pandemic

“We won’t let corporate bullies put hardworking New Yorkers in harm’s way,” said the state attorney general, Letitia James.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-17-2021

Screenshot: YouTube

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday sued Amazon, accusing the retail giant of disregarding worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic and retaliating against employees who raised concerns—a move that came just days after she declared that “we won’t be intimidated” in response to the company’s preemptive lawsuit.

The state’s suit (pdf), filed in the New York Supreme Court, follows an investigation launched last March and claims Amazon violated multiple labor laws as the virus struck. Continue reading

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Warnings of Growing ‘Surveillance Empire’ as AI Van Cameras Give Amazon ‘Roaming Eyes in Every Neighborhood’

“Amazon will have the perfect panopticon in place to sweep up unprecedented amounts of data en masse,” says Fight for the Future.

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-4-2021

An Amaazon Prime van making a delivery in Queens. Photo: Tdorante10/CC

In what one leading digital rights advocate is calling “the largest expansion of corporate surveillance in human history,” Amazon has begun installing artificial intelligence-equipped cameras in some of its partners’ delivery vehicles to monitor drivers while they work, a move that is raising broader concerns about privacy and corporate power.

CNBC reported Wednesday that Amazon’s AI-powered, four-lens cameras—called Driveri—are being tested in a handful of contracted delivery vehicles. The cameras are manufactured by Netradyne, a San Diego-based startup, and record 100% of the time while vans are operating. They watch and record not only the drivers, but also the road and what’s happening around the vehicles. Continue reading

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‘This Is Not a Game’: Internet Defenders Warn Against Gutting of Section 230—Key Law for Online Speech

“Section 230 is one of the most important laws protecting freedom of expression and human rights in the digital age.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-27-2021

Protect Net Neutrality rally, San Francisco 2017. Photo: Credo Action/Wikimedia Commons/CC

A coalition of internet defenders on Wednesday cautioned lawmakers against responding to this month’s attack on the U.S. Capitol by making “uncareful changes” to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that could “profoundly alter the state of digital free speech and human rights.”

The warning came in a letter to members of Congress and the Biden-Harris administration from a diverse collection of over 70 groups representing issues such as racial justice, sex workers, digital rights, and global human rights. Signatories include Common Cause, Fight for the Future, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Wikimedia Foundation. Continue reading

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Hailed as ‘Heroes’ During Pandemic, Retail Workers Stripped of Hazard Pay While Companies Rake in Massive Profits

“While business booms and the pandemic rages, the rich are getting richer—and workers are getting sicker.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 11-20-2020

Nearly all of the top 15 retailers in the U.S., which provided hazard pay to workers in the beginning of the pandemic, have halted the extra compensation and are spending lavishly on stock buybacks. (Photo: Public Citizen)

Frontline retail workers have been lauded by U.S. corporations as “heroes” this year for keeping operations running during the Covid-19 outbreak, but a new study shows how companies like Dollar General and Walmart—which have made massive profits over recent months—have treated their employees like “sacrificial workers” by stripping hazard pay even as the pandemic soared.

The report, released Thursday by Public Citizen, details how most of the top 15 U.S. retail companies have quietly taken away hazard pay from their frontline workers, even as the coronavirus has continued to spread across the country and is now surging in states including Wisconsin, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Minnesota. Continue reading

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The labor-busting law firms and consultants that keep Google, Amazon and other workplaces union-free

Rite Aid hired anti-union consultants to try to prevent workers from successfully organizing. Amy Niehouse/Flickr, CC BY-SA

John Logan, San Francisco State University

American companies have been very successful at preventing their workers from organizing into unions in recent decades, one of the reasons unionization in the private sector is at a record low.

What you may not realize is that a handful of little-known law and consulting firms do much of the dirty work that keeps companies and other organizations union-free. Continue reading

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