A new outbreak, but not of the pandemic but from Amazon workers, has once again kept Jeff Bezos up at night, who does not stop watching his workers stage protests and strikes to fight for their rights, in many cases regarding against climate change. But this time the protests have been against Amazon’s management of the pandemic and within the United States, the country where the company was founded.
Last Friday, Amazon technical workers staged a “virtual” walkout (external workers from the company did not report that day) to protest the company’s management of the company’s coronavirus safety measures at fulfillment centers. . The action was planned by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and is also a response to Amazon firing two employees last Tuesday for publicly denouncing their actions related to Covid-19.
Now, as the world begins to lift the curtain and lockdown restrictions ease, Amazon has established itself as an essential business as a significant chunk of the planet depends on its delivery services, services that have proven very useful during lockdown .
At the same time, the e-commerce giant has ignored demands from its warehouse workers for better working conditions. In early March, Amazon encouraged its salaried tech workers to work remotely in Seattle while sending its delivery drivers to the front lines with few precautions against contagion.
The company later announced that drivers diagnosed with Covid-19 and quarantined could apply for a grant to compensate for up to two weeks of work. That same month, Amazon warehouse workers in New York left claiming the company had failed to provide them with protective equipment. A wave of labor activism followed.
Even Silicon Valley, an area that boasted of its unionized workers at the company, is experiencing its own labor movement. Engineers join forces with warehouse workers to demand Amazon improve working conditions for everyone.
“When campmates asked us for assistance to get better protection against coronavirus, we knew we had to do something,” Emily Cunningham, one of the laid-off tech workers, said in a statement last Thursday. “We are in the middle of a climate crisis and a global pandemic,” Cunningham added. “This is the time to care deeply about each other. We must do everything we can to support the workers on the front lines, now more than ever.”
The protests have extended beyond the company and there is already a petition by Action Network, a platform for advocacy organizations, to urge tech job seekers to reject Amazon job offers as long as they don’t meet the needs of warehouse workers and delivery drivers.
Amazon’s workers’ strike is a significant show of support. But inequalities in pay, benefits and economic security are visible across the company’s various jobs that should not be ignored.
The stakes are high for Amazon’s warehouse workers, whose commitment to forcing change at the company, most recently through strikes in several countries, has put them in an even more vulnerable position, including being barred from health insurance. While Amazon Tech employees receive six-figure salaries and generous benefits.