Why Is Amazon Abusing Its Workers?
by C.A. Matthews
Why is Amazon abusing its workers?
The company isn’t exactly hard-up. It’s the most profitable firm in America. Its executive chairman and largest shareholder, Jeff Bezos, is the richest man in the world, holding more wealth than the bottom 39 percent of Americans put together.
Amazon is abusing workers because it can. --Robert Reich, Bessemer and the Power Shift
The original title of this piece was going to be Peeing in Bottles. This past week Amazon made the mistake of trying to Tweet its way out of the allegations that Amazon workers were forced to pee in bottles during work hours in order to keep up the inhuman pace set by management. They implied that workers were exaggerating and that nothing abusive had ever happened in an Amazon warehouse.
It backfired big-time. (Amazon stock even dropped!) More and more sympathize with and support the Amazon warehouse workers in their attempt to organize and start the first union at an American Amazon facility. Nobody likes a bullying billionaire, after all.
But why did it have to come to this? Why couldn't Amazon cooperate and listen to the workers' demands? There's only one reason and Robert Reich is right: Amazon abuses its workers because it can.
Amazon's owner Jeff Bezos knows he can get away with it. A government that won't enact a decent minimum wage or give its citizens universal health care that isn't connected to their employment isn't exactly demonstrating that it cares for those who are being abused by a billionaire monopolist. A government that allows a fast food corporation to crush the measly attempt at a living wage--$15 per hour--isn't exactly proving that "promoting the general welfare" is very high on its list.
The mistreatment of workers is nothing new at Amazon. From an article published in 2019:
Amazon’s cutting-edge technology, unrelenting surveillance and constant disciplinary write-ups pushed the Eastvale workers so hard that in the last holiday season, they hit a coveted target: They got a million packages out the door in 24 hours. Amazon handed out T-shirts celebrating their induction into the “Million Unit Club.”
But Dixon, 54, wasn’t around for that. She started the job in April 2018, and within two months, or nearly 100,000 items, the lifting had destroyed her back. An Amazon-approved doctor said she had bulging discs and diagnosed her with a back sprain, joint inflammation and chronic pain, determining that her injuries were 100% due to her job. She could no longer work at Amazon. Today, she can barely climb stairs. Walking her dog, doing the dishes, getting out of her chair – everything is painful. According to her medical records, her condition is unlikely to improve. --Will Evans, Behind The Smiles
Amazon (and other companies) leave many disabled workers in their wake. You'd think with the bad press, all Amazon workers would gladly join a union and organize like hell for better working conditions. But believe it or not, they all won't. Decades of anti-union propaganda has taken its toll on American workers according to Daniel Medina:
...the organizing effort has been largely led by older workers, many of whom worked in union jobs before coming to Amazon. And many younger BHM1 workers have never interacted with a union over the course of their working lives and may have little understanding of the role a union has traditionally played in the workplace — a consequence, labor experts say, of a decade's long assault on organized labor in the Deep South. --Daniel A. Medina, Some Younger Amazon Workers Still Undecided
So, what really could happen if American Amazon workers aren't allowed to organize? Our history paints a grim picture:
On this day (March 26) 110 years ago, 146 garment workers, including 123 mostly young immigrant women, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in lower Manhattan. Many of these women were forced to jumped from several stories to the pavement below because the intensely anti-union sweat shop owners had insisted on keeping exits locked and only one of four elevators were operating.
These women were paid $15 a week and worked at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The owners of the sweatshop were outliers, who refused to acquiesce to the workers' demands that were made during the city-wide strike by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union for better pay and a more humane work schedule. --Bob Henelly, 110 Years Since the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Its Lessons Are Still Unlearned
It's time we learned from history and from the current workers forced to work under inhumane conditions at Amazon warehouses and elsewhere, It's time for everyone to support union organizing. The job--the life--you save may well be your own.
Documents Show Amazon Is Aware Drivers Pee in Bottles ... https://theintercept.com/2021/03/25/amazon-drivers-pee-bottles-union/
Bessemer and the Power Shift https://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/68500-bessemer-and-the-power-shift
Behind The Smiles: Amazon's Internal Injury Records Expose the True Toll of its Relentless Drive For Speed https://revealnews.org/article/behind-the-smiles/
Some Younger Amazon Workers in Bessamer, New to Unions, Still Undecided https://theintercept.com/2021/03/23/amazon-union-bessamer-bernie-sanders/
Bernie Sanders Leads Delegation to Alabama to Boost Amazon Union Drive https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/26/bernie-sanders-bessemer-alabama-amazon-workers-union-fight
110 Years Since the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Its Lessons Are Still Unlearned https://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/68518-focus-110-years-since-the-triangle-shirtwaist-fire-its-lessons-are-still-unlearned
Amazon's PR Flacks Are Starting to Sweat https://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/68542-amazons-pr-flacks-are-starting-to-sweat
Fast Food Giant Claims Credit For Killing $15 Minimum Wage https://www.dailyposter.com/p/fast-food-giant-claims-credit-for
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For more than 40 years, the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds for abortions, has created barriers to accessing abortion care that disproportionately affect low-income and women of color. Not only women are affected by this, but trans men and nonbinary folks are also affected by the Hyde Amendment which has effectively stripped healthcare from those who would otherwise have it.
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