On day one, the organizers want you to think of the workers

In case our The homepage didn’t warn you, today (and tomorrow) is Prime Day. For Prime members, this means offers, offers, offers. For Amazon warehouse workers, this usually means mandatory overtime, or MET as the company abbreviates it. MET is stepping up an already grueling work schedule: A typical warehouse shift consists of 10 hours of non-stop physical labor with two 30-minute breaks. (Policies are less consistent for delivery drivers, as most of them work for a network of entrepreneurs, but suffice it to say that their workloads will increase in a comparable fashion.) At the same time, something else is escalating: the review of Amazon’s working conditions.

The recent union campaign in Bessemer, Alabama, has drawn national attention to labor issues at the e-commerce giant, drawing criticism from people like Bernie sanders and Representative Andy Levin from Michigan, who sits on the House Committee on Education and Work. Earlier this month The Washington Post released a report denouncing Amazon’s poor security record, and last week The New York Times followed by an investigation into the company’s HR failures and staggering turnover rate during the pandemic. Jeff Bezos praised some of the criticisms in a letter to shareholders in April, pledging to make Amazon “the best employer on Earth” and “the safest workplace on Earth” (although he preparing to leave Earth behind). While the union protests around Prime Day are nothing new, they probably have more teeth this year.

So, as buyers try to save money this week, a number of groups across the country are trying to organize the company’s massive and growing workforce. And they converge from several angles.

First of all, the dream of unionizing the Bessemer warehouse continues. After decidedly losing the union election in April, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union (RWDSU) disputed the results, alleging improper conduct on Amazon’s part. A decision from the National Labor Relations Council is expected shortly. If the hearing officer rules in favor of the union, she could order a new election, although Amazon can appeal such a decision.

Meanwhile, a union scrappier campaign is underway near Staten Island, New York. It is run by the independent Amazon Labor Union, made up of grassroots workers. The Teamsters, which primarily represent logistics workers as the nation’s largest union, also hinted that there was something big in the works. “Focusing on one facility at a time and relying on weak, hard-to-enforce US legal procedures is not enough to win against monopoly companies like Amazon,” said National Teamsters Director for Amazon Randy Korgan. wrote in Living room ahead of their annual convention this week.

Any group that organizes itself at Amazon, big or small, faces long chances, says Rebecca Kolins Givan, professor of labor relations at Rutgers. The company’s formidable tactics were on display at Bessemer: the anti-union consultants at $ 375 an hour, the months-long messaging campaign disseminated through a myriad of communication channels, and its power to change. traffic patterns on a whim. “Amazon has the law and billions of dollars on its side,” says Givan. “Thinking about creative ways to meet these challenges is only a good thing” for the organizers.

The 118-year-old, 1.4 million-member Teamsters union has resources and experience on its side. But Christian Smalls, a former Staten Island process assistant, believes Amazon requires a non-traditional approach. Amazon fired Smalls last year after leading a walkout to protest the company’s Covid-19 response. After leaked meeting notes showing Amazon general counsel calling Smalls, who is black, “not smart or articulate” and planning to make him “the face of the whole labor / labor movement,” Smalls set out to make sure that the company is eating its words. He helped found the Congress of Essential Workers, a year-old labor group that supports the Amazon Labor Union in the Staten Island campaign.

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