by Ronnie Estoque
“If we don’t get it, shut it down!” was among the many shouts that rang by means of the streets of downtown Seattle yesterday as Christian Smalls led a Black Friday protest towards Amazon. Smalls, a five-year worker of the Seattle-based on-line retail large, was fired in March of this 12 months for talking out about staff contracting COVID-19 at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York.
Smalls, who since has turn out to be an outspoken critic of Amazon’s labor practices, shaped his personal group referred to as The Congress of Important Employees (T.C.O.E.W.) to lift consciousness about Amazon’s broadly reported labor practices. Through the pandemic he led a protest of about 50 Amazon staff to induce the corporate to shut down the Staten Island facility after constructive instances of COVID-19 have been made public. He was then fired by Amazon following the protest, and on November 12, determined to file a category motion lawsuit towards the corporate for a termination he views as unjustified.
“They [Amazon] took away the hazard pay back in June; they took away the unlimited paid time off, and people are still contracting this virus,” Smalls stated. “They [Amazon workers] deserve a pay increase; essential workers should be paid as a necessity.”
Smalls believes that on-line shoppers needs to be extra conscious of the exploitative labor practices of firms corresponding to Amazon which have staff working 10+ hour shifts standing and sorting and packing shopper items — labor that has been boosting Amazon’s gross sales to file numbers in the course of the pandemic.
Yesterday at round 2 p.m., Smalls, alongside 5 different members of the T.C.O.E.W., led a protest and rally exterior the South Lake Union headquarters of Amazon calling on the corporate to extend wages of all warehouse staff to $30/hour, to offer private protecting gear (PPE) to all distribution heart staff, and to cease the surveillance of staff trying to unionize. Smalls and different members of the T.C.O.E.W. — all of whom are both present or former Amazon staff — flew into Seattle from the east coast earlier this week.
“We want a wealth tax … taxing the billionaires and the one percenters so we can redistribute that money back to the communities,” Smalls stated when requested about Seattle Metropolis Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s efforts to Tax Amazon and different massive companies within the metropolis. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has seen a rise in his internet worth by about $69 billion for the reason that COVID-19 pandemic started earlier this 12 months.
An April report from Vice confirmed that Amazon mentioned a plan to smear Smalls, with Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky stating the next in notes from a gathering forwarded to firm staff: “He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers.”
Tons of gathered in help of the T.C.O.E.W. protest, which started on the steps of 410 Terry Avenue North and finally made its solution to the Amazon company headquarters. A land acknowledgement for the Duwamish folks was given, and a neighborhood Black artist additionally performed a people music on his guitar to kick off the protest.
A number of native labor union members have been in attendance supporting the motion, together with Skilled & Technical Staff Native 17 member Joel Vancil. He believes that Amazon staff at success facilities ought to be capable to unionize and that Washington State must cross a steeply graduated revenue tax on millionaires and billionaires.
“I’m right here at the moment as a result of Amazon is operating a sweatshop,” Vancil stated. “They need to start paying their workers a living wage — they need to stop treating their workers as a disposable part in their enterprise.”
Anne Slater, member of Teamsters Native 763 and the feminist group Radical Ladies, is an important meals service employee at a neighborhood faculty district. She at present works handing out free meals to college students, a program that started shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee introduced the statewide shutdown and the nation’s economic system took a severe hit.
“I believe that it’s essential that important staff — people who find themselves working at locations like Amazon, at our grocery shops — get first rate remedy.” Slater stated. “People are risking their lives to bring a paycheck home and a lot of people can’t afford to not go to work.”
Slater believes that important staff needs to be offered PPE, sick go away, and hazard pay. She believes that Amazon staff ought to have a proper to unionize, citing how her union was capable of negotiate the wants of her work friends with higher administration.
A current report revealed by Motherboard particulars a number of leaked paperwork that present that Amazon’s International Safety Operations Middle has relied on Pinkerton operatives to spy on warehouse staff and labor unions, in addition to monitoring environmental activists and different social actions. In May, the Emerald reported by means of an nameless worker citing inner HR messages that 5 Amazon warehouse staff on the Kent Distribution Middle (BFI4) had contracted COVID-19 regardless of what the corporate stated have been satisfactory coronavirus precautions.
Smalls’ protest in Seattle is considered one of many protests that occurred globally in sync with the Black Friday shopper vacation. A world coalition of labor activists teams together with UNI International Union, Progressive Worldwide, Oxfam, Greenpeace, and lots of others united to kind Make Amazon Pay. In keeping with Enterprise Insider, the group has deliberate actions and protests in Brazil, Mexico, the US, the UK, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Poland, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Australia.
Smalls confirmed that the T.C.O.E.W. has been in correspondence with organizers within the Make Amazon Pay marketing campaign, whose full record of calls for will be downloaded right here. The T.C.O.E.W. is planning a Cyber Monday protest at 2 p.m. Nov. 30 exterior Bezos’ mansion within the Seattle suburb of Medina.
Ronnie Estoque is a Seattle-based reporter. He’s pushed to uplift marginalized voices within the South Seattle group by means of his writing, images, and videography. You’ll be able to sustain along with his work by following his Twitter account @RonnieEstoque.
Featured picture by Ronnie Estoque.
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