“A big turnout on the 5th will be crucial for showing Amazon and similar multinational corporations whose profits depend upon exploitation, that they are dealing with a strong and united movement.”
By Fraser McGuire
Amazon workers continued to take strike action last week, centering around the retail giant’s promotional ‘Prime Day’. With 22 days of strike days now hitting Amazon in the UK, the strikers’ calls for better pay, fair treatment, and trade union recognition in the workplace are only becoming louder, with GMB union announcing that more than 900 workers have taken part in the strike action.
On Prime Day, Amazon customers get deals on certain items – which typically sees the company bring in record amounts of money. Employees, however, are overworked in the extreme, and have no share in the super-profits seen by the retail giant and its founder Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest men worth over $150 billion.
To demonstrate solidarity with the strikers, a mass rally has been called for 5:30 pm on August 5th at the Amazon Coventry distribution centre. An invitation letter to trade unionists, public supporters, and the broader labour movement from the Amazon strikers states that the company’s failure to communicate and it’s “union busting” and “utter contempt for its workers” needs to be highlighted to the public.
There will be coaches and organised transport to get supporters from across the country to the rally, and the Rank and File Combine are asking union branches to pass a motion in support of the rally. A big turnout on the 5th will be crucial for showing Amazon and similar multinational corporations whose profits depend upon exploitation, that they are dealing with a strong and united movement.
Infamous for union-busting on both sides of the Atlantic, earlier this year Amazon hired a substantial number of new employees at the Coventry distribution centre to try and reduce the level of union density, which would serve to make it harder for workers to achieve official recognition in the workplace. Despite Amazon’s best attempts to target the organisers and crush the demands for better treatment, the union membership has continued to grow, and this week has seen membership at the centre increase to more than 1000, demonstrating that workers are seeing the benefits of joining a union and taking industrial action.
In the United States, where Amazon employs more than 500,000 people across hundreds of locations, there have been accusations of employee surveillance, open threats of redundancies to those seen as troublemakers, and the hiring of former FBI agents to counter union campaigns. These actions show how companies like Amazon have access to massive resources in their union-busting campaigns and have absolutely no hesitation in attacking their own employees who have spoken out.
Laws restricting trade union activity, and a steady decline in union membership has served to put more legal power in the hands of private corporations and the super-rich. With many workers reaching breaking point, now is the time to fight back and stand behind the Amazon strikers here in the UK.
This call to action comes at a time when an ever-increasing number of workers in zero hour, precarious, and gig economy employment contracts are getting organised against exploitative bosses, despite being up against laws that heavily favour the employer in campaigns to improve working conditions.
In the US both the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) and Starbucks Workers United have seen significant growth in both their membership and their victories against bad employment practices. Here in the UK there are numerous examples of precarious workers standing up for their rights in the workplace, such as the workers at 13th Note in Glasgow who are taking the first bar strike action in Scotland in over 20 years.
Only by demonstrating the strength of workers and the labour movement can we take the fight to profiteering employers across the country. As the cost-of-living crisis continues, and the Tory government expands its authoritarian anti-union legislation, the importance of standing in solidarity with those fighting under the most precarious conditions cannot be understated.
- Fraser McGuire is the Chair of East Midlands Unite Hospitality, Young Labour’s East Midlands representative and an organiser for Arise: A Festival Of Left Ideas. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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