Christmas trees, Hanukkah candles, New Year’s countdown clocks – these are some of the ways we mark the holiday season. But Amazon workers have other, more brutal metrics this time of year. The company demands that they pick, stow, pack, ship and deliver at a faster rate and for longer hours.

Activists in New York City came out Feb. 27 to show their support for the approximately 6,000 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Ala., before their vote by mail on whether to unionize. A federal review found that the company improperly pressured warehouse staff to vote against joining the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. Ron Adar/SOPA Images via Zuma Press/TNS

The holidays, workers in Amazon warehouses tell us, is not a time of cheer, but backbreaking labour and relentless pressure. It can cost them their health and rob them of time with their families. In many ways, the “holiday crunch” is all that is wrong with the company’s labor model, but amplified.

In Bessemer, Alabama, where a union drive was stymied earlier this year, workers have never stopped organizing with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, or RWDSU, despite the company’s ongoing campaign to steamroll over their rights. Workers, for example, have stated – and the National Labor Relations Board agrees with them – that Amazon meddled in the process by illegally pressuring warehouse staff to vote against joining a union.

What pushed these workers to seek a union was the punishing pace of work they were required to maintain, which was damaging both their physical and mental health.

The stress can be particularly hard on any day, but during the holiday shopping season, it can become unbearable. We know that at least two workers from the Bessemer facility have lost their lives this year: One died on the job; the other was rushed to the hospital after collapsing at work.

And several others have died there since it opened in 2020. Ambulances are sadly a regular occurrence at the Bessemer facility, as they are at many Amazon warehouses.

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With its obsession with control, speed and disregard for workers’ rights, “Bezosism” is a threat to all workers – not just those who work for Amazon. Without a strong voice on the job, workers will never get a fair chance when facing a corporation that has so much influence over commerce, the future of work and our data.

The first step to overhauling the company’s systemic problems is to shift more power to Amazon workers. We know that workers can be agents for change when they join together – as we saw on Black Friday when thousands of Amazon warehouse workers and allies in more than 20 countries across six continents protested and went on strike as part of a global push to Make Amazon Pay. In Italy, drivers and couriers made significant improvements in working conditions and pay through their labor actions.

If Amazon workers want a better deal next holiday season, they need a union. And Amazon should stop standing in their way.

Amazon workers toil in different countries, with different cultures and different labour regulations. But the problems nearly every worker faces are the same: increasing concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a corporation that consistently mistreats and devalues its workforce.

The bottom line is that Amazon takes far too much for itself, while leaving workers and society with too little.

And that is why we are coming together, to push for change, to demand that workers are allowed to create a union without Amazon’s relentless union-busting and interference. We will rein in the power of Amazon and strengthen labor rights around the world.


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