November 29, 2019
Protests against Amazon scheduled for Cyber Monday
by Amelia Stymacks
In response to worsening conditions for Amazon employees as demand for speedier delivery increases, protests are being organized for Cyber Monday. The newly formed Athena Coalition has joined over 40 organizations across the country to fight the good fight.
In an email to supporters, New York Communities for Change, one of the coalition participants, wrote:
We’ll be keeping the pressure on to hold Amazon accountable on Cyber Monday—one of Amazon’s biggest sales days of the year—as workers and community members march on Amazon to let Jeff Bezos know that we’ are watching him and that this movement is growing.
The demands, listed in a petition signed by 600 employees and to be delivered to management Monday, are hardly, well, demanding. According to Lauren Kaori Gurley, reporting for Vice, employees currently receive two 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute break for lunch. Employees are requesting an increase in the break period—30 minutes instead of 15—since, as one organizer told Gurley, the walk to and from the break room takes up the majority of the time.
Not a huge ask, considering the grueling working conditions. According to a report from Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change that pulls data from Amazon’s own 2018 OSHA logs, workers at the Staten Island JFK8 warehouse “are injured more often than coal miners,” with an incident rate of 15.2 per 100 employees.
And these aren’t minor injuries workers are facing. The report calls them “particularly severe,” with JFK8 workers “forced to miss an average of 64.04 days of work” in just 2018.
With employees forced into overtime for the holiday season (Thanksgiving through December), injuries increase exponentially. In 2018’s holiday season, in just the ONE warehouse, 63 injuries were recored, “with 17 workers hurt so badly they were not ever able to return to work at Amazon.”
That’s 63 injuries in less than six weeks!
Gurley reports that workers are also asking for free transit to and from the fulfillment center.
“Some people are commuting two to three hours to get to work,” said Juan Goris, an organizer with Make the Road New York, a local community organization that is leading Monday’s protest, told Motherboard. “We’re demanding that Amazon provide free metro cards to all of its workers to make this trip.” The current bus route from the Staten Island Ferry to the Amazon warehouse makes 47 stops. Goris said that Amazon deducts an hour of paid time-off for every 10 minutes that workers arrive late.
An hour of paid time-off deducted for every 10 minutes the workers arrives late. What kind of policy is that?! With a 47-stop route, there’s no way you’re getting to work on time every day unless you add an extra hour of buffer time. What a nightmare.
Learn more and join Athena to find out how you can hit the streets and join protestors this Monday.
Amelia Stymacks is the former director of digital marketing at Melville House.