Ex Amazon VP Tim Bray: Amazon Workers Need Unions & Political Action to Reverse “Power Imbalance”
Tim Bray, the Amazon vice president who quit the tech giant after the company fired workers who openly criticized warehouse conditions during the pandemic, endorsed the idea of a unionized Amazon today during a forum held by the Global Amazon Union Alliance. (what video here.)
The alliance, representing Amazon workers from more than 20 countries, also issued a set of urgent demands to address the ongoing hazards facing Amazon warehouse employees.
“Amazon talks about “customer obsession” and they’re not kidding. Who could be against a huge selection of products, decent prices, and fast delivery? But this obsession comes at a cost, and the cost is paid by the warehouse workers who make the company run. They pay the cost because in the 21st-century economy, they have very little power. Any solution has to start with remediating that power imbalance. Obvious ways forward include union organization and political action to improve the legal and regulatory framework,” said Tim Bray.
Convened by UNI Global Union, the Global Amazon Alliance Forum is a biannual gathering where Amazon workers and union leaders from across the world connect to plan and strategize ways to hold Amazon accountable for its employment practices.
“Tim Bray has become an important voice for change at Amazon, and this change only comes when Amazon workers can unite to collectively demand dignity on the job. As Tim said, this is about a power imbalance. We must elevate the voice and power of the workers and tear down the unrestrained power that Amazon has in today’s economy and in our lives,” said Christy Hoffman General Secretary of UNI Global Union, the global federation of unions coordinating efforts to support union organizing and convener of the forum. “Amazon gets a failing grade when it comes to its treatment of workers during the pandemic and the only way to ensure that this does not continue is for workers to come together in strong unions and force change.”
The participants, including representatives from over 20 unions from Europe and the United States, agree on a set of demands and committed to continue their program.
2020 Alliance demands for a safe and just Amazon:
1. Immediately cease opposition to unions. Negotiate agreements around health and safety and pay and benefits. Cease the use of anti-union consultants and remain neutral in all union organizing campaigns.
2. Immediately reinstate pay increases rescinded at the end of May, and make these pay increases permanent. Amazon workers still face unprecedented risks in doing their jobs and Amazon and Jeff Bezos can afford it.
3. Immediately put in place or reinstate necessary safety precautions until the pandemic has fully subsided or there is a vaccine widely available. This includes providing extra break time, paid sick time (in the US), double wages for overtime, and unlimited unpaid time off (UPT) and ending productivity quotas for workers.
4. Immediately rehire and provide backpay to all fired whistleblowers and activists including Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed, and Chris Smalls.
5. Immediately disclose the total number of cases of COVID-19 and deaths from COVID-19 in Amazon’s workforce – both employees and contractors. Agree to give timely infection information to workers and unions on an ongoing basis.
Additionally, the Amazon Alliance resolved to organize the largest ever Amazon protest this September, during Amazon’s annual Prime Day.
UNI Global Union represents more than 20 million workers from over 150 different countries in the fastest growing service sectors in the world. UNI and our affiliates in all regions are driven by the responsibility to ensure these jobs are decent and workers’ rights are protected, including the right to join a union and collective bargaining.