Putting Workers First At Amazon

Amazon, the well-known purveyor of parcels, certainly delivers, but the question remains, “who for?” A few years ago, financial analyst Brad Stone set out to answer just this question, and in doing so published The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, which won the 2013 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award.

Overall, Stone proved fairly awed by the profit-making skills of the apparently kind-hearted Bezos, who has amassed a personal wealth of over $100 billion. But as one review of the book put it in a leading business magazine, Stone’s “balanced take… pulls absolutely no punches” and still manages to portray Amazon’s founder and his company as possessing “a ruthless, disingenuous, slave-driving mentality, where pretty much any kind of legal behavior is tolerated in the name offering customers lower prices.” (January 2, 2014, Fortune magazine)

This nineteenth-century management-style explains a lot about how Bezos obtained his personal fortune; it also explains why Amazon is not particularly fond of trade unions. Amazon workers have always had to play second-fiddle to the customer. Amazon therefore boast on their web site how “Our first Leadership Principle is customer obsession—we believe leaders start with the customer and work backwards.”

This downgrading of Amazon workers – the ones whose back-breaking work generates Amazon’s immense profit margins – has now been laid bare in James Bloodworth’s just-released book, Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain. As the author recently observed, Amazon thinks of productivity to “the exclusion of everything else,” before going on to note, how in the factory he worked in there was “no effective trade union to organise workers.” (“Amazon patents vibrating wristbands that can track and direct workers,” March 23, Wales Online)

Here in Leicestershire we already have one Amazon mega-warehouse, but Amazon is now in the process of finalising a deal to open a second new warehouse in North Leicestershire – a Amazonian building which is “roughly the size of eight football pitches.” (March 24, Leicester Mercury)

But workers can be glad that not everything is going Amazon’s way, and only last week workers based in an Amazon warehouse in Madrid responded with strike action to attempts to impose lower pay levels for nearly one third of the plant’s workforce while simultaneously reducing overtime benefits. (March 21, The Washington Post)

Amazon Bakers Union

Trade unions will always exist in such exploitative environments, striving, in a democratic way, to improve the pay and working conditions of the very people who ultimately generate all Amazon’s profits. This is despite the best efforts of Amazon’s corporate leaders to prevent employees from organising to defend workplace rights.

In Britain the Baker’s Union is doing a critical job in persuading more and more Amazon workers to get involved in unions so they can organize and join the international fight-back. For more details on how you and your co-workers can join the Baker’s Union see http://www.bfawu.org/join or contact

  • George Atwall – 07739326009 – george.atwall@bfawu.org
  • Jit Singh – 07739326012 – Jit.singh@bfawu.org
  • Adrianna Kara {POLISH REPRESENTATIVE} – 07847610534 – adrianna.kara3791@gmail.com
  • Damian Sawa{POLISH REPRESENTATIVE} – 07402333125 – sowa2777@gmail.com
  • Dawid Kara {POLISH REPRESENTATIVE}- 07729871951 – donkarrabis@gmail.com
    Dimitru Manole {ROMANIAN REPRESENTATIVE} – 07816210730
  • Florentina Pasisnic {ROMANIAN REPRESENTATIVE} – 07459868508 – florentinapasisnic1970@gmail.com
    Lyudmila Malu {RUSSIAN REPRESENTATIVE} – 07411127253
  • Vania Soares {PORTGUESE REPRESENTATIVE} – 07427309668 – vaniasoares_83@hotmail.com
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