Despite intense pressure from Amazon management at the sprawling Shakopee, MN warehouse, several dozen Amazon workers went on strike and rallied outside the building on Amazon Prime Day. They were joined by 200 union and community supporters in a spirited picket line and rally. Their action was intended to push back against inhumane workloads, massive use of temporary workers, and arbitrary discipline. It was the only Amazon warehouse in the United States to strike on Monday, July 15th. According to employees at the rally, management and police beefed up their presence in an attempt to limit the number of workers participating.
Labor Notes founder, Kim Moody, makes the point in his must-read book, On New Terrain (How Capital Is Reshaping The Battleground of Class War) that logistics workers, like those at Amazon warehouses, now have enormous potential power. Because of business reliance on “just-in-time” delivery, even a small hiccup in the logistics chain can cause major economic disruptions.
At the Shakopee warehouse of over 1,000 employees, workers are learning how to exercise some of that power. In just over a year of organizing, with the help of the Awood East African Workers Center, workers have won some limited additional break time for prayer and some other small gains. Amazon, after a large worker rally outside the warehouse in October and a subsequent strike in December 2018, was forced to sit down with a group of workers to discuss working conditions.
Amazon workers face enormous obstacles to exercising power and using a collective voice. This trillion dollar anti-union, anti-worker behemoth has nearly unlimited resources. The use of temp workers and a high turnover rate makes the construction of a worker organizing core difficult. Fear of management retaliation for organizing can be difficult to overcome. Despite this, organizing efforts are underway at dozens of Amazon facilities, sometimes more public, as in Shakopee, sometimes more underground.
Socialists in Minnesota are fortunate to have one of the more advanced organizing efforts in the country in our backyard. It’s clear that organizing Amazon and other logistics giants will take the active support and participation of socialist workers and other working class fighters. Socialist workers were at the center of every important class battle during the 1930’s and 40’s. This was true here in Minneapolis in 1934 where a decisive Teamster strike battle was led by members of the Communist League of America.
Building a socialist United States and world will require a transformed and mobilized labor movement and working class. This makes investment of time and energy in battles like those just beginning to unfold at Amazon a very high priority for socialists.
– Kip H.
Ed. note: Want to get involved? Watch our calendar for Labor Branch and Tech Action meetings.