Warehouse workers, union leaders and activists gathered outside Amazon’s fulfillment center in Shakopee on Thursday to demand better wages, safer working conditions and an end to employee surveillance.
Amazon workers have long complained that productivity quotas enforced by strict oversight have led to high rates of workplace injuries.
“The security here is terrible. You have to pass out or die to take a day off,” said Kari Jama, 40, who has worked at the warehouse for about a year.
Demand for employees has skyrocketed since the holiday shopping season began, with Amazon requiring employees to work a 60-hour work week through the end of the year. Workers have asked the company to end its “mandatory extra hours” policy and reduce productivity quotas.
Shakopee warehouse workers, many of whom are East Africans, have been on strikes and demonstrations for years, attracting the attention of management and the national media along the way.
New attempts at organizing are also underway. A website called Amazon Union Minnesota gathers the necessary union cards from at least 30% of workers to conduct elections for union representatives.
Amazon is vehemently opposed to unions and is violating US labor laws in an attempt to quell efforts to organize. Workers scored a landmark victory at a Staten Island warehouse, but workers at nearby facilities voted against union representation, as did workers in Albany, New York and Bessemer, Alabama.
Supportive unions such as Teamsters Local 120 and Service Employees International Union showed up at Thursday’s demonstration. The demonstration was organized by the Awood Center, a non-profit organization that supports workers in East Africa. And TakeAction, a progressive organization that called on Amazon to tackle climate change alongside workers for better treatment.
Responding to a request for comment, an Amazon spokesperson said the company offers competitive wages and benefits, takes worker safety seriously, and is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. said.
“Despite small demonstrations started by outside activists, the overwhelming majority of employees who participated in the fulfillment in Shakopee, Minnesota, continued their day-to-day operations and served customers. As such, I would like to thank our team for their hard work and commitment.”
Warehouse worker Jeremy Lane said he supports the union but mainly wants fair wages and fair treatment of workers. I don’t plan on getting any more raises. Unlike many companies that try to retain workers, Amazon’s business model seems to rely on churning out workers in a matter of months.
Lane continues to work for Amazon on benefits, even though he injured a tendon in his arm and took a month off without pay. He said doctors diagnosed it as a work-related injury.
“They said it was a 100% work-related injury. I’ve seen a lot of people coming here from Amazon with the same injury,” Lane said. I said you should have seen one of our doctors, and that was your doctor’s opinion.”
He says he hasn’t worked as hard since his injury, and the company still consistently records every second he doesn’t move.