May Day! Support American workers. “YES” on the PRO Act.

Action #1: Sign this petition

Amazon won it’s first round of unionization against it’s own workers, but it will not win the public relations war.

Sign a petition that will go to Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Mark Kelly (AZ), and Mark Warner (VA), three Democratic senators not currently listed as cosponsors of S.420, the PRO Act – herehttps://sign.moveon.org/petitions/don-t-allow-a-repeat-of-amazon-s-union-busting-tactics-pass-the-pro-act-now.

Workers in Amazon’s Bessemer, AL warehouse—where 85% of workers are Black—fought hard to organize and form the first union at an Amazon warehouse in the U.S, but their efforts were thwarted by Jeff Bezos’ anti-union scare tactics, intimidation, and bullying. Let’s even up the playing field.

Action #2: Contact your senator and tell them vote “YES” on the S.420 – the PRO Act.

This union-busting by Amazon is just one example of why we must pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which will reverse the trend of billionaires and bosses successfully stopping workers from organizing and collectively bargaining. 

Under current law, there are no penalties for companies who violate workers’ right to organize. The PRO Act will ensure that every worker has a free and fair chance to join a union by adopting real penalties for employers like Amazon who intentionally sabotage union organizing efforts, and protecting workers’ right to strike and engage in other forms of collective action.

The abuse of American workers is so egregious that President Biden included the PRO Act and the minimum wage during his first address before a joint session of Congress. “The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America, that’s what it says. And, it recognizes something I’ve always said. The guys and women on Wall Street, Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions build the middle class.” (The Hill – https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/550845-biden-calls-for-passage-of-pro-union-pro-act-and-15-minimum-wage)


H.R. 842Protect the Right to Organize Act passed the House (Brownley and Carbajal were cosponsors!). Senators, please pass your version – S.420


Minimum script for our own CA senators: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want to thank Sen.[Feinstein/Padilla] for protecting American workers from abusive anti-union management tactics by cosponsoring S.420 – the PRO Act. 

Minimum script (not yet cosponsors): I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Sen. [___] to protect workers from having to undergo the abusive tactics Amazon used to prevent the creation of their union by voting ‘YES” on the S.420 – the PRO Act.  

Contacts

  • Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
  • and Senator Padilla: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (310) 231-4494, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 981-9369, SD (619) 239-3884
  • Who is my representative/senator?: https://whoismyrepresentative.com

Action #3: Tell Jeff Bezos that he’s not keeping the customers satisfied.

(This is one example. Add your own stories, about people and issues that are important to you.)

Sample script: Dear Mr. Bezos.

I understand that the very first of your leadership principles is “Customer Obsession – Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

I’m a customer of yours. Because this is the 21st century, I’m aware of climate change, income inequality and racial injustice. I have access to information to help me make decisions on purchases based on how they affect people and the environment – how materials are sourced, lifecycle costs, and if the workers involved have agency and are paid fairly for their labor.

Due to recent news events, my focus now includes what happens at Amazon. This recent May Day, an event commemorating a union’s historic demand for humane working hours and safer conditions in 1886, reminds me that your business model appear, in fact, to be working “backwards” in time. The union fight at your Bessemer factory brought to light serious issues that I will now always associate with your smile-stamped boxes.

When I purchase fairtrade certified coffee from a reputable source, I’m willing to pay more because farmers in third world countries matter and it’s important they are treated fairly. It would be inconsistent if I don’t make the same calculation for workers right here in America. I’m struck by the fact that Amazon works with unions in Europe, but fights them here, where workers have fewer protections. This May Day, I was struck that, 135 years after the Haymarket riot, workers are still fighting for a safe place to work, and that your company, like McCormick’s Reaper Works, locked out organizers and utilized police and private security to enforce your will.

I’m just one customer. Nobody important, just a someone who routinely leaves my server a tip larger than 20%, and tries to buy my produce locally. While many of your customers truly care only about delivery speed, many of us non-important customers are now working to resource our needs from companies that better match our moral values.

Because you say our trust is important, I thought you’d like to know.

Sincerely, [___]

CONTACT: Email Jeff Bezos at jeff@amazon.com or jbezos@amazon.com or write him here. Jeff Bezos c/o Amazon.com, 410 Terry Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98109

READING:

  • (Slate) What Amazon Got Away With. Many of its anti-union tactics were perfectly legal, because labor law is broken.
  • (nytimes) Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace
  • (nbcnews.com) Fired, interrogated, disciplined: Amazon warehouse organizers allege year of retaliation. The number of charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board accusing Amazon of interfering with workers’ right to organize more than tripled during the pandemic.
  • (perfection.us) (lots of videos) Amazon warehouse workers wage historical fight to form first U.S. union.
  • (lattimes) Amazon violated law in firing employee activists, NLRB says
  • (MotherJones) She Injured Herself Working at Amazon. Then The Real Nightmare Began. How Amazon’s in-house health care can leave workers in the lurch.
  • (the verge) Amazon’s poor treatment of workers is catching up to it during the coronavirus crisis
  • (guardian) ‘I’m not a robot’: Amazon workers condemn unsafe, grueling conditions at warehouse
  • (theatlantic) What Amazon Does to Poor Cities
  • (VOX) Suicide attempts and mental breakdowns: 911 calls from Amazon warehouses reveal that some workers are struggling
  • (nationalcosh.org) The Dirty Dozen – Employers Who Put Workers and Communities at Risk. Amazon was in the top 12 in both 2018, and 2019. and made the “Dishorable Mention’ section in 2020.
  • (guardian) Amazon won the Alabama union fight. But don’t mourn – organize. The entire country has just seen the lengths corporations will go to prevent workers from unionizing.

Union watch party

More great videos here.

Below are actual clips from Amazon’s union-busting training video that was sent to Whole Foods management in 2018. It was then leaked by Whole Worker to the media. #WholeWorker

Background on May Day

May 1, 1886, was declared by the Federations of Organized Trades and Labor Unions to be the official start of the eight hour workday. Most employers simply ignored them. In response, 300,000 workers walked off the job throughout the country in an organized strike. This short video shows what happened in Chicago next.

May Day is the original Labor Day, even though it’s not recognized in any official capacity by the U.S. government. Instead, we have been taught to associate May 1st with communism and ancient pagan customs like Maypole dancing. However, workers in almost every major industrial nation are celebrating International Workers’ Day, a holiday based on a seismic event that happened on American soil – the 1886 Haymarket Riot by immigrant workers in Chicago. It involved freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to free assembly, the right to a fair trial by a jury of peers and the right of workers to organize and fight for things like the eight-hour day. It should be a huge celebration here too.

But it isn’t… Since its hard-fought inception, there’s been a concerted attempt to smother the true historical significance of our May Day with an overlay of alternate “American”-themed traditions.

maypole

If you were a child of the 60’s, May Day was the strange yearly ritual that required your whole elementary school class to re-enact a medieval Celtic fertility right. You would be assembled around a May pole, clutching an attached ribbon, ready to find out which one of your classmates didn’t understand the concept of weaving in and out.

Or, you might remember “Loyalty Day” speeches and parades during the Cold War, serving both as a reaffirmation of patriotism and a counter-demonstration to the American Communist Party’s May Day rallies. Loyalty Day activities lagged during the Vietnam War. In 1968, while 5,000 marched in New York City’s parade, more than 87,000 attended a simultaneous anti-war rally in Central Park. After that war, “Loyalty Day” parades became a small-town Americana activity and now seems to be mostly celebrated by veterans’ organizations.

haymarket
… and the announcement for the Haymarket Rally

Brief History of the Haymarket Affair and May Day.When industrialization took off in the late 1800s after the Civil War, workers organized into unions and joined pro-labor organizations in order to gain bargaining power, elect sympathetic politicians, and generally protect their interests. One of the earliest rallying points for labor organizations was the fight for the eight- hour work day. In the 1880s most workers still worked a daily shift of 10 or more hours, six days a week (or half a day on Saturday).

In Chicago, thousands of overworked and underappreciated immigrants (in this case, Germans and Bohemians) began unionizing and demanding an eight hour workday. On May 1, 1886, more than 30,000 of them struck.

What started as peaceful protests ended in disaster, with a massacre of both police and workers and a trial that ended with four innocent men being executed.

The story marks the subsequent growth of labor unions and May 1, 1886, as the date the eight hour work day we take for granted became standard, an improvement paid for by the deaths of over a dozen people. However, for many Americans at the time, the “Haymarket incident” and the contentious public trials that followed sullied May 1, forever tying the day to immigrant anarchists, socialists, and other “radical” groups that stood outside the mainstream of American society.

However, the workers’ struggle is commemorated in almost every major industrial nation on May 1st as International Workers’ Day.

You can read about the Haymarket Riot here ,  IllinoisLaborHistory.org article and National Museum of American History here.

Why isn’t May Day our Labor Day? Back in America after the riot, half of the American Labor movement observed May 1 as Labor Day, while more moderate trade unions observed the first Monday in September. President Grover Cleveland proclaimed the latter date a holiday in September in 1894, removing it by four months from its more radical history. Then, the Soviets designated May 1 as the anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1917, so we reacted, with our conflation of workers’ rights with communism, by changing that date to “Americanization Day“. In 1949, it became “Loyalty Day” and in 1955, Eisenhower declared it “Loyalty Day” (also  “Law” Day). It became an official recurring holiday in 1958.

Since then, every president has made some sort of proclamation, bringing their take on national pride and American values. For those playing Trump BINGO, you will be doing well if you still had “limited government” spaces open on your board as well as “socialist“.

Now we live in a time of diminishing unions and workdays that never seem to end. Trump  decreased labor protections, rolled back worker safety and weakened federal unions during his presidency. Economic Policy Institute published this great roundup of the damage 45 did. Time to go old-school on May Day.

And now a word from our president.

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