Somali immigrant-led Workers’ Center to strike on Amazon Prime Day

Workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn., plan a wildcat “Prime Day” strike Monday, July 15, as an act of worker power against one of the richest corporations worldwide. An anticipated 100 workers, organized with the help of the Awood Center, will hold a six-hour work stoppage for parts of the day and night shifts on the first day of the company’s summer sales event. (tinyurl.com/y398ujtn)

Workers at Amazon face a host of grievances and labor law violations from work speedups and unsafe conditions to poor benefits and more. (Workers World, March 21) These workers are taking action against the increased daily indignities and dangers which workers face all over the U.S. and worldwide. The five Amazon facilities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area have been recent hotbeds of labor actions and demands.

Earlier this year, Twin Cities workers filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, based on Amazon retaliation against them for protected concerted workplace activity. After 30 mostly Somali workers went on strike in March, the three hours they spent striking were deducted from the hours they can be late or absent each quarter. A second complaint accused Amazon’s staffing vendor with illegally firing a worker for organizing

Though labor protections in the U.S. may be threadbare, workers have confidence they can make an impact against the company. Unlike their counterparts at Amazon warehouses in continental Europe, the workers in Shakopee, Minn., are not unionized. Yet they managed to bring Amazon into negotiations and won some initial limited concessions. The workers continue to demand safe conditions, livable wages, decent benefits and the respect they deserve.

Amazon engineering workers from the out-of-state Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, plan to travel to the rally to show solidarity, broadening the political implications of the action. Weston Fribley, a Seattle software engineer, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “We’re both fighting for a livable future.”

The workforce at the fulfillment center is predominantly made up of East African immigrants, but workers of many nationalities support the walkout. Previous worker solidarity actions have featured signs and chants in Somali, Amharic and Oromo languages, as well as English. (awoodcenter.org/news/)

The International Workers Solidarity Network has issued a call for actions around the country to support the walkout. Hundreds have signed a Pledge of Solidarity stating they will not shop at Amazon or Amazon-owned Whole Foods July 15.

We live in a time when the working-class movement in the U.S. is beginning to assert itself after decades of quiescence.

Harvey Markowitz

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Harvey Markowitz
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