By Blake Garrison
On Saturday, activists, workers, and union organizers demonstrated outside a Whole Foods in support of Amazon workers attempting to unionize in Bessemer, Alabama. The rally was organized by the New Afrikan Workers Union (NAWU).
Khalid Raheem, representing NAWU, spoke on the history of class struggle in Pittsburgh in “the steel mills, coal mines, and the construction trade,” and linked that to the struggle of workers today. “It hasn’t been perfect, we still got to deal with issues of racism,” he said, “but it’s been the struggle of working-class people, and we uphold that tradition.”
Karima Howard, an organizer with the Amalgamated Transit Union, expressed her local’s solidarity with Amazon workers and pointed out that Amazon’s $15 wage is not enough to live and support a family on, leading the chant, “Pittsburgh is a union town!”
A former Amazon worker and Tribune Support Committee member spoke on his experience as well as the injuries he witnessed on the job. “Amazon did not gain their wealth through the grace of God or by genius, they gained their wealth by being ruthless in their control of workers,” he said. “And in this struggle for unionization, Tribune will be there… reporting on the opinions and stance of Amazon workers as they begin to fight back.”
After the speeches, demonstrators marched with banners and signs reading, “PGH in solidarity with Amazon Workers” and “Unions are the backbone of our country.” As they marched, they chanted, “Amazon! Unionize!” and “All power to the workers!”
Mayoral candidate Ed Gainey showed up toward the end of the protest with a photographer to take pictures of him with the rally. Many were critical of his appearance, with one noting how he only came “to schmooze at us.”
Voting is still underway to decide whether Amazon workers in Alabama will unionize under the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union—the election results will be posted on March 30. In Iowa, the Teamsters are also organizing Amazon workers, but have declared their intention to promote a strike for demands rather than going through the process of voting for legal recognition. In Pittsburgh, Amazon has plans to open six new facilities, according to veteran labor activist Mel Packer.
Worker grievances against Amazon are not limited to the US. On Monday, Amazon workers across Italy went on a massive 24-hour strike to protest increased exploitation during the pandemic.
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