Doraville Amazon workers plan next move after Prime Day walkout

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Work, democracy and the common good

Amazon workers at the retailer’s Doraville warehouse organized a walkout July 13, Amazon Prime Day — the busiest shipping day of the year for the retailer — to demand a $3 an hour pay rise and more time off.

Although the walkout has attracted media attention, it has so far failed to prompt Amazon to respond to employee demands. But an organizer said the walkout was just the opening salvo.

Amid a growing wave of nationwide Amazon labor actions, Atlanta Civic Circle spoke to Patricio Cambias, one of the Doraville organizers, about why they walked out, Amazon’s response — and why, for now at least, they’re opting for direct actions, like the walkout, instead of trying to unionize.

Cambias, 29, who works hourly at the Doraville DTG5 warehouse, said he and the other workers who walked out fully support the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) and its successful labor victory, as well as Amazon’s other organizing campaigns — but they want to take action faster to ensure their demands are met.

“Amazon has a strong anti-union plan,” Cambias said. “But when it comes to direct action in the workshop, they don’t know how to deal with it.”

Cambias said that instead of going the ALU route of holding a union election and trying to bring Amazon to the bargaining table — which can take months or years — Doraville workers are collaborating with United Amazonians, a national collective of Amazon workers taking a direct action approach in the shops through petitions and walkouts.

The 16 Doraville warehouse workers who walked out were supported by a total of 70 participants, Cambias said, adding that local and regional managers had to come in to replace them.

They are demanding a permanent wage increase of $3 an hour, to match their wages during the peak holiday boating season, and an additional 24 hours of paid vacation each year. According to Cambias, they can only save 24 hours of PTO per year, which differs from Amazon’s Stated Policy.

Amazon, which is no stranger to Prime Day labor actions, said it currently has no plans to respond to requests from Doraville warehouse workers.

“While we are always listening and looking for ways to improve, we remain proud of the pay, benefits and working conditions we already provide to our teams at Doraville,” a spokesperson said. from Amazon in an email.

More like this: The pandemic is triggering a jolt of union organizing across Georgia.

United Amazonians

Cambias’ own experience working for Amazon explains why he helped organize the walkout. He joined the mega-retailer during its peak holiday season last fall – a huge hiring time for all retailers due to high customer demand.

For peak season, Amazon advertises benefits that begin on the first day of employment, a starting salary of $19 per hour, and other perks. “At first everything seemed really great because they had so much money,” Cambias said. “It’s like an Amazon honeymoon phase.”

Amazon’s holiday season takes a lot of time and hard work from workers, but it also brings rewards. “Overnight [shift work] is definitely hard on the body, but that peak season bonus, plus overtime, is worth it,” Cambias said.

But high season doesn’t last forever. When the parcel shipping rush subsides in January, Amazon, like other retailers, lays people off.

Even though the company has less stuff to ship, Cambias said, the remaining employees aren’t doing less work — and, for some, demands are increasing. “Freight is decreasing, but our workload continues to increase,” he said.

But pay drops from an hourly rate of $19 to around $16, and peak season bonuses and overtime pay off in January, he said. A current job notice for Doraville warehouse workers advertises the salary of up to $15.80 one o’clock.

Workers find themselves with a heavy workload without the perks that convinced them to take the job. “It’s not fair that we have to work our ass off to pay our bills and we work for a company that makes a guy rich who literally has $100 billion,” Cambias said.

That’s why Doraville warehouse workers started discussing ways to get some of the benefits of high season year-round, which led them to chat with members of Amazonians United .

United Amazonians form in 2019 when a group of workers at a Chicago delivery center successfully petitioned for regular access to drinking water in the hot summer. His main nodes are in Chicago, New York and Sacramento, California.

After the 2021 peak season, members of Amazonians United in Chicago staged a strike at several warehouses, where Amazon employees delayed packages and shipping. Employees demanded extended breaks, more PTO, a permanent $3 pay raise and better working conditions. Members of Amazonians United say the walkout has resulted in more leverage for all Amazon employees.

Amazonians United believes this strategy can deliver tangible benefits to Amazon workers faster than holding an election and trying to get a contract from Amazon.

“[We want] a presence in every establishment so that these people know that they have to respect us because we are the ones doing the work,” Chris Zammarón, an Amazon employee and AU Chicago organizer, told local media outlet WTTW. “If they disrespect us, we can choose not to do this job.”

And after?

It is this immediate and direct action that seduced Cambias and his collaborators.

Since the July 16 walkout, he said, Doraville warehouse workers who participated have received no response from Amazon management. They suspect that management is just waiting for them.

They haven’t heard back from Amazon either. “We haven’t had any fallout because our demands are marginal and we’re back to work the next day,” Cambias said.

Undeterred, he said Doraville employees are now talking with employees at other local Amazon warehouses about next steps and possible future actions.

“The only way to overcome it is to do it together,” Cambias said. “A lot of it comes down to fear. It’s like the mind killer.

“They try so hard to divide us, but the dirty little secret is that we have the power,” he added.

LEARN MORE ABOUT AMAZON LABOR ORGANIZING

Here is Amazonian United’s strategy for organization of workers for the long term.

And here some of the actions Amazonian United took on Chicago, Sacramento and New York.

here is a Introducing the Amazon Syndicate of Atlantic.

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