Local Amazon workers, community leaders host rally and teach-in for better pay and conditions

AMAZON WORKERS in Hazelwood held a rally and teach-in last week to demand better pay and working conditions. Richard Hughes photo

Hazelwood, MO – On the heels of Amazon’s Annual General Meeting featuring a record-shattering number of presentations from Amazon workers, Missouri Workers Center held a rally and teach-in here at First Missionary Baptist Church, where Amazon workers from neighboring warehouse STL5 and community members came together to demonstrate support for growing pressure on Amazon to improve pay and conditions.

“I’ve been at Amazon for two-and-a-half years and haven’t been able to move up or get any real recognition,” said Jake Frankenreiter, an Amazon worker and Missouri Workers Center member. “Amazon has given me some basic benefits that I didn’t have before, but I’ve been working hard and living on the edge, and doing the best that I can for a company that can do a whole lot more.

“We aren’t being treated as humans at Amazon. We’re being treated like machines,” Frankenreiter said. “No matter how much Amazon tries to sugarcoat it, we’re not working in safe conditions. For us to do our jobs, we have to work unsafely. When we work unsafely, we’re blamed. Something has to change.”

Amazon workers at STL5 are demanding Amazon:

  • Raise wages by $3/hour permanently
  • Create safer working conditions by implementing regular emergency preparedness drills and additional storm shelters
  • Bargain with the Amazon Labor Union at JFK8.

Workers in Missouri organized the rally and teach-in inspired by workers in Shakopee, Minn., who walked off their jobs on April 29 to demand a $3/hour raise and time off for Eid (the Muslim holiday that takes place at the end of Ramadan); workers who organized the Amazon Labor Union victory in New York; and in remembrance of the six workers who lost their lives during the tornado that destroyed DLI4 in Edwardsville on Dec. 10, 2021.

Rev. Cornelius J. Osby of the First Missionary Baptist Church of Robertson stated, “Robertson has always had a tradition of standing together. We are proud to stand with Amazon workers fighting for better pay and safer working conditions. Our church is all that remains of the community that was once here. Companies like Amazon took advantage of the toxic waste dumped in our soil to build cheap warehouses. Now they’re taking advantage of workers from all over the St. Louis area to line their pockets.”

Amazon workers have been raising the alarm about unsafe working conditions in Amazon warehouses, where the rates of injury, turnover, and reports of retaliation greatly exceed industry rates, year after year. In response, on May 25, Amazon worker Daniel Olayiwola became the first fulfillment center employee to present their own shareholder resolution from the floor of the company’s annual meeting.

Olayiwola’s resolution requests “the company end the use of productivity quotas and worker surveillance across its warehouse facilities and distribution network, including, but not limited to the policies commonly known as Rate and Time off Task.”

Jay Lopez, an Amazon worker and Missouri Workers Center member, stated, “I’m a father of five and have been working at Amazon for three years. When Amazon opened up in our area, I saw it as an opportunity. They advertised that once you’ve done two years there, the sky is the limit. Our facility is coming up on our three-year mark and the people who want to continue to work there have no more raises coming to them. We work for a company that last year made $34 billion and paid their CEO over $200 million.

“When the tornado touched down in the area, everyone in the warehouse got an alert from the National Weather Service telling us to shelter in place. We didn’t hear anything from Amazon, except to “stand by.” When they finally had us seek shelter it was in a different location than where the shelter area is marked. That is how people die.”

Why Amazon workers want a union

In the ongoing struggle for Amazon workers to unionize to achieve better pay and working conditions, some interesting facts have emerged:

Executive pay: In 2021, Amazon CEO Andrew Jassy received $212 million in total compensation compared with Amazon’s median employee pay of $32,855.

Worker/Exec pay ratio: a CEO-to-median worker pay ratio of 6,474-to-1.

Injuries: Amazon warehouse injuries increased 64 percent from 2020 to 2021; serious injuries are 40 percent higher than non-Amazon facilities.

Turnover: estimated employee turnover rate of 150 percent is so high that its executives have expressed concern about running out of hirable employees in the United States.

As employer: Is the second-largest private employer in the United States where one out of every 153 Americans worked as of 2021

(Source: Economic Policy Institute, May 2022)




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