Amazon VP Resigns to Protest Poor Working Conditions

happy workers in a factory

Amazon has grown from an online book retailer to the seller of all things and destroyer of established businesses. It also treats humans like robots and gives them no respect while also dismissing human concerns like good working conditions and a breathable atmosphere. The lengths of which Amazon has gone to disrespect workers, the environment, and a decent of morals has led Tim Bray to resign from the company. This is exceptional.

In an open letter posted on his website he outlines all the reasons he left. He ranges from Amazon’s horrendous treatment of workers to the company’s disrespect of environmental concerns. It’s a scathing letter written by a highly respected individual. It’s quite rare for somebody at this level of a company to resign in this fashion and hopefully others will follow his lead.

Amazon’s strategy throughout the coronavirus crisis has been to fire dissenters and disparage them both in the press and behind closed doors. There have been dozens of confirmed coronavirus cases at warehouses around the country, and workers have repeatedly said the company isn’t doing enough to protect them. Last week, Amazon ended a program that allowed workers to take unlimited unpaid time off if they fear getting sick from the coronavirus. Last Friday, Amazon workers together with Target, FedEx, Instacart, and Whole Foods workers, went on strike to protest their working conditions.

In his resignation letter, Bray said that “firing whistleblowers isn’t just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets. It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison.”

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A Union in the Kitchen will Improve Your Life

coffee

Thanks to the efforts of billionaires, and other corrupt individuals, union workers have been portrayed as lazy and inept. If anything, the opposite is true. Workers in unions have different goals than business owners insofar that workers just want to earn a good living while owners want to extract profit from consumers. Young workers today have noticed that the profit motive has left behind has the cost of living increase and wages remain stagnant. This has forced many young workers to unionize, and that unionization push is starting where a lot of young people end up working: kitchens.

Public opinion has recently swung in the other direction. Just over 10 percent of Americans are in a union now, considerably less than the 34 percent in 1954. However, more than half of Americans now say they view unions favorably, a number that has risen from around 41 percent since the recession. If there’s a silver lining to the ongoing decline of unionization, it’s that now, “membership in unions has gotten so low that people don’t even have a negative view of unions anymore,” Rogers says. There’s less of the cultural baggage associated with being in one, the slate has been wiped clean. Many of the organizers I spoke to said they’d never been in a union before, and either had no idea what they were about until recently, or a positive impression based on a dictionary definition of a union as a group of people with common cause arguing for their rights.

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It’s Time the Gig Economy Paid

Foodora work

Foodora workers are looking for justice for the way they have been ripped off and poorly treated by Foodora. Foodora is like any other gig economy company insofar that it takes an existing business model but places the operating costs onto independent contractors. Due to legal loopholes Foodora workers are easier to exploit and get less protection than workers labelled as employees – and this issue isn’t unique to Foodora. Most gig economy “jobs” are questionable.

In the USA, Trump’s anti-labour government has failed to protect workers so individual states are starting to act. California is looking at legislation to protect people who work in the gig economy.

Last Wednesday, the California assembly passed legislation codifying an important California supreme court decision: in order for companies to treat workers as independent contractors, the workers must be free from company control, doing work that’s not central to the company’s business, and have an independent business in that trade.

Whatever national rule eventually emerges for defining gig workers, they’ll need a different system of social insurance than was the case when steady full-time employment was the norm.

For example, they need income insurance rather than unemployment insurance. One model: If someone’s monthly income dips below their average monthly income from all jobs over the preceding five years, they automatically receive half the difference for up to a year.

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May Day: When Rules Don’t Apply

Unions have got a bad reputation in North America for reasons I don’t understand. Counterintuitively, large corporations have convinced millions of workers that their jobs are negatively impacted by workers helping each other. It’s been proven that when CEOs talk about how much they make their average wage goes up; those same CEOs don’t want their own workers doing the same. Indeed, silicon valley CEOs went out of their way to ensure that the people they hire cannot even get paid more at other companies.

Today is May Day and a good chance to think about the history and value of the labour movement. We still need to work together today for a better tomorrow and this is a chance to celebrate our successes.

Top executives of leading tech companies secretly agreed among themselves not to hire each other’s employees, thereby restricting wages and job opportunities of the very people to whom they owed their success.

Government investigators discovered the conspiracy and brought charges against the companies, using antitrust law to protect labor rights.

Read more and check out the film.

Unions Help Every Worker Earn More

economic chart

Unions have a bad reputation thanks to years of corporate lobbying and companies blaming workers for executive-induced problems. Despite the negative view of unions they have helped all workers get paid more and get more benefits. Research out of the University of Illinois concludes that unions are directly connected to broader worker rights and better wages throughout the economy, meaning that if you’ve never been part of a union you have benefitted from their work.

The unionization-inequality connection remains even when looking only at nonunion members, or at union members in only public or only private sectors, VanHeuvelen said. For instance, the study suggests that nonunion workers would have seen 3 to 7 percent higher wage growth over their careers if not for the decline in the indirect power of unions.

The connection also remains when looking only at workers who have moved – or only those who have not moved – between either industries or regions of the country. It also remains when looking only at the last three decades or only at workers born since 1960.

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