ALU Newsletter # 5: Give Thanks, And Organize!
11/26/2021 update from the Amazon Labor Union in Staten Island
The past is never dead. It's not even past.
Thanksgiving is a conflicted holiday. The 1621 gathering that is supposed to be honored on Thanksgiving Day was the result of a desperate mutual defense pact during a deadly epidemic—soon violated brutally by the New England colonizers, amid centuries of deceit, imperialist violence, and organized resistance that persists to the present day. Today, the driving force of Thanksgiving, like all US holidays, is consumerism: tradition as a sales event.
46 million turkeys are consumed in the United States on Thanksgiving Day, at a cost of nearly one billion dollars. Another $39 billion dollars are projected to be spent on “e-commerce” platforms like Amazon in the 5-day holiday weekend from Thanksgiving Day to “Cyber Monday.”
We must be of two minds about this holiday’s cultural legacy. On the one hand, the Thanksgiving celebration offers us an opportunity to gather together and share with each other in a spirit of solidarity and mutual aid—potluck, picnic, potlatch—which is rare in a society of such aggressive individualism. It is a deep tradition with indigenous roots, established as a national US holiday through the tireless efforts of an abolitionist feminist during the American Civil War, explicitly to promote unity and oppose war.
On the other hand, the tradition (superficially) honors a moment of intercultural solidarity and indigenous wisdom through a mythologizing mode of “imperialist nostalgia.” By officially encouraging Americans to exalt the legendary WASP’s good immigrant origin story—just as the white power structure began to impose racist national legal codes of immigrant exclusion—the national holiday’s mythology whitewashed the “Pilgrim” legacy of greed, duplicity, slavery, exploitation, genocide, and environmental devastation which forms the foundation of the nation’s true origin story—and its perpetual mode of operation.
Six days before the “Emancipation Proclamation” officially went into effect—on the day after Christmas in 1862—US federal agents hanged 38 Dakota men upon Abraham Lincoln’s direct orders, for organized resistance to the US government’s expulsion and forced starvation of the Dakota people. Ten months later, Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday. That Christmas Eve, he became the first president to unofficially pardon a turkey, at his son’s insistence. Presidents to this day celebrate an absurd tradition of publicly pardoning turkeys while leaving human beings locked in cages awaiting death.
The Spirit of Thanksgiving
We find ourselves nearing the end of 2021—in Amazon’s PEAK—still plagued by a deadly epidemic, still confronting the endless deceit and greed of the white power structure (whose grasping frontier fantasies now extend to “the final frontier” of space colonialism), and as always, still organizing in mutual defense and resistance against it, in a spirit of solidarity.
It’s in the spirit of solidarity and resistance that the ALU fam celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday in Staten Island, sharing food and good vibes among fellow workers outside the warehouses. And it’s in this spirit that we’ll continue to organize and fight for each other.
The Spirit of Resistance
We’re keeping that spirit going full speed ahead on the day after Thanksgiving Day with our Black Friday rally in front of Jeff Bezos’s Manhattan penthouse at 212 Fifth Avenue, starting at 6pm (new start time!). We are coordinating with the Workers’ Assembly Against Racism in New York and dozens of organizations and Amazon worker groups around the world on one of the biggest retail days of the year to show our collective power and Make Amazon Pay. Amazon workers are striking in France, activists have blocked the entrances to Amazon warehouses in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany, and workers in over twenty countries will be rising up in resistance and protest against the corporation.
And while we are protesting out in the streets, the ALU crew is also organizing resistance to Amazon’s illegal firing practices, preparing NLRB charges, class action lawsuits, and new HR response strategies to resist Amazon’s relentless churn through its workforce. We’re forming a People’s HR Committee to respond to management’s abusive practices and to receive worker complaints about employment issues, and we need people to step up and lead. If you may be interested in joining this important new team, please let us know.
For instance, Amazon is blatantly violating New York State law by not providing its workers the required 56 hours of paid sick leave time each year, and we are also receiving complaints from workers about this abusive pretext for firing employees and denying compensation. (Ask Amazon to inform you in writing how much paid sick leave you have accrued! “Upon the request of an employee, employers are required provide, within three business days, a summary of the amounts of sick leave accrued and used by the employee in the current calendar year and/or any previous calendar year.”)
If you or someone you know has been fired from Amazon for UPT or are at risk, please gather any documentation you can and let us know the details of your situation! We must organize to stop these Amazon management abuses, and we will.
The Spirit of Sharing
The ALU is also organizing mutual aid on behalf of workers who have been affected by Amazon’s unfair, illegal, and cruel firing practices, as well as workers who have been struggling to make ends meet on Amazon wages, especially in this difficult season. If you have any funds to spare, consider helping out with these GoFundMe campaigns of fellow workers, all of whom have given generously of their time to help lead the ALU organizing cause, so all of us can have a voice and win better wages, working conditions, and dignity in the workplace:
Daequan was illegally fired from Amazon because he was outspoken about his support for the union. The Amazon Labor Union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against Amazon and is demanding that he is reinstated into his position with full back pay. While we wait for the NLRB to take action on his case, Daequan needs financial support to pay his bills. He is currently homeless because of Amazon’s retaliation.
Jason was fired in July 2020 due to negative UPT, and he lost unemployment benefits as of September 6, 2021. He recently returned to work at Amazon a couple of weeks ago, but is still facing an uphill battle and urgently needs help to pay bills.
Natalie has no family in New York and has struggled to secure housing, despite working at Amazon full-time for the past three years, as detailed in a VICE profile, “A Homeless Amazon Warehouse Worker in New York City Tells Her Story.” She has been living out of her SUV in the facility’s parking lot, and needs help to rent a place to move into.
The Spirit of Honoring Those Lost
Last Saturday night, while the ALU tent was down for repair and recuperation, a 24-year old Amazon worker was struck and killed by a car driven by another 19-year old Amazon worker. The tragedy occurred right in front of where the ALU normally sets up by the MTA bus stop, but overnight workers were not notified by management that their coworker had been killed. ALU organizers held a vigil on Monday in honor of the victim, and we are working to force Amazon and Matrix Development Group to protect workers by making necessary upgrades to the unsafe road. If you see dangerous activity on the 5th Street corridor, document it and share it with us, so we can build the case to force Amazon to protect us from life-threatening traffic.
Amazon will not protect us unless we organize to protect ourselves and demand what we deserve as human beings. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. The ALU is organized around that fundamental truth.
Until Next Week!
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