While Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has embarked on a space race, his employees want to bring him back to Earth! In France, all the warehouses of the e-commerce giant are blocked by wage mobilizations. Across the Atlantic, a historic movement led to the creation of the first American union. In a context of great resignation, the balance of power has changed.
Amazon employees live their social spring. In France, the eight warehouses of the e-commerce giant are affected by a strike. In a context of high inflation, employees are asking for a salary increase of 5%, while management has conceded 3%. Without this increase, the trade union – the CGT, SUD, the CFDT, the CAT and the CFE-CGC (executives) – promises “surprise” walkouts. These actions will be organized until April 14, the day of the next meeting devoted to the mandatory annual negotiations (NAO).
Until that date, all the warehouses located on French soil will thus continue to be the scene of mobilizations, “never seen” recognize union officials. They say they are surprised by the extent of the movement, with, in particular, employees who have just arrived and are experiencing their first strike. “Another notable fact: as a sign of support for Amazon staff, carriers have also “disengaged”emphasizes Mohamed Lounas, international space advisor to the CGT.
“After the commitment of employees throughout the pandemic, gestures from the company are still awaited, which crystallizes the anger of the staff”, he explains. “Employees are simply asking for payment for their work which, let us remember, has been considered essential during the pandemic.“, hammer CGT elected officials. This social discontent is also fueled by a 57% jump in Amazon’s profit in 2021 to $ 33 billion.
An expectation of recognition after the pandemic
This same expectation of recognition galvanizes employees across the Atlantic. An Amazon warehouse in New York has thus set up the very first American union within the group: the Amazon Labor Union (ALU). From March 25 to 30, 4,852 employees slipped a ballot into the ballot box where the yes vote won 55%. “The movement is atypical because it is carried by politicized personalities who are involved in citizen movements like Black Lives Matter and escape for the moment from the big centrals.“, observes Mohamed Lunch.
While President Joe Biden has welcomed this initiative, management continues to oppose it. She believes that the small group of trade unionists has “threatens“employees at his warehouse to force them to vote in favor of forming a union.”It’s absurd“, reacted the lawyer Eric Milner on behalf of the union. It must be said that the firm has been leading a very active anti-union policy since its creation in 1994. It had thus always succeeded in repelling the desires of employees wishing to regroup in the country.
A protest movement is taking shape
Management fears that the union victory will spread in the spring of 2022 and in particular in Alabama, in Bessemer, where employees have been seeking for several years to also create a cell. “We feel that a protest movement is taking shape: the struggles of some galvanize those of others. UNI global (an international trade union federation, editor’s note) is trying to federate a single action in Europe and why not in the world», Analyzes Mohamed Lunch.
These struggles are also driven by the phenomenon of the “great resignation”. In this context, the second largest employer in the United States, behind Walmart, is facing a staff shortage. “We observe a reversal of the balance of power with on the one hand employees who have been qualified as essential and on the other a need for labor from Amazon“, Advance Mohamed Lunch.
The shareholders fear this situation and put on the agenda of the next general meeting of Amazon a question on the treatment of employees. A situation that is reminiscent of that of Starbucks, which also saw the birth of its first union recently. The shareholders have just asked the CEO of the coffee chain, Howard Schultz, to accept the unions to better keep the employees in a long-term perspective. Definitely, times are changing!
Mathilde Gola @Mathgolla