ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Trade Unions and Political Imagination

The Amazon Labor Union’s success in the United States reiterates the politics of organising labour.

 

Workers at Big Tech giant Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, New York voted in favour of a union, becoming the first Amazon workplace to do so in the United States (US). The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) has spearheaded this landmark victory for labour in the US. Its success ensures that Amazon—now the second largest employer in the US—will have to formally enter collective bargaining for fixing wages, working conditions, health, and safety with the ALU. The significance of this moment in US history cannot be lost, considering the decline in the organised workforce since the 1980s, along with an institutional apathy for worker’s rights and unionising, most epitomised in the Ronald Reagan presidency and pursued overtly or covertly by subsequent administrations and buttressed by the efforts of corporate America, including Big Tech, now. Meanwhile, media reports have consistently exposed the extremely precarious working conditions at these facilities, such as low wages, bare-minimum break time, threat of sudden termination, and poor social security, all of which got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic with the intensification of work amid an exponential growth in demand for logistics and package delivery.

The ALU, the protagonist, marks a shift from this bleak narrative. Its membership and support base, consisting of immigrants and precariously placed workers from diverse and marginalised socio-economic backgrounds, cannot afford to lose their jobs. Add to this a workplace armed with technological surveillance, well-funded union-busting machinery, a high employee turnover rate, and minimal tolerance for any protest. The ALU faced an uphill task. The common chorus in such situations—“a union is simply not possible.” Despite this, persistent organising, active pursuit of membership, constant worker engagement, innovative publicity materials, among other tactics saw an increase in their support base and eventually helped clinch the vote.

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Updated On : 7th May, 2022
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