Former Amazon workers and labor activists held a rally at Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos’ $165 million mansion in Beverly Hills on Sunday, demanding higher wages, better benefits, and increased safety precautions at Amazon warehouses to keep workers safe from coronavirus.
Around 100 people gathered at Will Rogers Memorial Park and then marched to Bezos’ home, which he purchased earlier this year from record executive David Geffen. The protest was organized by the Congress of Essential Workers, which was founded by former Amazon worker Christian Smalls.
Smalls was fired by Amazon in March after publicly speaking out and organizing protests at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island where he works. Amazon has claimed he was terminated because he violated a company-imposed quarantine, though a leaked memo written by Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky described Smalls, a Black man, as “not smart or articulate,” and said the company should focus its anti-union PR efforts on making Smalls the face of unionization efforts.
“Cancel your Prime, stand in solidarity with the workers,” Smalls said during the rally. “You don't need Jeff Bezos. He needs us. We made him the richest man in the world.” Amazon didn’t immediately respond to an email from VICE News requesting comment on the protest.
The demonstrators’ demands included free childcare and healthcare for all employees, company shares for workers, a $30 minimum starting wage for workers, and the closure and sanitation of buildings with COVID-19 outbreaks. They also demanded the reinstatement of $2 per hour hazard pay for employees until the end of the pandemic, which the company ended in June.
The Congress of Essential Workers also called for a wealth tax of at least 1%, with the revenue distributed to the “to fund the urban communities and organizations that the employers are invested in.”
“We demand that Jeff Bezos and the rest of the billionaire class pay their fair share to deal with the climate crisis,” the Congress of Essential Workers said in a release. “We are calling for a decent living wage of $30/hour minimum for all Amazon employees, Medicare and childcare for all, and the right to unionize without fear of retaliation. These are just a few of the issues that we feel billionaires like Jeff Bezos, who makes nearly $4,000 a second, can absolutely help relieve or resolve.”
Demonstrators also held a moment of silence for Amazon workers who had died of COVID-19. Last week the company finally disclosed that more than 19,000 Amazon workers had tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic, though they didn’t disclose the number of deaths within the company’s workforce. Amazon confirmed to NBC News last week that at least 10 Amazon workers have died of COVID-19.
Cover: Twitter/Eric Levai