Advertisement
Tech by VICE

Organized Amazon Warehouse Workers Just Got Two Fired Co-Workers Rehired

Workers at a delivery center in Sacramento asked management on Monday to reinstate two fired co-workers, and they won their request.

by Lauren Kaori Gurley
Oct 4 2019, 8:11pm

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

An Amazon delivery center in Sacramento, California rehired two warehouse workers after their co-workers organized to demand their reinstatement.

Managers at the delivery center—one of Amazon’s smaller warehouses—fired a worker named Sandra, who preferred to publish her first name only, after she exceeded her unpaid time off by a single hour when her mother-in-law died. On Monday, Amazon workers at the center sent the site manager and Amazon’s human resources a petition asking that she be reinstated, a demands letter requesting a meeting with management about the reinstatement of a second worker, and that part-time workers receive paid time off.

An organizer with Amazonians United Sacramento, the group that formed Monday, told Motherboard that the warehouse rehired Sandra within 24 hours of their petition. Friday afternoon, the group received news via email that the second worker had also been rehired. “It just goes to show that when we work together we can accomplish things that don’t always seem possible. It’s been a really big win,” they said.

Amazonians United Sacramento announced the victory in a post on its Facebook page. “Within 24 hours of submitting the petition, HR verbally confirmed to Sandra that she was going to be rehired with back pay after weeks of being ignored and strung along without a paycheck,” they wrote. “That is the power that all Amazon workers have when we work together.”

This isn’t the first time in recent months that Amazon workers have shown the power of collective action in holding one of the world’s largest companies accountable for its labor practices. The organizing victory arrives two days after 60 Amazon warehouse workers—mostly women of Somali descent—in Eagan, Minnesota walked out during their night shift, demanding increased wages and a reversal of the 30 hour weekly workload cap. Management ended the 2.5-hour strike by promising to resolve the issues the next morning. (We don't know yet whether management has announced any changes to the workers in Eagan.) In August, 80 workers briefly went on strike at the Eagan warehouse in Minnesota over parking conditions. Within two hours, management agreed to expand off-site parking and allow workers to clock-in at off-site lots to ensure they weren’t marked late. Around 75 workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota staged the first ever Amazon Prime Day strike in the United States on July 15.

“We were definitely encouraged by last Prime Day in Minnesota, and now seeing what happened at the Eagan delivery center a few days ago,” said the Amazon warehouse worker with Amazonians United Sacramento, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “We see we can do something similar, and it’s effective.”

The movement hasn’t been limited to blue collar workers. On September 20, more than 1,000 white collar Amazon employees walked out of the company’s corporate offices demanding Jeff Bezos’ pledge to eliminate the company’s carbon footprint by 2030. In anticipation of their strike, Bezos announced a ‘climate pledge,’ promising to meet the Paris Accords goals a decade earlier than the rest of the world, which workers considered a major victory.

Employees at the delivery center in Sacramento say that all of its 500 workers are part-time—meaning they don’t qualify for paid time off or medical insurance that the company promises to full-time workers. And like many Amazon delivery center workers, their hours are limited to 30 per week, which allows the company to avoid providing them health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Part-time Amazon warehouse workers receive 20 hours of unpaid leave per quarter, or around two and a half shifts, according to the Verge.

Amazonians United of Sacramento says that while the company has taken “the right step” in re-hiring the two workers, Amazon has not responded to the group’s requests to meet with management or to grant paid time off for all workers. “AUS will continue to push for these demands as we move forward,” the group said in its Facebook post.

“This really gives us a bit more momentum,” another warehouse worker in Sacramento told Motherboard. “As we band together as United Amazonians I think that we can accomplish whatever we put forth our efforts. We still have a long way to go but I feel that the sky's the limit."