Why is the most profitable company in the US, led by the richest man, abusing workers? Because it can.

Robert Reich, via an op-ed in The Guardian, blasted Amazon for its unconscionable labor practices, which are coming to light more and more because of the historic union election vote happening in Alabama this month.

He writes:

All this is coming to a head in several ways.

Over the next eight days, Amazon faces a union vote at its warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. If successful, it would be Amazon’s first US-based union in its nearly 27-year history.

Conditions in Amazon warehouses would please Kim Jong-un – strict production quotas, 10-hour workdays with only two half-hour breaks, unsafe procedures, arbitrary firings ‘and they track our every move’, Jennifer Bates, a worker at Bessemer, told the Senate budget committee on Wednesday.

To thwart the union drive, Amazon has required Bessemer workers to attend anti-union meetings, warned workers they’d have to pay union dues (wrong – Alabama is a “right-to-work” state that bars mandatory dues), and intimidated and harassed organizers.

Why is Amazon abusing its workers?

The company isn’t exactly hard-up. It’s the most profitable firm in America. Its executive chairman and largest shareholder, Jeff Bezos, is the richest man in the world, holding more wealth than the bottom 39% of Americans put together.

Amazon is abusing workers because it can.

Fifty years ago, General Motors was the largest employer in America. The typical GM worker earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars and had a major say over working conditions. Today’s largest employers are Amazon and Walmart, each paying about $15 an hour and treating workers like cattle.

The typical GM worker wasn’t ‘worth’ more than twice today’s Amazon or Walmart worker and didn’t have more valuable insights about how work should be organized. The difference is GM workers a half-century ago had a strong union, summoning the collective bargaining power of more than a third of the entire American workforce.

By contrast, today’s Amazon and Walmart workers are on their own. And because only 6.4% of America’s private-sector workers are unionized, there’s little collective pressure on Amazon or Walmart to treat their workers any better.”

For the rest of Reich’s piece, visit The Guardian here.



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