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How the pandemic drives the technology industry union push

How the pandemic drives the technology industry union push

The final votes for one of the most watched unionization impulses in modern history arrived on Monday, March 29, and the results could be announced soon.

Whether Bessemer, Alabama, voted for nearly 6,000 employees at an Amazon fulfillment center to join the Retail Warehouse and Department Store Union or RWDSU, has caused a reaction from all corners, National Association of Football Players ra President Joe Biden to a group of deep “ambassadors”. Amazon, on the other hand, has used increasingly aggressive tactics, both against the union and in his public messaging.

Why Bessemer? And why now? The facilities in Alabama are relatively new. It opened at that time last year, a pandemic recruitment surge finally, the e-commerce giant — already Walmart, the country’s second-largest private employer — added 400,000 new hires worldwide only in 2020.

But union-driven workers say the growth has been at the expense of workers ’dignity. “Working in an Amazon warehouse is no easy task. The shifts are long. The pace is very fast. They constantly see and control you. They seem to think you’re a different machine, ”said Jennifer Bates, one of the union’s organizers Congressional testimony last month. And these issues are not limited to Bessemer facilities.

Over the years, Amazon has become known for dehumanizing working conditions, among other things constant vigilance, some tiring workplaces that have done employees (even if not in Bessemer) tend to pee in bottles (Amazon denied these allegations in a small tweet, was fast lie, and then he apologized for his comments.)

Employees are often directed to make algorithmic decisions, face to face can be thrown away at any time — sometimes by computers—. And, during the pandemic, warehouse workers have raised more concerns kobid-19 lack of protection. The company did a winning record in 2020, but people of color are over-represented among warehouse workers disproportionate effect of covid-19. Union organizers have calculated that About 85% of Bessemer’s location workers are black.

In response to allegations of unfair working conditions, Amazon tends to focus on its salaries, which can be higher than those of local employers. The average salary at a Bessemer facility, for example, is $ 15.50, compared to Alabama’s $ 7.25 minimum wage. However, the median salary in the large Birmingham area in Bessemer is median $ 3 higher than the Amazon average, According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Collective Action in Technique it is a site that documents unionization and labor actions in the technology sector. We asked its three organizers what the Bessemer votes mean, and how it fits into the broad history of workers ’movements in the technology industry.

I’m Tarnoff he is a self-described technology worker and the founder of Logic magazine. Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya UC Berkeley holds a PhD in sociology and specializes in technology and work Clarissa Redwine He is the organizer who helped organize the Kickstarter and is currently a classmate at NYU. These conversations have been edited at length and more clearly.

Q: Who is the “tech worker”. What does that mean? And why does it matter?

TARNOFF: “Tech Workers” is a broad term. Any person who provides a workforce to a technology company in any capacity, whether directly employed or subcontracted, in the so-called technical or white collar role, or in the role of service or storage, should be considered a technology employee.

When organizations like it Coalition of Tech Workers they were promoting the term, which is the idea that relatively privileged layers of technology workers – people who could work in so-called “technical roles” – were the idea. workers, and not just creativity, entrepreneurs, corporate family members, or other self-identification, it was a radical idea.

Q: What is the organization of modern technology?

NEDZHVETSKAYA: From 2017 to 2019, the number of actions in our archive has tripled year on year. 2020 was a record year again, and if you look at the size of those numbers, he says that’s happening in an organic way, making employees more active in technology workplaces.

REDWINE: This rise in organization responds to a couple of things. One is the political climate in the US, and then it is also in a position to respond to the maturation of the technology industry.

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