Yesterday, Amazon warehouse and delivery employees at several warehouses in Italy staged a 24-hour strike that crippled much of the company’s logistics operations throughout the country. Three trade union confederations joined together to coordinate the strike, which came after negotiations over a variety of workplace issues broke down between the workers, Amazon, and the employer association Assoespressi, which represents third-party delivery firms on which Amazon depends.
According to one union confederation, 75 percent of Amazon workers in Italy participated in yesterday’s strike — a figure Amazon disputed, claiming only 10 percent of its employees and about 20 percent of third-party workers joined the action. But in truth, the actions were widespread across Amazon’s more than 40 logistics centers in the country.
The German news service Deutsche Welle wrote, “The unions say the ‘army of some 40,000 workers who never stop’ has helped make Amazon’s stellar profits possible.” Italy saw a 31 percent increase in e-commerce last year, helping line Jeff Bezos’s profiteering pockets amidst the coronavirus crisis. All told, Amazon’s worldwide profits surpassed $21 billion in 2020. “However, [the union’s] said that the only thanks the employees have gotten is more work and more pressure to work faster.”
Workers have been demanding changes to the length of their shifts and the pace of work, guarantees of job security, shorter working hours for drivers, and that the precariousness of jobs for temporary workers be addressed. They also want additional hazard pay for working under continuing pandemic conditions, and forAmazon to use its clout to force its contractors to negotiate in good faith with the unions.
“We’re not asking for pay rises right now but for a more humane work schedule,” Salvatore Pellecchia, secretary general of the FIT-CISL trade union confederation, told Reuters.
Yesterday’s strike seems unlikely to be the end of labor actions against Amazon in Italy. In a statement to CNBC, Pellecchia said, “If Amazon does not change its position, we will be forced to organize another strike. Amazon has registered a huge increase in turnover and profits thanks to the pandemic, and now must talk with us to give its employee what they are waiting for.”
Unlike in the United States, where Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama are fighting to organize the first union at a company facility, European Amazon workers are mostly unionized. Just last year, the company faced a strike across the continent as workers demanded greater safety measures to protect these essential workers from Covid-19.
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But as Left Voice reported just a few days ago, the floodgates seem to be opening for Amazon unionization in this country, with workers across the country contacting unions about beginning organizing drives.
As the old saying goes, when it rains it pours. Extending the metaphor, Jeff Bezos — the billionaire owner of Amazon — is getting wet. Let’s hope it turns into a deluge and he gets “soaked” by successful union drives from coast to coast.