On the Picket Line

New York labor rally supports Amazon warehouse workers

By Candace Wagner
December 16, 2019

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Workers at the large Amazon warehouse here were joined by some 100 area unionists and other supporters to greet workers coming and going from their jobs at the giant e-commerce company’s fulfillment center here Nov. 25.

Banners and signs said, “We are not robots,” referring to the grueling work pace bosses demand from Amazon pickers and packers here and at all their warehouses. The pace is set to keep up with the growing number of robots.

A recent study by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health describes the high injury rate among the 2,500 warehouse workers at the Staten Island facility. Of those interviewed, fully 66% of the workers described having pain from trying to keep up on their jobs, and 42% said the pain continued after they left work.

Other placards and chants highlighted the company’s refusal to help with transportation to the warehouse’s remote location and the need for water and bathroom breaks that don’t count against production rates. Amazon management calls these health needs, “Time Off Task.”

Several of the Amazon workers addressed the crowd, describing the pressure from the speed of their work and the number of injuries daily. Workers are pushed to return to work injured. They thanked the crowd, saying efforts to change the conditions they face would continue.

Teamsters Local 863 hosted a bus to bring Teamsters from New Jersey to the rally. This local organizes over 3,000 workers, including ShopRite warehouse workers. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union also had a sizable presence, along with the Communications Workers of America and the groups Make the Road and New York Communities for Change.