Video produced and edited by Jordan Zakarin and Nes Sanchez
Amazon workers have launched a new union drive in North Carolina. Workers say they face 10+ hour shifts with vindictive managers in an unbearably hot warehouse. Amazon pays so little that some sleep in their cars. They’re organizing for justice with Carolina Amazonians United For Solidarity & Empowerment (CAUSE). We spoke to the workers leading the organizing effort. Below is a full transcript of the video.
Albert Elliott: I have to move next Friday. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know where I’m going. If it means I’m in a shelter, unfortunately, that’s what it means.
Rev. Ryan: The inspiration from [Chris] Smalls and ALU was that you can actually do it. You can actually beat these guys. You can actually win.
[Chris Smalls at a press conference]: This is going to be the catalyst for the revolution. That’s exactly what this is.
Rev. Ryan: We decided that something needs to be done. Something needed to happen, and it had to happen now.
Albert: When I first began, it was a great place to be when I first began. After the first year, they begin to really reveal who they were.
We have individuals. They live in rural areas. They commute so far under the false impression that when they get to Amazon that life is going to be better. But when they get there, they see it for what it is. The heat is unbearable. It’s not a climate-controlled building. It’s like 90 degrees outside today. And so I know it had to be 95 to 100 degrees inside that facility alone.
Just about every day, every week, you’re going to see coworkers who may pass out because of the unrealistic quotas or rates that they have to meet every hour. And the goal of Amazon is to get them off the floor as quick as possible. No one knows anything about what happened. They didn’t see anything.
Breaks are completely horrible.
Darren Goode: Everything is slavery time. You go eat, gotta be back 30 minutes. So by the time you go through the metal detectors and the security and the metal detectors go off, they gotta go through your bags. Half your break already gone
Albert: Having to go in the break room and purchase lunch… How do you honestly expect us to be able to afford a meal? I have to choose between gas and my meal. And personally, I want to be able to get home after an 8 or 11 hour day.
Rev. Ryan: Our coworkers are getting written up all day, every day. I was actually just told yesterday by one of our [Area Managers] in a confidential conversation that in our department the goal is to write up a minimum of 12 people per day. They have the term they use “trimming the fat.” The goal of Amazon is not to keep you there long anyway. They just want to use you, exploit you, and then just throw you away.
Albert: Management doesn’t look at us as people because of what they’re taught. That’s what they’re being taught, what they’re being instructed to do. And a lot of them walk around and they have these laptops and computers in their faces. And they don’t see you. And if you don’t say, “Hey, I’m standing right here.” They’ll walk right into you. It’s like they’re robots.
Rev. Ryan: You see a lot of individuals who are terminated because you are forced to use your time when life’s unexpected emergencies happen. If my child is ill and I have to take her to the doctor, or if I get ill, and I have a valid physician’s note and I bring that to Amazon, they will not excuse my time.
Ashani Crawford: I went to Human Resources, HR. He said that we don’t excuse doctor’s notes. And he said, other than that, you would have to go on a medical leave for 15 days, which is unpaid time.
Darren: They know I needed accommodation. They said, ‘packing would be the best place for you because you’re in a wheelchair. You got more space, you’ll be in your own area. We’ll order this. We will have everything for you.’ But it took about 4 or 5 months. I got a write-up over underperformance, which, y’all didn’t read none of my accommodation inquiries. Lower my desk, make sure everything fits my accommodation.
The accommodation supposed to protect us, but it don’t. Cause we still get treated as if there’s nothing wrong with us. The managers don’t know the disability law, so y’all just throwing them out there and giving these people write-ups which can cause a big lawsuit. They basically violating people rights.
Albert: Everyone is saying the same thing. “There’s no way I can live off this.” The people that are single or have no children, they don’t have a mortgage. They don’t even have a car payment, are still struggling to make it on $15.50 an hour. Now you’re being faced with things of, having to go in the store and either you buy bread or milk, but you can’t buy both.
Rev. Ryan: We’re talking about a man who’s one of the richest men in the world has enough money where he can give every single one of his workers in his warehouses a one time $100,000 bonus and still remain one of the richest people in the world.
Albert: I’m not beneath sleeping in my vehicle. The issue is, I have a mother that I look after and I can’t have her in the streets. If it were just me then OK, but not my mother.
Rev. Ryan: For anyone that’s out there, that’s an Amazon worker, who’s tired of the exploitation, tired of injustice, and you’re ready to organize. You have to engage your coworkers and you have to show them how Amazon is exploiting them. You would be surprised of the people who share the same sentiments with you.
Albert: The union could make it a much, much better work environment. Not only for Amazon here, but Amazons around the world, because that’s what we’re in this for. People are going to be able to stand and say, “Hey, we got rights and you can’t treat us like this. You can’t talk to us like this.”
Rev. Ryan: When we win our union vote, we want a living wage. We want a true, genuine pension. We don’t want to pass generational poverty to our children or grandchildren.
Albert: I feel like with the union coming in, people will start to enjoy the Amazon experience again, that they will like coming to work. And not only will they like coming to work, they will want to stay at work. We are your company. We are Amazon. And without us, nothing moves.