Thursday, August 3, 2017


As worker anger over UAW corruption scandal grows, union president defends sellout contracts

By Jerry White
3 August 2017
As the corruption scandal involving the United Auto Workers union implicates ever-wider layers of the top UAW leadership, union president Dennis Williams penned a “letter to UAW members” Tuesday aimed at deflecting worker anger. Williams claimed that Fiat Chrysler’s payment of $1.2 million in bribes to the union’s former top negotiator with the company, the late General Holiefield, had no effect on the integrity of the “collective bargaining process.”
The central aim of William’s letter is to try somehow to distance the UAW from Holiefield’s crimes and deny the obvious—that the corruption scandal is not an aberration, but rather expresses the essence of the UAW, a pro-corporate syndicate and tool of management that still pretends that it represents workers.
Earlier this week, the two key defendants named in federal indictment unsealed on July 26—Holiefield’s widow, Monica Morgan, and former Fiat Chrysler Vice President for Employee Relations Alphons Iacobelli—were arraigned in Detroit federal court and released on bond. Federal prosecutors allege that Iacobelli and other company officials used the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (UTC) in Detroit to funnel more than a million dollars in bribes to Holiefield, Morgan and other unnamed “senior UAW officials” between 2009 and 2014.
Williams issued the letter as legal experts and the media speculated that at least eight more unnamed UAW and FCA officials could soon face charges. The Detroit News has reported that retired UAW Associate Director Virdell King, who was part of UAW Chrysler bargaining teams in 2011 and 2015, hired a criminal lawyer after learning she was under FBI investigation.
Holiefield, who died of pancreatic cancer in March 2015, was hated by rank-and-file workers for “negotiating” away their wages and benefits in contracts signed by the UAW in 2007, 2009 and 2011, and for defending the 10-hour-a-day Alternative Work Schedules, which has disrupted the health and family lives of workers. Before Holiefield decided not to seek another four-year term in November 2013, rumors were rampant that he was involved in a kickback scheme to sell jobs at Chrysler.
“This is one of the toughest moments our union has faced in years,” Williams wrote on Tuesday. “We are heartbroken and horrified to learn a man we knew, trusted and loved was involved in these alleged misdeeds.” He reasserted the specious claim he first made last week that “UAW leadership knew nothing of General Holiefield’s illegal activities until the US Attorney’s office contacted us in January of last year.”
In fact, UAW officials, including Williams’ predecessor, Bob King, were aware of Holiefield’s criminal activities at least as early as 2011, according to federal prosecutors who said King confronted Holiefield and Iacobelli at a face-to-face meeting in Auburn Hills, Michigan (location of the Fiat Chrysler headquarters).
King reportedly castigated the two of over their selection of Holiefield’s then girlfriend, Monica Morgan, as a “vendor” for the labor-management training center and a charity set up by Holiefield. King allegedly said this was a bad idea and told them they could “go to jail” before instructing the two to stop doing business with her, the indictment alleges.
For at least two years before the 2011 meeting, FCA officials had been shoveling hundreds of thousands of dollars into Morgan’s photography business and various dummy companies controlled by the couple, who used the money to buy designer clothes, jewelry, air travel, $3,100-a-night stays at the Beverly Hills Hotel and the closing costs on their new home.
In October 2013, federal prosecutors say, King, the union’s general counsel Michael Nicholson and unnamed senior union officials “began looking into financial transactions” involving the NTC, Holiefield’s charity—The Leave the Light on Foundation—and Morgan. This was a month after UAW officials fired Holiefield’s top aide, James Hardy, for selling Chrysler jobs. Soon afterwards, the FBI began its investigation.
In November 2013, Holiefield suddenly announced he would not seek another four-year term as vice president. The UAW allowed Holiefield to remain in office another eight months until the expiration of his term. Attempting to sweep the matter under the rug, they had nothing but praise for him when he officially retired in June 2014.
Five months before, in January 2014, federal prosecutors say, King and the UAW president’s “senior assistant” made formal requests to FCA for records and information on the use of NTC credit cards by Holiefield—who made over $200,000 worth of personal purchases on his credit card—and other unnamed UAW officials. The latest in the series of supposed internal investigations did not stop Holiefield from collecting an NTC check for $262,219 to pay off the full balance of his mortgage as he left office.
It is simply unbelievable that Williams—who served as the UAW secretary-treasurer, the top financial officer in the union from 2010 to 2014—was unaware of this criminal activity. Williams was selected to take over the union in June 2014 because he was a long-time and loyal member of the UAW hierarchy who knew where all the skeletons were hidden and could be trusted to cover up whatever scandals were about to explode.
Williams declares in his letter, “You should also know that no matter what anyone says, it was NOT possible for General Holiefield to compromise or otherwise affect the national negotiations that resulted in new collective bargaining agreements, including the 2011 collective bargaining agreement between the UAW and Chrysler.”
Williams does not provide any reason why workers should believe such a statement, nor can he. Holiefield was the union’s top negotiator who led the talks for contracts in 2007, during Obama’s restructuring of the company in 2009, and again in 2011. He had the closest ties to FCA boss Sergio Marchionne, who would not agree to Fiat’s takeover until Holiefield and the UAW signed onto his “World Class Manufacturing” plan of constant cost-cutting and speed up.
Holiefield negotiated “transformational” concessions, including poverty level second-tier wages, an end to the eight-hour day and income protection for laid off workers, and relieving the company of its obligations to pay retiree health care benefits.
During this whole time, Holiefield was receiving more than a million dollars in company payoffs, while his wife was off riding elephants in Thailand and boasting on social media that the “General spoils me” and “Every day is Christmas.”
In other words, Fiat Chrysler workers were defrauded. The terms of these contracts were not “negotiated” between one party representing the workers and the other representing management. No, the terms of the contract were dictated by management and agreed to by UAW officials who were on their payroll. Any such agreement would be legally null and void, and workers not bound to abide by its terms.
In his first statement, Williams attempted to justify his claim that the sanctity of the UAW’s “collective bargaining process” had not been violated by saying that these deals had “passed through many hands, including the UAW President, and the agreement was patterned after others at Ford and GM.”
Precisely! The deals at Ford and GM were no less corrupt bargains than the Chrysler contract.
The fact that these rotten contracts were sanctioned by the entire UAW apparatus—and rammed through against the resistance of rank-and-file workers through lies, intimidation and outright ballot-stuffing—only proves that the corrupt relationship between the UAW and the auto bosses is endemic to the entire organization.
Holiefield’s criminal activities are not primarily a question of the greed of a single bureaucrat. They reveal the essence of the corporatist labor-management “partnership” that has been the guiding principle of the UAW since the 1980s. The UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, founded in 1985, is one of many corporatist entities used to circumvent laws prohibiting corporations from directly paying and “dominating” labor organizations. From the early 1980s on, GM, Ford and Chrysler poured billions of dollars into these joint programs to augment the salaries of their UAW “partners” and offset the massive loss of dues income.
These arrangements were part of the transformation of the UAW and the entire AFL-CIO apparatus into direct instruments of management. The time since they could be called “workers organizations” has long since passed. In the naked corruption of Holiefield is revealed their true essence.
A struggle by auto workers to advance their interests will not take place in and through the UAW, but in a rebellion against it.

"From the standpoint of America’s richest 10 percent, who control over 75 percent of the national wealth, Obama’s 2016 claim that “America’s pretty darn great right now” is a statement of fact."

"But the average wage of a US Amazon worker is less than the hourly wage in real terms of a coal miner in 1935, according to the US Labor Department’s Handbook of Labor Statistics. Most workers, especially those hired as temps, make even less."

"The top 10 percent of Americans now own roughly three-quarters of all household wealth."

"While telling workers there is “not enough money” for wage increases, or to fund social programs, both parties hailed the recent construction of the U.S.S. Gerald Ford, a massive aircraft carrier that cost $13 billion to build, stuffing the pockets of numerous contractors and war profiteers."

Ten facts Amazon workers must know about the corporation:

  1. Slave wages for Indian Amazon workers: Indian Amazon workers are paid as little as $233 a month. No wonder Bezos said he was “energized by optimism and invention in India” when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June. A 28-year-old Indian Amazon worker told the IAWV: “Multinational companies are exploiting workers as cheap labour in this country.” Amazon has 41 fulfillment centers in India. Read more: Amazon pays warehouse workers $233 per month in India

  2. Workers stuck in a freezer: AmazonFresh workers report that the company illegally keeps them in freezers for nearly three hours, with temperatures between 30 to -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 to -30 Celsius). “There are no clocks in the freezer,” one worker said. “Stopping to check for the time [on your cell phone] also slows you down—they never stop monitoring your pick rate.” Read more: AmazonFresh worker reveals: Amazon illegally keeps workers in a freezer for over two hours at a time

  3. Bezos’ wealth grows: Jeff Bezos is about to become the richest man in the world. With a total net wealth of nearly $90 billion, he needs just a few billion more to top Bill Gates. Bezos has made $22.4 billion so far in 2017, more than anyone else on earth. Read more: Amazon CEO Bezos makes $1.4 billion Thursday morning, briefly becoming world’s richest person

  4. Amazon’s empire expands: Amazon’s monopoly and domination of the world market is growing. Former Amazon executive Brittain Ladd told The Street that other corporations “will have a challenging future if they don’t embrace Amazon…That’s what will determine the winners and losers—who decides to work with Amazon.” This means conditions will worsen for workers across all industries, who will be subject to the same exploitation as Amazon workers.

  5. Amazon robs the elderly of their land: A Virginia power company is seeking to seize land from elderly black residents to build transmission lines for an Amazon data center. Amazon will not contribute a dollar to the construction—the proposed $62 million project would be paid entirely by residents. A spokesperson for the residents said, “No community should be made to sacrifice so much for one multibillion-dollar corporation.” Read more: Amazon to seize the land of freed slaves’ descendants to lay power lines

  6. Worker run over by truck: Workers reported to the IAWV that an Amazon worker in Tennessee died when he was run over by a semi-truck. “The Amazon Associates and the truckers share a parking lot at my plant,” a worker told the IAWV. “I think an accident is going to happen eventually.”

  7. Sweatshops and Warehouses: Nike has made an agreement to sell their apparel company’s goods on Amazon. The deal links Nike sweatshops, where workers in South East Asia make shoes and clothing for near-slave wages, with Amazon’s network of exploited workers at fulfillment centers worldwide.

  8. Speculating on Whole Foods-Amazon deal: Financial speculators are cashing in on the Whole Foods-Amazon deal. Jana Partners, an investment firm that owned a large chunk of Whole Foods, sold off its ownership share and made $320 million on the Amazon deal. The Street reported: “A Jana Partners official declined to comment.”

  9. Selling short on Wall Street:  According to a June article in Business Insider, “The ever-expanding juggernaut Amazon’s $13.7 billion deal to acquire Whole Foods spurred share losses in the likes of Kroger, Target, and Walmart, amounting to about $500 million of gains for short speculators last week alone.”

  10. Truckers fight back: In June, truck drivers and warehouse workers transporting Amazon packages went on strike against trucking companies that skirt minimum wage and insurance and benefits regulations by classifying them as “independent contractors.” The Teamsters union shut the strike down with no benefits won to placate Los Angeles’ Democratic Party mayor. Read more: The way forward for West Coast port truck drivers

Amazon Jobs Day: A Tale of Two Americas

By Eric London
2 August 2017
All across the US today, tens or hundreds of thousands of people will line up looking for work as part of the largest job fair in US history.
“Amazon Jobs Day” tells a tale of two Americas.
On the one hand there is Amazon, a corporation awash in cash, always expanding its monopoly, producing ever greater dividends for shareholders. Its stock value has tripled in the last two years, and CEO Jeff Bezos (net worth=$90 billion) is making $23,000 per minute, about the same as the average Amazon warehouse worker in the US earns each year. The financial oligarchy agrees with what Barack Obama said in 2016: “Now is the greatest time to be alive.”
On the other hand, living conditions are deteriorating for the working class. The net worth of the average working class family has nearly fallen in half since the 2007-2008 financial crash, and most workers don’t have enough savings to cover a moderate expense like new tires or new medication.
The job fairs are being held in some of the most economically distressed regions of the country.
Urban centers like Baltimore, Maryland and Buffalo, New York have been hollowed out by decades of job losses and population decline. Suburban areas like Etna, Ohio; Whitestown, Indiana; Romeoville, Illinois; and Hebron, Kentucky are among the most heavily impacted by an opioid crisis that killed roughly 60,000 people last year. Former industrial hubs like Fall River, Massachusetts; Robbinsville, New Jersey; and Kenosha Wisconsin were once home to better-paid manufacturing jobs, but are now being transformed into industrial parks for low-pay, low-benefit warehouse work.
The fact that many workers view Amazon warehouse jobs that net $15,000 to $25,000 per year as a step up from the minimum wage service industry is itself a sign that corporations exercise an unprecedented degree of domination over the lives of hundreds of millions of workers. Today, workers no longer have the eight-hour day, pensions, employer-provided health care, or cost of living adjustments in contracts.
The growth in poverty and economic hardship in the working class means the accumulation of wealth and privilege by the ruling class. The top 10 percent of Americans now own roughly three-quarters of all household wealth. The poorest half of the population—roughly 160 million people, own nothing—just 0.1 percent of US wealth.
The growth of inequality is the product of deliberate policies enacted by both capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans, which have carried out the same policies of bank bailouts, cuts to social programs, tax cuts for the rich, mass surveillance, the deportation of immigrant workers, and never-ending war abroad.
Trump and his cabal of fascist advisers, generals, and family members did not emerge from nowhere—his administration is the product of decades of war, reaction, and decay within the ruling class and all its official institutions. The present crisis within the administration, marked by high profile cabinet member firings and resignations and unproven allegations of “Russian hacking,” is a fight among the Democratic and Republican factions of the ruling class to control the government and dictate the foreign policy of US imperialism.
The fact that the working class has no allies in this fight is proven by where the two parties agree.
While telling workers there is “not enough money” for wage increases, or to fund social programs, both parties hailed the recent construction of the U.S.S. Gerald Ford, a massive aircraft carrier that cost $13 billion to build, stuffing the pockets of numerous contractors and war profiteers. In the name of the fraudulent “war on terror,” the ruling class has drained trillions of dollars on wars fought for corporate profit that have left millions dead and destroyed whole countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
Both parties have also expressed their desire to “cooperate” on a health care law aimed at boosting the profits of the insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical corporations. Under the Democrats’ disastrous Obamacare program, millions are paying skyrocketing premiums for barebones coverage. The Republican proposals use Obamacare as a jumping-off point to make further cuts to workers’ coverage, including by gutting billions from Medicaid subsidies.
ions over the The wealth gap that separates the ruling class from the vast majority of the poplast 40 years. The primary role of the AFL-CIO today is to block strikes and prevent workers from linking up with one another in a common struggle for social equality.
Amazon and other corporations want workers to view one another—including those in line with one another at Amazon’s job fair—as competition. In reality, workers in the US and all over the world are linked by common class interests, regardless of their race, gender, nationality, religion, immigration status, or sexual orientation.
Amazon’s vast international supply chains, spurred by advancements in the areas of communication, transportation and engineering, are transforming social relations, linking the international working class in different industries together in the process of production like never before.
The conditions for bringing the world economy into harmony with the needs of the human race are already present. But under capitalism, these progressive tendencies are turned against the working class and society as a whole. The advances in technology and the global integration of production become weapons in the hands of the capitalist class to destroy jobs and living standards for the broad masses of people, while the conflict between the global character of economic life and the nation-state system of capitalism erupts in the form of militarism and war.
What is required is the socialist transformation of the world economy, expropriating the wealth of corporations like Amazon and turning them from for-profit exploitative giants into international public services, organized and directed democratically by the workers themselves.

Voice (, which exposes exploitative working conditions in Amazon fulfillment centers around the world and serves as a platform for organizing opposition among Amazon workers internationally.

Amazon’s Bezos passes Bill Gates as world’s richest person


July 27 (UPI) — Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Internet retail giant Amazon, overtook Microsoft founder Bill Gates as the world’s richest person on Thursday, according to a real-time ranking compiled by Forbes magazine.
A 1 percent surge in the price of Amazon shares accounts for the wealth Bezos has accumulated, at least on paper, enabling him to surpass Gates with $91 billion in assets on the Forbes list Thursday. Gates was listed with $90 billion.
Shares of Amazon have increased about 40 percent in the last year and have traded at over $1,000 per share during that time. According to regulatory filings, Bezos owns about 81 million shares of Amazon, accounting for roughly 17 percent of the company he founded.
Bezos also owns The Washington Post and the space exploration company Blue Origin, which he founded and funds with the sale of $1 billion in Amazon stock each year, according to The New York Times.
Gates’ wealth has also increased as Microsoft stock has enjoyed recent success. He still owns 191 million shares of the company, a 2.46 percent stake worth $14 billion.
Gates has diversified his wealth since stepping away from day-to-day leadership at Microsoft and now oversees Cascade Investments, the company he formed to manage his vast fortune. Cascade has a wide array of business interests, including private equity, public stock holdings and real estate.
The Forbes list does not count the money Gates has donated to his charitable organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of his personal fortune.
Gates has been ranked No. 1 on the Forbes richest person list in 18 of the last 23 years.

Government gives Amazon millions in free money for Romulus, Michigan warehouse

By Robert Verdine
25 July 2017
Amazon has announced that it plans to move forward on the construction of a new warehouse in Romulus, Michigan after being confirmed for a grant by the State of Michigan’s “Strategic Fund Board” to the tune of $5 million in public city funds. This comes on the heels of the recent decision to give $7.5 million in corporate welfare for another Amazon construction project in the Detroit suburb of Livonia.
The new site plans on utilizing the existing metropolitan airport, which will also see large sums of capital invested as part of an economic partnership between the state and major corporate entities known as the Detroit Region Aerotropolis (DRA).
In addition, Amazon has its sights set on a third location in the Detroit Metro area in Shelby Township at the site of an old Visteon plant, an auto parts maker for Ford. The board of trustees for the Macomb County Brownfield Redevelopment authority and the township’s planning commission gave approval for the project last week. As stated on the township’s web site, a main component of the plan will be the granting of various tax incentives.
This past week, the Livonia City Council furnished Amazon with an industrial facilities exemption certificate approved unanimously by the board. The certificate would “provide an exemption from ad valorem real and/or personal property taxes on the property. The application turned in to the city earlier this summer requests the certificate for 12 years, the maximum amount allowed by the state,” reports.
Other cities in the US rust belt are also making similar deals. The city of Cleveland is considering a similar package of tax and other various financial incentives for the redevelopment by Amazon of the Randall Park Mall site, formerly a major shopping hub whose retail anchors have been the main retailers put out of business by Amazon. Sears, Macy’s, JCPenney and Burlington Coat Factory were all former tenants.
This kind of economic arrangement is similar to deals Amazon has extorted all over the world. In 2013, the UK newspaper the Independent reported that “Amazon’s corporate tax bill was just £2.44 million – less than the £2.5 million it received from the Scottish Government in inducements to build a new distribution warehouse in Dunfermline.” The report goes on to detail some of the methods that Amazon and other multinationals use to avoid paying taxes on profits to government authorities.
“Amazon manages to pay only a tiny fraction of its profits in corporation tax because all sales to British customers are routed through a Luxembourg affiliate, Amazon EU Sarl,” the Independent writes. “It is funded by fees it receives from Amazon EU and since these only just cover operating costs, little is left over for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to tax. Amazon EU pays little tax in Luxembourg because it pays hundreds of millions of euros each year in fees to a tax exempt affiliate, also registered in Luxembourg.”
The company that Jeff Bezos founded in 1995 as an online bookstore now increasingly controls the fundamental infrastructure of the economy. Its Amazon Web Services division currently provides the computing backbone for much of the country, including the CIA. Its massive network of distribution centers and warehouses in every major US city has displaced local shipping industries. Amazon sales also increased 23 percent in the first quarter of 2017, climbing to $35.7 billion. On one day alone, July 11, 2017, the company reported that it sold $2.9 billion worth of goods.
While the ruling class claims that there is no money available to meet the most critical social needs of working people, state and local governments engage in a bidding war seeking to attract lucrative deals from large capitalist enterprises like Amazon and in the process drive down pay, benefits, and overall working conditions.
The online retail giant has received innumerable public grants from states seeking to lure the company into investing in capital in their regions. Fairfax County, Virginia has recently given a massive handout of $43 million for construction of a new distribution center. Last year, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf submitted a similar proposal, which was accepted by Amazon on behalf of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development. The proposal included a $5 million dollar “First Program” grant and $15 million in tax credits. Massachusetts announced its own deal in April 2015 which included $14.8 million incentives and credits for Amazon warehouses.
Financial papers and journals have meanwhile touted the deals by Romulus and Livonia as a supposed boon to job creation. The reality is that Amazon is notorious globally for paying poverty wages and severely exploiting and abusing its workforce. Workers are given a stick-and-carrot routine, promised bonuses and education assistance when signing on, promises which are postponed and then reneged on time and time again. Ironically, the repurposed former auto plants that are being purchased and refitted by Amazon will provide jobs that pay less than half as much in starting wages as were formerly paid to autoworkers at these facilities.

Amazon CEO Bezos makes $1.4 billion Thursday morning, briefly becoming world’s richest person

By Evan Blake
28 July 2017
Around the time Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos woke up Thursday, he became the richest person in the world after making roughly $1.4 billion shortly following the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. With an estimated net worth of $90.9 billion, Bezos briefly surpassed Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who had been the world’s richest person since May 2013.
Bezos’s fortune stems almost entirely from being the largest shareholder of Amazon stock, of which he owns roughly 17 percent. With the company slated to report strong earnings and growth in its quarterly earnings report released Thursday evening, its stock surged 1.6 percent shortly after the NASDAQ opened Thursday morning, reaching a high of $1,083.31 per share at mid-day.
The released earnings report, however, differed from what analysts had predicted and caused Amazon’s stock price to fall 3 percent to $1,012.68 in after-hours trading Thursday evening. The company reported earnings per share of only $0.40 cents per share, far below the predicted $1.42 per share. Bezos finished the day as the second richest person, trailing Gates by just $1.1 billion.
Under capitalism, the daily fluctuations of the market cause figures such as Bezos and Gates to win or lose hundreds of millions—or even billions—of dollars on an hourly basis, while the vast majority of the population struggles to survive.
The obscene amounts of money that Bezos accrued early Thursday and in recent years contrasts sharply with the low wages earned by Amazon’s global workforce. While Bezos netted $1.4 billion in his sleep, it would take 54,280 years for a graveyard shift worker in one of Amazon’s warehouses in the US to earn the same amount.

As the International Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV) 

reported last month, super-exploited Amazon warehouse 

workers in India make just $233 per month. Thus, it would 

take an Indian Amazon warehouse worker 500,715 years to

earn the same amount that Bezos did overnight.

Coinciding with the rise of the stock market, Amazon’s stock value has skyrocketed over 40 percent this year alone. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Bezos has cashed in with $24.5 billion since January. In the past five years, a period of almost uninterrupted stock market boom, Bezos has made an astounding $70.4 billion.
Bezos’s wealth is so vast that it would be enough to end homelessness in the US and provide access to water and sanitation for the entire global population, according to figures from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
After a summer of skyrocketing share value, the company’s market capitalization surpassed $500 billion for the first time on Wednesday, joining the exclusive set of fellow tech giants Apple, Google and Microsoft.
Earlier this summer, Amazon began acquisition negotiations with Whole Foods, which also propelled Amazon stock and netted Bezos another $2.88 billion in a single day. The deal portends a massive shift in the grocery industry, as Amazon aims to introduce technology to make superfluous jobs that currently employ millions of people, including cashier positions.
On July 11, Amazon held its annual Prime Day event, a sales bonanza in which numerous items were discounted, including Amazon-produced technology like the Echo Dot. The company afterwards announced that the sales event was their “biggest day ever” in terms of overall sales—a 60 percent increase over Prime Day 2016. In the 30-hour time frame of the event, they surpassed their combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2016 and added more Prime members than ever before.
The rise of Amazon and the billions accumulated by Bezos have been built upon the exploitation of its workforce worldwide, which faces brutal working conditions. Over the past few weeks, building up to and after Prime Day, workers at Amazon’s immense distribution warehouses have been under intense pressure to meet productivity requirements. Thousands of workers have been forced to work mandatory overtime, often at least 60 hours per week.
At most “fulfillment centers” across the US, inbound workers are already stocking up for the “peak” holiday shopping season and have continued to work mandatory overtime. Inbound workers have told the IAWV that they come home so stressed out from the thought of having to go back to work overtime the next day that they cannot fall asleep, creating a grueling feedback loop of overwork, stress and sleep deprivation.
Inside the facilities, workers are forced to labor under the intense summer heat. Workers frequently collapse from heat exhaustion, at which point they are simply advised to take a break and then get back to work.
This brutal exploitation is the real source of Amazon’s climbing stock value and Bezos’s soaring wealth. Without the labor of Amazon workers, there would be no profits. The wealth that Bezos has extracted from Amazon workers must be seized and redirected to meet social needs, not hoarded away in his private bank accounts and stock portfolio.
The way forward for Amazon workers requires that they form links with their coworkers internationally and fight to build independent rank-and-file committees, which will be used to unite with the international working class more broadly.

Tens of thousands line up at Amazon job fairs as Dow tops 22,000
3 August 2017
Two scenes played out across America yesterday, providing a window onto two separate worlds: one occupied by a small, wealthy elite; the other by the working class, who comprise roughly the bottom 90 percent of the population.
Shortly after the opening bell on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average broke the 22,000 mark for the first time in history, a milestone that was greeted with exuberant headlines in the establishment press and made the lead story on NBC’s evening news program.

The day before, President Trump tweeted: “Corporations have NEVER made as much money as they are making now,” a claim that the fact-checking website Politifact said was partly true, with the caveat that profits were even higher under Barack Obama. From the standpoint

of America’s richest 10 percent, who 

control over 75 percent of the national 

wealth, Obama’s 2016 claim that 

“America’s pretty darn great right 

now” is a statement of fact.
At the very moment the Dow crossed the 22,000 threshold, tens of thousands of workers were lined up waiting to apply for jobs with Amazon in the company’s nationwide job fair, the largest such event in US history.
If the photos of long lines of job-seeking workers encircling buildings and stretching across parking lots recall scenes from the Great Depression, that’s because the conditions of life for masses of working people increasingly resemble the “hungry thirties.”

We spoke to workers representing a diverse 

cross-section of society—black and white, 

immigrant and native-born, young and old—

who lined up together in the hope of landing 

an Amazon warehouse job with no pension, 

barebones health coverage and no guarantee 

of either an 8-hour day or 40-hour work 

Workers told the WSWS that Amazon forced them to take an on-site drug test and undergo a background check just to file an application. Many were disappointed and upset that Amazon refused job offers to those who had not previously filed an application online.
It is a testament to the desperate conditions workers confront that so many thousands view Amazon’s average wage of around $12.50 an hour as a step up from the service industry, where many workers make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. But the average wage of a US Amazon worker is less than the hourly wage in real terms of a coal miner in 1935, according to the US Labor Department’s Handbook of Labor Statistics. Most workers, especially those hired as temps, make even less.
Amazon’s job fairs targeted roughly a dozen particularly distressed regions nationwide. Baltimore, Maryland and Buffalo, New York have been hollowed out by decades of job losses and population decline. Suburban areas like Etna, Ohio; Whitestown, Indiana; Romeoville, Illinois; and Hebron, Kentucky are among the most heavily impacted by an opioid crisis that killed roughly 60,000 people last year.
Former industrial hubs like Fall River, Massachusetts; Robbinsville, New Jersey; and Kenosha, Wisconsin were once home to better-paid manufacturing jobs but are now being transformed into industrial parks for low-pay, low-benefit warehouse work, including the 10,000-job Foxconn plant announced last week.
For all their diverse experiences and backgrounds, the challenges workers confront in their daily lives and the concerns they share for the well-being of their families and loved ones are fundamentally the same. They worry about their children facing a lifetime of indebtedness and dead-end jobs, or family members slipping into alcohol or chemical dependency to numb their physical and mental pain. They are burdened by the knowledge that a medical emergency or car trouble could leave them broke.
They wonder how they will come up with the money to care for their aging parents or send their children to college. They know veterans who went to war and came back traumatized by the horror of imperialist war, only to be denied access to social assistance by the government that sent them there. They know that their friends and coworkers confront the same basic problems.
In the world of the wealthy, seemingly so far away and yet grounded in the same social reality, an entirely different set of concerns predominate, driven by the drive to increase their personal wealth, privilege and social position.
The entire political establishment—including both major parties, the corporate media, the universities, the think tanks and the official state institutions—is single-mindedly focused on addressing the needs of the rich. A section of the upper-middle class, upset over the distribution of resources within the wealthiest 10 percent, indulges in a politics of self-obsession, based on categories of personal racial and gender identity that are employed to gain positions of privilege.
While differences exist between and within different strata of the top 10 percent, bourgeois politics is what Obama called “an intramural scrimmage” between groups who are ultimately “on the same team.” This fact is demonstrated by the areas where the Democrats and Republicans agree: permanent war and massive spending on the military, domestic surveillance, cuts to social programs, tax cuts for the rich, and the militarization of the police to suppress working class resistance.
There is growing opposition in the working class to the increasingly oligarchic character of American society. “I’ve watched a lot of people lose a lot of stuff,” Amazon applicant Eric Childs told a WSWS team in Illinois. Lucinda, a mother of four who also cares for four grandchildren, stood in line to apply for a job in Ohio. She said, “If we spent more on jobs and less on going to war with people we don’t even have anything to do with the country would be much better off.” Andrea, another Ohio job applicant, voiced the frustration many workers felt with both candidates in the 2016 election: “Hillary was all that was wrong with the government,” she said, “and Trump was all that was wrong with society.”
The very economic conditions that cause social inequality also contain its solution. The growth of massive corporations like Amazon, whose supply chains stretch around the world, has united billions of workers internationally in the process of production. New technologies—including mobile phones, the Internet, advanced transportation systems—are revolutionizing social relations and transforming the way in which people of all races and nationalities interact with one another.
Despite the potential created by the development of man’s productive forces to abolish hunger, poverty and disease, under capitalism these advances become weapons in the hands of the capitalist class. They are used to destroy the jobs and living standards of workers around the world while devastating the environment. At the same time that private ownership of the corporations and banks subordinates the economy to the profit greed of capitalist oligarchs, the conflict between the increasingly integrated character of the world economy and the nation-state system erupts in the form of militarism and war, threatening the planet with nuclear annihilation.
The task of the working class is to free the world’s productive forces from the vice-like grip of the corporations and harness the huge advances in science and technology to meet the needs of the human race.
The corporations must be transformed into public utilities and run democratically by the workers themselves. The wealth of these corporations and that of their CEOs and major stock- and bond-holders must be confiscated and used to guarantee good-paying jobs, universal health care, education, housing, drug rehabilitation programs, pensions and other necessary social services. This requires a political struggle to unite workers internationally, in opposition to the political parties of the capitalist class, for the socialist transformation of the world economy.
Eric London

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