The North Star


Interview with an Amazon worker

“You don’t even feel like a human being”

Read Time:2 Minute

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Amazon workers in Canada are organizing. In Quebec, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) founded the first Amazon union in Canada. To the west, B.C workers are voting on unionization after a successful sign-up vote with Unifor in May. In Ontario, Amazon workers are fighting daily.

“It's really all about lack of respect from management,” says Josh, an Amazon worker in Southern Ontario. "The managers want full control over you. You don’t even feel like a human being because of how they treat you."

“And we just want some basic dignity,” Josh says. “Managers will just stand and watch you, always looking for something wrong. If you go to the washroom, they will question how long it took. You’re being monitored all the time.”

In order to get union certification in Ontario, workers sign union membership cards signalling their intent to join. If at least 40% of workers sign on, the Ontario Labour Relations Board will host a representation vote at their workplace. If the majority sign on, the union becomes official.

One benefit to unions is the ability to engage in collective-bargaining with the bosses. Collective-bargaining is when workers, together, negotiate for better wages and benefits. Working in a collective-unit to negotiate helps even the playing field and gives workers more power compared to negotiating individually.

But it’s not just about unionization, either. “For us, [union] certification is really just the first step” Josh says. “When we organize events, it’s not necessarily just about getting people to sign onto a union card. We talk to people about what the issues are, and how we can build everyone up to fight whatever issues come up.”

"And you know, people think Amazon workers are like sad, toiling people who can't fight back. But honestly, Amazon workers fight back every day,” Josh says. “You'll hear about someone from the packing department making a new petition, or someone in the pick department shouting down the manager at meetings, and everyone joins with them. This kind of stuff happens all the time.”

“And you know about the march-on-the-bosses, right? They’ve happened at a bunch of Amazon warehouses. It's what it sounds like: you grab all your co-workers, you go to the manager's office, and get answers on whatever happened. Whether it's someone getting fired, a health and safety incident, whatever. You get all your co-workers and get answers from management."

But as Josh says, signing the union card, is just the beginning. Amazon is already refusing to accept the Quebec union certification, causing a potential supreme court challenge. In B.C. Unifor originally withdrew their union vote because of a “suspiciously” high number of employees being reported by Amazon. Similar dirty tactics have been used by Amazon in the U.K.’s union drive.

Throughout the interview, a positive tone emerged regarding labour organizing at Amazon. When asked about his optimism, Josh affirmed, "you know, if there was a union vote tomorrow, then we wouldn't get it. But we're organizing now, we've won fights already, and we're going to continue to do that."

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