Amazon workers call on supporters to shut down warehouses for electoral justice

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice is calling on people and organizations — anyone who wants to support Amazon workers: we need your help to get paid time off to vote. We’ve gone through appropriate channels internally and have gotten no response from Amazon leadership and with less than two weeks until the US presidential election, Amazon must act immediately.

Action: Shut down Amazon warehouses on Halloween for 15 minutes (or longer!)

How: Go to a warehouse near you. Shutting down an Amazon warehouse is fairly straightforward. Find where the trucks and vans are exiting the warehouses and block that exit — whether with cars or bodies.

Who: Allies of Amazon workers. This is not a call to action for workers themselves — see this open letter to Jeff Bezos from our warehouse co-worker.

When: October 31st, Halloween at 11am PT (or anytime that day!)

Get involved! Contact us:
Twitter: @AMZNforclimate

Less than two weeks from the US presidential election, voters continue to face registration list purges, disinformation campaigns, strict absentee ballot requirements, 10-hour long poll lines, and as one of our warehouse coworkers said in an open letter to Jeff Bezos, “escalating authoritarianism in our government and white supremacy in our streets.” In a country that has yet to make Election Day a national holiday, low-wage workers face an even more basic form of voter suppression. The absence of paid time off to vote is the equivalent of a modern-day poll tax. The choice between having a say in the decisions that affect our lives and going to work in order to make ends meet is not a real choice, not in a real democracy.

As the second largest private employer in the US, Amazon must give its 600,000 US-based workers a paid day/shift off to vote. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice has seen our company begin to take leadership on climate in response to pressure from workers. It must take action around this crisis of our democracy as well. As our warehouse coworker wrote in his letter, “Back in June, when I and other Black workers led marches, you said our lives matter. Our voices and votes matter, too.”

Amazon’s essential workers are the backbone of this company and our country. Approximately 70 percent are workers of color. Black, brown and Indigenous Americans have been subjected to a long, violent history of voter suppression stretching back from the end of Reconstruction, to the Civil Rights movement, to today. Especially since 2008, we have seen the passage of laws targeting people of color’s access to the polls across the nation, a process that has only accelerated with the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling of Shelby County v. Holder. As historian Carol Anderson says, this is Jim Crow 2.0.

Most Amazon workers can’t afford to take a day off on Amazon’s pay. Especially in a pandemic where more than 19,000 Amazon workers have contracted the virus, many can’t take time off to vote because they’ve had to use or save up the little time off they’re given in order to care for themselves or family members sick with COVID-19, or to grieve their loved ones’ lives cut short. This when Jeff Bezos’s wealth, even as the richest man in the world before the pandemic, has risen 65%. If Bezos gave a $105,000 one-time bonus to each of his workers, he would still be just as rich as he was before the pandemic. He can afford to give workers a day off to exercise their most basic democratic rights.

Electoral justice is racial justice, it is economic justice, it is climate justice. Communities of color are exploited, policed, and surveilled in this country. They face environmental racism and medical racism. The same communities facing voter suppression are the same communities disproportionately harmed by the environmental and health impacts of toxic landfills, fossil fuel infrastructure, highways, and polluting warehouses built right next to homes and schools. Even their right to vote, won in the face of extremely violent repression, is being chipped away, year by year. As feminist scholar Barbara Smith reminds us, “The reason these horrors continue century after century is that the system of racial domination that disadvantages people of color and privileges whites has not been broken.” If you’re purged from registration rolls, restricted from early voting, intimidated by racist vigilantes, aren’t paid enough to make ends meet, and can’t even access clean water, how can you participate in this democracy? We must address the way this system is upheld, at the ballot box and beyond.

Tech workers have gone through multiple avenues for raising this issue internally. We’ve written to Bezos and executives. Over 6,500 of us signed an internal petition. We’ve gotten zero responses… crickets. Companies from Wal-mart and Best Buy to Apple and Twitter have already committed to giving workers election paid time off. Amazon should have done this months ago and now we’re out of time.

In 1965, as Black Americans faced down armed guards and water cannons to win the Voting Rights Act, Fannie Lou Hamer argued, “The world and America is upset, and the only way to bring about a change is to upset it more.” Given the continued urgency and importance of electoral justice, the morality of standing with all workers and with the Uprising for Black lives in this moment, we call on people and groups across the country to shut down Amazon warehouses to support all US-based Amazon workers getting a paid day/shift off to vote.

Faced with the climate crisis, Amazon listened to its employees who demanded climate justice. Faced with a pandemic, it restructured its operations on a dime. As we approach an electoral crisis, Amazon can abolish this modern-day poll tax. It can and must allow all of its workers the ability to vote.