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Over 60 Amazon workers stage walkouts over pay, break times

AP – More than 60 workers across three Amazon delivery stations staged a walkout on Wednesday to demand a USD3 raise and a return to 20-minute breaks, according to one of the labour organisers leading the effort.

Ellie Pfeffer, an organiser and warehouse associate at an Amazon delivery station called ZYO1 in Queens, New York, said five people walked out of her station on Wednesday in a shift that only has nine workers. She said 28 employees walked out of another station in the borough, called DBK1, and 30 more at the DMD9 station in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

The protest is being organised by a group of Amazon warehouse workers called Amazonians United, which said in a statement that its demands were first brought up in December through a coordinated petition among six Amazon warehouses in the East Coast. The group claims “rather than responding in good faith in the months since raising the issue, management has attempted to illegally intimidate and remove participants in collective actions from their warehouses”.

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said the Seattle- based company is “proud to offer industry leading pay, competitive benefits, and the opportunity for all to grow within the company”.

“While there are many established ways of ensuring we hear the opinions of our employees inside our business, we also respect the right for some to make their opinions known externally,” Nantel said in an emailed statement.

Amazon workers hold sigs after walking out of the Amazon DMD9 delivery station in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. PHOTO: AP

Amazon is the nation’s second-largest private employer behind Walmart. Its starting pay is still USD15 per hour, but the company said last year its paying new hires an average of USD18 an hour. Pfeffer said the base hourly pay at her facility is USD15.75 an hour. It’s slightly higher at the facility in Maryland – USD15.90, said Linda Gomma, an associate at DMD9.

Workers also want to add 10 minutes to their break per shift. Pfeffer said Amazon offered two paid 20-minute long breaks during the pandemic, but returned back to 15-minute long breaks in October.

“We work really long days, and we work at night,” she said. “Our breaks are really the one time we get to sit down and stretch our legs. Those five minutes don’t really matter to Amazon at all. But they matter a lot for our muscles and our sanity.”

Workers with Amazonians United are also calling for more staff at their facilities.

Amazon has seen other protests in recent months. In December, workers associated with Amazonians United at two Chicago-area locations staged a walk-off to demand higher wages and better working conditions. Other facilities in the New York borough of Staten Island also walked off their shift that month to protest what they said were unfair labour practices.

One of those facilities, JFK8, is scheduled to vote later this month on whether or not to form a union. A separate union vote is also currently underway at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.