After roughly 60 Amazon warehouse workers walked off the job demanding a raise and better working conditions on Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) expressed support for the workers in their multi-state walkout.
The main motivation behind the walkout, which took place at three separate facilities in New York and Maryland, was a demand for $3 an hour raises. Workers also called for 20-minute breaks, which the company offered earlier in the pandemic but reduced to only 15 minutes in recent months.
Led by Amazonians United, workers have circulated a petition over the past months with a list of demands, calling for more staffing and better inclement weather policies after six workers in Illinois died when a storm swept through an Amazon facility.
Workers said that the deaths could have been avoided if the company had allowed cell phones on the work floor and held storm drills with workers; the company has extended the phone policy and established a severe weather hotline, The American Prospect reports, but has ignored other demands from the workers.
“If Jeff Bezos can afford a $500 million yacht, a $23 million mansion with 25 bathrooms and a rocket ship to blast a comedian to outer space, you know what? Amazon can afford to give its employees a $3 raise,” tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) on Wednesday. “I stand in strong solidarity with the Amazon workers walkout.”
Amazon has granted $3 raises to some facilities on a seasonal basis, but not every facility, which workers are frustrated with. Pay at the ZYO1 delivery station in Queens starts at $16.25 an hour. Starting pay at the DMD9 facility in Maryland is $15.90.
“It’s about pay for everybody,” one ZYO1 worker told The American Prospect. “We’ve made it clear the past few months.”
In response to workers’ campaign for better working conditions at ZYO1, managers punished the workers by taking snacks away from the break room, but then reintroduced them by handing workers snacks individually. One worker described the move as “brainwashing” and demeaning.
Longer breaks are crucial for the workers who are on their feet all day at work. “We work really long days, and we work at night,” Maryland associate Linda Gomma told the Associated Press. “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.”
While workers beg for better working conditions, the company has made huge profits off of their labor. Net sales increased by 22 percent in 2021 over 2020, jumping to $469.8 billion. Last year, when its new CEO Andy Jassy stepped in to run the company after Bezos took a step back, the company gave him over $200 million in stock on top of his previously awarded stock worth $45.3 million. The median pay at the $1.6 trillion company was $29,000 last year.
The company also recently announced a huge stock split and a $10 billion stock buyback plan, showing that the company has money to spare.