Who stands to benefit?
Updated: Apr 18, 2020
Yes, last month. March 2020. While most of the country, no… most of the world, was locked down under shelter-in-place orders Bezos gained an average $761,290,323 per day.
Amazon’s boost under the shelter-in-place demands for grocery deliveries came at a cost to human safety and lives in their warehouses. It also, apparently, made a few of his fellow billionaire peers jealous as their bottom lines have not yet rebounded in the face of COVID-19 restrictions.
Both, worker safety and billionaire greed, resulted in nonviolent actions. But only one is aimed at the best interest of our citizens and community health. On Wednesday, April 15, I started seeing Operation Gridlock protest photos coming out of Michigan, where unemployment levels are among the highest in the country and over one million people filed for unemployment as Bezos padded his pockets.
First, it was a picture on Reddit of cars blocking roads to the hospital, and then, it was crowds of gun-toting, camo-clad men with their families milling around the capital, protesting the stay-at-home orders in the state.
People on my end of the political spectrum, focusing on the obvious Trump rally symbols and signs, red hats and Trump/Pence 2020, and the Nazi symbols and alt-right racism on display, were aghast at the public health disaster playing out on the computer screens in front of us. But mixed in among the mess were a few other signs, “Let us work,” “All workers are essential,” “Usually I’m at work right now.” They seemed terribly out of place among the “Don’t Tread on me,” Live Free or Die,” and “Stop the tyranny” signs.
It made me wonder who was behind the protests, what they wanted to achieve.
It didn’t take long to discover that while Michigan Trump Republicans had a hand in it, the Michigan Freedom Fund, a group linked to the Trump’s richest cabinet member, Betsy DeVos, was heavily involved in promoting the protest.
Given that she and her husband are heavily invested in the Orlando Magic, and multiple sports complexes and resorts properties, among many other income sources, including manufacturing, that all depend on a productive workforce, it seems likely they're feeling less prosperous these days, and antsy for folks to get back to work generating profits for them.
Michigan is not the only place facing such events. A similar protest scheduled for today, Friday, in Idaho is being backed “by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), which counts among its donors “dark money” funds linked to the Koch brothers such as Donors Capital Fund, and Castle Rock, a foundation seeded with part of the fortune of Adolph Coors, the rightwing beer magnate.”
Under the guise of freedom and liberty, and on the backs of Trump's hardcore base, a group of billionaires are pushing an agenda at odds with public health specialists. They have little to lose, and everything to gain, if the shelter-in-place orders are lifted. They won’t be on the front line of the COVID-19 devastation.
The people generating their profits will be.
The Betsy DeVoses, Adolph Coors', and remaining Koch brothers, are holed up in their compounds, or on their yachts, with servants taking the risks of leaving home, buying supplies to feed them and meet their various needs. Their staff are facing the pandemic on their behalf, risking death to stay employed.
The rest of us will face the consequences of their greed.
And that, brings me back to Jeff Bezos and the other nonviolent action I want to touch on today. Amazon warehouse workers have been organizing and protesting for better work conditions for several years. As coronavirus cases increased around the country and their working conditions became even demanding, these Amazon employees requested common safety precautions, social distancing protocols, sanitary working conditions, personal protective equipment, and transparency about cases in the warehouses. Given the rate at which Bezos's personal wealth was expanding in the face of the outbreak, and that it was doing so on the backs of these very same people, the requests make good business sense. Keep the workforce happy and productive, and profits will soar.
But apparently Bezos doesn't subscribe to that business model.
The warehouse employees requests went unheeded, and cases of COVID-19 began to appear in the warehouses.
Within days, the strike organizer was fired.
A number of Amazon’s employees on the tech side, who have been organizing to address Amazon’s dismal climate change record, began to draw attention to the conditions of the warehouse employees and organize meetings for the tech staff to discuss warehouse work conditions with those employees.
Their efforts were stymied, and ultimately this week two of the organizers were fired. Tech workers at Amazon are calling for a one day “virtual walkout” on April 24, 2020 in response and asking all employees to take a personal day in support of the warehouse employees demands. A sympathetic strike with those employees on the tech side of the Amazon equation supporting those working in the warehouses gain a better, safer workplace. Both of these actions, the Trump rally in Michigan, and the Amazon virtual walkout, have something in common: workers who keep the United States fed and healthy, comfortable and happy. And while the DeVoses and Kochs and Coors and Bezoses of the world don't care what happens to those workers as long as they are generating profits, the rest of us should.
During this pandemic, those of us who do not need to be working outside of our homes can best serve the interests of the country and our communities by staying home, minimizing the spread of the disease.
But no one should starve or be thrown out on the street to do that.
While racism and Trumpism were at the heart of that rally in Michigan, and will be at all the upcoming ones, there was also a level of despair that comes when one out of every four people in your state does not have work, can not find money to eat, to pay the bills.
We are facing an economic depression, and soaring unemployment rates.
We need to take care of our fellow citizens. A one time $1200 check does not do that. We have to do more.
An easy first step is to engage in a nonviolent action on April 24 to support the virtual walkout by Amazon tech staff, and those in working in dangerous conditions to deliver essentials to people around the country. Instead of turning to Amazon for our latest needs that day, let’s look locally for the struggling small businesses integral to our towns and cities to order supplies from.
Let’s be patient when the orders take longer than prime delivery services.
Let’s do our part in making the work environments in the Amazon warehouses, and all warehouses, better.
Nonviolent Actions employed:  NVA #172: Nonviolent Obstruction  NVA #166: Mill-in  NVA #114 Limited strike  NVA #112: Reporting “sick” (sick-in)  NVA #107: Sympathetic strike  NVA #71: Consumer boycott
Additional resources: https://techcrunch.com/2020/04/14/amazon-fires-two-more-employees-who-were-openly-critical-of-working-conditions-during-pandemic/ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2020-04-14/amazon-fires-employees-who-criticized-warehouse-conditions-video https://www.huffpost.com/entry/amazon-fires-worker-chris-smalls_n_5e828693c5b62dd9f5d482fa?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly9kdWNrZHVja2dvLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAGBi_CgkSx2LPDeo-9JJGpcA1zr0oYJgVBsQ6V8VYbFHoj4Cane_B7IqZl4tatLhSkVsycneCT9-fKnwHEVN_aMq6AzX-PAtltJOemRdOulLPZkrv-wKFa_QSErVxSIM5eAOJCOixtzKk9Z3UC5pyLJVbgGq8Ueiu7GS8TDKZ2Mr https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/amazon-employees-plan-online-walkout-protest-firings-treatment-warehouse-workers-n1186151 https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/jeff-bezoss-efforts-boost-amazon-stock-amid-covid-19-2020-04-17?mod=mw_quote_news