Written by France 24
A memo purportedly written by anonymous members of the Amazon Board of Directors and released to all Amazon workers on June 5, 2020 urged a general strike to protest against poor worker conditions, low pay, and recent warehouse explosions. “This is the only way to change Amazon’s mind: by threatening their bottom line,” the memo read. “Refuse to work in any way until Amazon works for you.”
Despite the obvious threat to production and profit, the Board of Directors seemed unconcerned with the prospect of a strike. Instead of discussing ways to mitigate the memo’s effects, members of the Board instead focused on other topics, including the release of the anti-technology film Blue Collar Patriot and the recent attacks on Chinese farmers by Amazon drones. Members further seemed unconcerned with the fact that the memo was allegedly written by anonymous members of the board, and no effort was made to investigate its distribution.
CEO of Whole Foods John Mackey seemed particularly unconcerned with the contents of the memo, despite the fact that it singled his anti-union sentiment out specifically. The memo condemned him for calling unions “the scourge of the Earth,” to which he laughed and responded that it was true. “I believe that if the workers truly want to make their voices heard, they’ll do it through revolution, overthrowing the system,” he said. “Otherwise, they are welcome to find a job elsewhere. We are happy to make the working conditions as good as possible so long as it does not affect our bottom line too much.”
The single board member concerned with the prospect of the strike was Senior Vice President of Business Development Jeffrey M. Blackburn, who proposed a directive entitled “Strike the Strikers” to mitigate the memo’s potential effects. The directive included punitive action against those who insisted on striking as well as pay increases for individuals who fill positions during a strike. “We must but the hope of striking out of business,” Blackburn declared. “Let’s go ahead and put a nail in this coffin and not let this potential strike brew in the background.” Despite these strong words, however, the directive was ultimately tabled.
The memo comes at a particularly troubling time for Amazon, as Amazon drones in China were recently found to be attacking rural Chinese farmers. It remains to be seen whether or not the attacks were due to faulty programming or deliberate tampering, and the crisis has already had strong effects on Amazon’s public relations and sales in China. Chinese consumers have flocked in even greater numbers to competitor Alibaba, despite the fact that Alibaba’s drones were also found to have been attacking farmers.
It remains to be seen whether or not the memo and the attacks in China will affect Amazon CEO and Democratic presidential candidate Jeff Bezos’ poll numbers.