Many of us have had to prove we are humans not robots when using the Internet. We dutifully pick out the crosswalks or bicycles or streetlights, and we gain access to the website.
But for some people, those who work for Amazon in its vast warehouses especially, the distinction between human and robot is unclear. Almost inhuman demands are placed upon people asked to process enormous numbers of goods while surveilled by cameras, measured by computer algorithms, and forced to comply with demeaning company policies.
One has to say the demands are almost inhuman because human beings are subjected to them. Scanning 300 items an hour during a 10-hour shift puts health and safety in jeopardy. The company’s time and motion software determines which workers are to be singled out, disciplined and fired. Without a union, the worker has no recourse.
The Center for Investigative Reporting found that the injury rate at many Amazon facilities was twice the national average.
And Amazon employs no union members. Yet. The RWDSU campaign to bring union benefits to workers at its Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse south of Birmingham is meant to bring change for its Amazon workers.
But the company is using every dirty anti-union tactic it can, even using restroom stalls for its propaganda posting. Amazon has also set up a fake website, pressured employees on the work floor, barraged them with email, Facebook posts and phone messages at home.
The union campaign has brought support from people and labor organizations around the globe, from celebrities and legislators and from President Biden who never mentioned Amazon by name but did refer to Alabama workers who had a right to unionize and enjoy union benefits.
The PRO Act, which needs Senate confirmation now, would bring fairness to workers like those in Bessemer who want to vote for union representation without company interference. Despite Amazon’s opposition, its workers are showing tremendous courage and determination to secure their right to a union. ■