The New York Times Magazine: Amazon’s Great Labor Awakening

Labor News

Reprinted from The New York Times Magazine by Erika Hayasaki on February 18, 2021.

“… As warehouse workers started getting sick,” writes Erika Hayasaki in The New York Times, “conversations online turned fearful, echoing sentiments on the ground. ‘They didn’t inform us about our second case until over two weeks after they reported,’ one member wrote in the Amazon Facebook worker group. ‘We now have a third case and it’s getting closer to two weeks and we still haven’t been informed. If it wasn’t for us sharing info in our own Facebook group, we wouldn’t even have known.’

“But something unexpected happened, too: Those who might not have complained about working conditions or considered themselves activists started speaking up. Amazon had long fended off workplace organizing, holding anti-union meetings that employees were required to attend. And while Amazon has often acknowledged that workers have the right to unionize, the company has tried to persuade them that doing so would introduce an unnecessary middleman. But Covid-19 proved to be a breaking point. Some workers were no longer willing to make concessions to a company that they felt was jeopardizing their safety and potentially their lives.

“’The way they treat us is unethical and unfair,’ an Amazon employee posted in April, urging workers concerned about their safety to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“’Yea they gave us extra pay unlimited UPT,’ or unpaid time off, another wrote, ‘but be honest to yourself. Is it worth dying for?’

“One user in Texas added: ‘We need to unionize nationwide to have a voice for health and better working conditions.’ …

NY Times 2/18

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Jeff Burman served on the Guild’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 2019. He is now retired. He can be reached at