Amazon.com, world’s richest man, workers beaten up


This Spanish language video is about a 22 March 2018 strike by Amazon.com workers in San Fernando de Henares near Madrid in Spain.

By Eric London in the USA:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: The richest man in modern history

18 July 2018

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth surpassed $150 billion on Monday, making him the richest person in modern world history.

The magnitude of such a sum is difficult to comprehend. Its real meaning emerges when juxtaposed with the social position of Amazon’s 500,000 workers.

* Jeff Bezos has made $50 billion in 2018. The $255 million he has made each day of the year equals the annual salaries of over 10,000 Amazon workers in the US.

* The amount Bezos has made per second in 2018, $2,950, is more than the annual salary of an Amazon worker in India, $2,796.

* In five days of 2018, Bezos made as much money as the combined income of every Amazon fulfillment center worker in the world in 2017.

* If Bezos’ wealth were divided equally among Amazon’s employees, each would get a check for $300,000.

* In the time it will take the average reader to read these five bullet points, Jeff Bezos will have made another $70,000, seven times the global annual average income of $10,000.

The existence of such fortunes exposes the oligarchic character of American and global society. Under capitalism, Bezos and billionaires like him dominate the political parties, select who is elected to public office, determine the policies of the world’s governments, and dictate “public opinion” through their control over academic institutions and the media. Here too, Bezos is a prime example. He purchased the Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million—less than what he now makes in a day.

Behind great wealth there are great social crimes. Bezos has made his billions through the ruthless exploitation of the Amazon workforce, which has more than doubled in size since 2015, when Bezos’s wealth was $60 billion. Amazon has hired roughly 300,000 new workers since 2015, allowing Bezos to pocket the surplus labor value of a veritable army of the exploited.

Amazon has gained a competitive edge by introducing 21st century methods to squeeze every last drop of sweat from its workers, who wear monitoring devices that measure how hard they are working and are forced to walk or run up to 14 miles per day. Injuries are common, and deaths and suicides also take place with regularity. The National Council for Occupational Safety found Amazon among the most dangerous workplaces in the US.

Amazon is deeply implicated in the crimes of the US government, both in its imperialist wars abroad and in its Gestapo-like attack on democratic rights at home.

The company hosts the web servers for the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and it sells its cloud service to Palantir, a data analytics firm that provides software used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to conduct raids and detain immigrants. In May, the ACLU reported that Amazon also sells Orwellian facial recognition software to police departments and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Opposition to this corporate giant is emerging, including from within the company itself.

In June, an undisclosed number of Amazon employees published a letter demanding the company halt its involvement in mass deportation and police surveillance. “This will be another powerful tool for the surveillance state, and ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized”, the letter reads, citing IBM’s involvement in providing Hitler with the infrastructure used to murder millions in concentration camps.

This year has also seen the development of a series of strikes at Amazon facilities worldwide. In Spain, Poland and Germany, workers’ anger over low wages, “permanent temporary” work, and brutal working conditions is near universal, forcing the trade unions to call limited protest strikes to coincide with “Prime Day”—a 36-hour sale period from July 16 to 17.

In Spain, the union has kept the strike to a single fulfillment center. …

The suppression of the class struggle has produced unprecedented levels of social inequality. In the United States, three people own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the population—160 million people. Worldwide, the five wealthiest own as much as the poorest half—3.6 billion people. Outside of the wealthiest 5 to 10 percent of the world’s population, the masses of people face levels of economic hardship that vary only in degrees of extremity.

The existence of such extreme levels of inequality raises the urgent need for socialist revolution. Society cannot afford the capitalist system. The trillions of dollars that sit in corporate bank vaults and in the trust funds of the super wealthy must be expropriated and spent on massive international programs to provide water, food, education, culture, housing and infrastructure to every corner of the world.

The international integration of the world economy that under capitalism serves as a source of conflict, war and competition will become, under socialism, a mechanism for distributing resources from each region of the world according to its ability to each region according to the needs of its population. Amazon, with its complex logistical web spanning every continent and dozens of countries, will be transformed into a public utility to ship medicine, building material, food and disaster relief across the world.

Neither Bezos nor the capitalist class will give up their wealth without a fight. The working class must prepare for the coming class battles ahead by joining the fight for socialism.

Police guard Amazon’s operations at San Fernando de Henares

By James Lerner and Paul Mitchell in Spain:

Police beat up Amazon strikers in Spain

18 July 2018

Police charged a picket line and beat Amazon workers during the second day of a three-day strike at the company’s largest logistics centre in Spain at San Fernando de Henares, Madrid.

The strike was timed to coincide with Amazon’s “Prime Day”, and took place as thousands of workers in Germany and Poland also struck the company.

Until the police attack, the Amazon workers and their supporters had been peacefully picketing, under the broiling sun at the main entrance to “MAD4”, as police escorted trucks and scabs into the centre. According to strikers, the police “without apparent reason”, beat them up with truncheons, which led to one suffering “an open wound on the face caused by a blow from a policeman.” Three others were arrested and taken away to police stations.

Ana told the World Socialist Web Site that she had come to the assistance of a fellow worker who had been corralled by the police but found herself being “clubbed three of four times” resulting in “contusions on her arm and backside.”

The Amazon workers have been involved in a long running dispute, since 2016. For nearly two years, Amazon has been negotiating with the trade unions—CGT, CCOO, UGT and CSIT—to impose the Provincial Collective Agreement of Logistics and Packing of the Madrid Region, which would replace the previous warehouse agreement and drastically reduce workers’ rights.

Police escort scabs through the gates at Amazon’s San Fernando de Henares warehouse

In March, they went on a 48-hour strike supported by 75 percent of the workforce that followed similar action by Amazon workers in Italy, Germany and France during November’s Black Friday sales. However, the company … unilaterally imposed new terms and conditions that meant:

  • Lower wage increases, with wages falling below the inflation rate
  • No more pay increases based on seniority
  • A 25 percent reduction in sick pay
  • A two-tier wage system, with new hires earning €3,000-5,000 less than current inventory workers
  • Cuts to overtime for working “extraordinary hours”, including holiday and night shifts

Another worker in her fifties, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, told the WSWS that Amazon has gone further, paying new hires on the 18th day of employment instead of the usual fourth day. She believes that Amazon could “very well close up the San Fernando facility and go elsewhere.” …

Amazon’s onslaught is based on a European-wide and global strategy of offering cut-price goods delivered through sweatshop conditions involving relentless speed-ups, total surveillance, back-breaking quotas, and minimal toilet and meal breaks. …

A striker tries to persuade a trucker not to cross the picket line

[Anarcho-syndicalist trade union federation] CGT member José, who is a member of the Company Committee, complained, “We are suffering from police repression, they are preventing us from reporting, we have been denounced. … Once again we see how the powerful are backed up with the laws and the forces of the state.”

Another CGT official complained that “the company wants to negotiate on the current agreement and not on what we already had, that we recognize as lawful.”

In contrast to the unions, the company has long prepared for this week’s strike. Fred Padje, operations director of Amazon Spain and Italy, warned before the March strike, ”We work with a network of 46 centres throughout the continent and with that we can cover the demand throughout Europe.” He boasted how they had managed to deactivate the protest at one of the company’s facilities in northern Italy during last year’s last Black Friday sale in what is popularly called ‘logistical plumbing”—by increasing the workload at the company’s plant in Barcelona.

The same has been happening during this week’s strike, with Amazon workers continuing to work at the distribution centre in Alcobendas, just half an hour’s drive north-west from San Fernando de Henares and at Getafe, half an hour to the south-west. Reports suggest that in the four weeks before the strike, the company took on up to 350 new temporary hires. …

Many workers mentioned that the police were more aggressive in clearing the entrance to the Amazon site and that in the previous strike in March they allowed people to come closer. It is an indication that Amazon asked for and got closer cooperation from the Spanish government and police.

Amazon striker Ana who was attacked by police

The police violence was also a sign of pressure from higher-ups to crack down on the pickets and tilt the media narrative against the workers.

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