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For Juneteenth, Amazon tells warehouse workers they should dress up instead of taking the day off




When Amazon warehouse workers show up for their shifts in the coming days, they could walk past huge displays of balloons celebrating June 19, receive free food, watch flag-raising ceremonies or see flyers for events like Costume Week, which encourages people to wear the colors of the Pan-African flag to receive company merchandise.

What they won’t get: A day off to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

While a growing number of private companies, including Target and Nike, are offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday, Amazon has opted to give gifts to its fulfillment center employees instead, a move some workers and union activists are calling a deeply insulting.

Oh, let’s play Juneteenth dress-up to really amp up the end of slavery? It’s ridiculous.

Courtenay Brown, an Amazon Fresh employee in Avenel, New Jersey, told The Daily Beast that Juneteenth should be a holiday not just because people of color make up the majority of the warehouse workforce, but also because these workers are regularly discriminated against and burned. arduous 12-hour shifts.

You can’t say you support your black and brown workers when all of your actions show otherwise, Brown said. You make your profit on the backs of black and brown workers. We need a little dignity. A little consideration.

From Brown’s perspective, the multibillion-dollar corporation is preying on black neighborhoods, including where she lives in Newark, to staff its massive windowless warehouses. She said that while commuting to work during the pandemic, she saw billboards and heard radio ads for jobs with the company. A lot of people I live near, my neighbors, people I see, they work there, she said. There are people who recognize me and say, Oh yeah, you don’t work on the wharf?

At JFK8 on Staten Island, a warehouse that made history this year by voting to join rank-and-file Amazon Labor Union (ALU) workers is encouraged to dress in red, green and black to commemorate the holiday and receive dollars. In fulfillment center lingo, swag dollars are akin to rewards points that workers can rack up in exchange for Amazon-branded gear like t-shirts, hoodies, lanyards and water bottles. ‘water.

Amazon did not comment when asked why the company did not include Juneteenth as a paid holiday this year and whether it will in the future.

But spokesman Brad Glasser told The Daily Beast that the e-commerce giant is holding a variety of Juneteenth events at its warehouses, including JFK8, organized by volunteer workers.

Amazon is celebrating Juneteenth again this year with opportunities for employees to come together to celebrate a pivotal moment in black history in the United States, learn about the significance of Juneteenth and the black experience, and participate at virtual and in-person events with colleagues and partners, Glasser said. Employee volunteers at individual sites are empowered to develop additional programs that reflect the community and their facility. We’re proud to support the hard work of employees across the company who want to help their colleagues learn and celebrate.

It is a billion dollar business. They can certainly afford to do that.

Glasser said volunteer employees at JFK8 were behind the dress-up week and similar activities were held around Pride Month and Independence Day. JFK8 will host a flag-raising ceremony, create a Juneteenth pop-up museum and post employee testimonials about why the federal holiday is important to them, Glasser added.

Still, for some employees and union organizers, the June 19 warehouse tributes pale in comparison to paid time off.

Last month, Bloomberg reported that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is ready to file a lawsuit against Amazon for allegedly retaliating against an employee who rallied for paid leave on June 19. The federal agency also accused Amazon of telling employees in mandatory, union-busting meetings with a captive audience that their pay could be reduced to minimum wage if they joined the ALU.

According to the report, the NLRB determined that Amazon unfairly barred a worker from commenting on the company’s Voice of the Associate message boards where employees can make suggestions and voice concerns after the worker created a post. urging the company to offer Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

I’ve been calling it for weeks, said Chris Smalls, president and founder of ALU, which is currently fighting Amazon’s attempts to overturn its union election during a day-long hearing with the NLRB in Phoenix. (Smalls was fired from JFK8 in 2020 after leading an employee walkout over working conditions during COVID.)

Last year, they used the excuse that the president had made the decision to make it a federal holiday too close to call them, Smalls added. But this year, again, they’re trying to ignore it and they don’t really recognize it as a paid holiday, they don’t represent the black community well, and I just have to keep calling it out.

Smalls said he considers Costume Week, which appears to be a JFK8-exclusive promotion, disrespectful. He continued, Oh, let’s play dress up on Juneteenth to really amplify the end of slavery? It’s ridiculous.

Angelika Maldonado, a pro-union employee at JFK8, told The Daily Beast that the Amazons try to make us feel like we’re involved, make us feel respected, but we don’t even get paid for vacations. It’s not a small, family run shop that may not have the means to pay us for it one day. It is a billion dollar business. They can certainly afford to do that.

Maldonado thinks the Amazons’ fight against the ALU, which is pushing for better wages and hours, shows that the dollars and the costume day are more important than a paycheck that would ultimately benefit a family.

If we were a certified union, this [Juneteenth] would have been one of the first things we would have pushed for,” Maldonado said of the ALU, who are now focused on maintaining the win they got in April.

Meanwhile, some employees were also wondering why they were given Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday, but not June 19.

Most of our colleagues are black, Maldonado said. This is quite disrespectful, as I remember even around MLK Day they had MLK on our TV screens and MLK literature all over the building. But one thing he fought for was labor rights, and that’s the same thing co-workers want.

This isn’t the first time Amazon workers have called on the company to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday. In 2020, the company came under fire after a Chicago delivery station offered employees chicken and waffles for emancipation observance, a move some staffers called racist.

We stand in solidarity by honoring the black community by supporting local black businesses, a sign on the establishment read. We are happy to share an authentic meal prepared by Chicagos Chicken + Waffles on June 19th.

So much for supporting your black/African-American employees, a worker fumed in a private employee Facebook group, according to CNBC. Where is the solidarity in that? We demand a paid vacation, not a fucking chicken.

In response, Amazon said the facility’s diverse staff, including the site’s chef, who is black, endorsed the restaurant and posted it for free food.

The chef who organized the event had good intentions of honoring Juneteenth by supporting a small local business owned by a member of the black community, a company spokesperson told CNBC. After receiving some feedback from team members on the site, they have since decided to remove the panel in question.




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