Seattle’s socialist city council member Kshama Sawant kicked off the national Workers Strike Back campaign on March 4 during an event at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall. Other speakers included Griffin Ritze, a worker and union organizer at Amazon’s KCVG air hub; Mike Forster, a leader in the Enough is Enough campaign in the U.K.; and Nick Cruse, host on the Revolutionary Blackout Network.
Sawant has announced that she will not be seeking re-election this year so she can devote her efforts to the new labor movement. Major kick-off rallies for Workers Strike Back have been held in Madison, Philadelphia, New York City, and other communities in the U.S. Workers at Amazon’s KCVG air hub in Northern Kentucky are fighting to organize a union, and Workers Fight Back claims that Amazon is retaliating against them. KCVG employees announced they are joining forces with the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) to collect union cards and win a union election at KCVG, the largest Amazon air hub in the world. Workers are demanding $30 an hour, 180 hours paid time off, and union representation at disciplinary meetings.
In support of the unionization drive at KCVG, Workers Strike Back hosted a national week of action with solidarity rallies held across the country, culminating in a rally at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle on March 25.
Sawant spoke at the Seattle labor rally. She called on Amazon to recognize workers’ right to organize at every location in the U.S.A.
Steven Kelly, an Amazon employee from Kentucky, spoke at the rally in favor of unionization and a pay increase to $30/hour.
Referring to the KCVG facility, Kelley said, “Getting a union there is going to take everyone in the labor movement. Amazon’s going to fight us tooth and nail. They’ve already started their union busting. They’re retaliating and pushing us to our limits—that’s why we’re here today.”
A fellow Amazon employee from the Kentucky site, Braeden Pierce, told the crowd of union supporters, “This union drive is very important. 75% of all Amazon freight will come through this facility. We’re here to show not just Amazon workers and managers, but the whole world that workers still hold the power.”
Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Chapter 3000 were also in attendance at the Seattle rally to support Amazon workers’ efforts to unionize. Maddy Olson is a labor organizer with Workers Strike Back. She’s employed at Puget Sound Consumers Co-op in Seattle, where grocery workers are campaigning for higher wages and full staffing.
Olson told rally participants, “As a union member we understand the importance of collective bargaining. This year our contract expires and we are in for a serious battle. I am proud to be here standing with the KCVG workers fighting to form their union.”
Representatives from the Bookworkers Union and Socialist Alternative party were also on hand to support the Kentucky Amazon workers.
A simultaneous event was held in Chicago outside the offices of Jackson Lewis PC, a law firm that Workers Strikes Back claims is being employed by Amazon for union busting purposes.
Photos by Mark Taylor-Canfield.