The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Amazon Workers Did Their Own Organizing

Apr 11, 2022

One thing in this Staten Island organizing drive that was somewhat different from other unionization campaigns was that this one was not organized by an established union. In most union drives of recent years, unions send in their own organizers who operate from outside the workplace, talking to the workers and trying to convince them to join the union. These organizers are the most visible face of the organizing effort. The unions sometimes have also engaged other forces—community groups, celebrities, ministers and others in support of the union vote. Those workers inside the workplace who want the union are mostly told to keep their heads down to avoid being fired before the vote.

Those who organized this campaign at Amazon started their own union—the Amazon Labor Union. Certainly it is possible, even likely, that some unions or others quietly donated money to this campaign and sent in people to work at this Amazon facility. But the day-to-day work of talking to workers, of organizing support for the union was done by workers inside the workplace, plus the main organizer outside the workplace was a former Amazon worker who had been fired.

That kind of organizing by workers was a strength of the campaign and gave workers a confidence in their own power and ability to stand up to Amazon’s threats and scare tactics. That organizing by the workers can also serve them well for what they will be facing next.

It is possible that Amazon might refuse to bargain with the union. Or Amazon might not accept this union vote and try to use the courts and the legal system to overturn it, hoping to drag the unionization process out for years. And even if Amazon does negotiate a contract, the company will have the advantage of only having to deal with one group of workers out of its whole workforce of over a million workers in this country.

If the Amazon workers accept that their new union will function in the manner other unions function today—only focusing on negotiating a contract, following the rules set up by a legal system that favors the corporations—then they have no real way forward to fight for what they want. But these workers who organized this union themselves have another choice, a real way forward. These Amazon workers can reach out to the workers in all the other Amazon workplaces and share with them what they just accomplished. They can reach out to workers in many other kinds of workplaces. Their successful organizing campaign at Amazon is certainly exciting and encouraging for other workers today who want to fight for something better. In that way, this vote at Amazon can be the spark for a much bigger fight.