• Bill

Food Unions, Amazon, and You

As I've gotten older the one thing I've really been thinking about and constantly aware of is how true it is when they say information is power. The one thing missing for most people though is how to leverage that power effectively.

Several of the country’s biggest employers have raised the wages of their essential workers through “hero pay,” some extra money on top of normal hourly salaries. Amazon, Target, Kroger, Starbucks all got great press for doing this. Amazon warehouse workers got an extra $2 an hour while Bezos made an extra $33 billion.

Now Amazon workers will lose their extra $2 an hour at the end of this month, and Starbucks baristas will lose their extra $3. Target and Kroger had planned to end the additional pay but reversed that decision apparently in response to public pressure. So now there is a split between companies that plan to end those programs and those that will continue them.

But why Amazon, who has 575k warehouse employees and Walmart who has 2.2 million can't collectively get together and keep the same benefit as Kroger's 453k, or Target's 323k? It's not just public pressure, it's a matter of information and organization. If an employer was paying hazard pay and stopped providing it, there’s very little an employee could do. Amazon and Walmart know this.

The Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t address hazard pay, only requiring that it’s included as part of a federal employee’s regular rate. Ok, so how did Kroger's workforce keep this benefit? U.F.C.W., the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Hazard pay is usually a benefit that unions negotiate through collective bargaining. Amazon and Walmart also know this.

Amazon and Walmart are both leaders in preventing unions because they know the power shift changes drastically when workers, communities and unions to protest against decisions that harm workers. That's exactly what this is, and as great as it may be that you can get your all your crap the next day it's extremely shortsighted to not think by putting these workers at risk it doesn't affect you.

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