Drawing on insights from Cedric Robinson’s theory of racial capitalism, we analyse black and Latinx blue-collar warehouse workers’ concerns about health and safety in Amazon’s warehouses as well as their collective efforts to organise and improve working conditions during the pandemic. The pandemic increased the demand for home-delivered e-commerce, bringing Amazon’s (directly employed) global workforce to over 1.2 million workers and making Amazon the second largest company in the US. Amazon’s business model, particularly its Amazon Prime programme, has further driven consumer demand for expedited, free shipping. Amazon’s logistics system puts pressure on warehouse workers, who are electronically surveilled, to work very quickly, resulting in high rates of turnover and injury on the job. In the US, this workforce is not unionised and is disproportionately black and Latinx. Workers of colour are also leading workplace organising efforts in various cities in the United States. Our research combines information from in-depth interviews with current and former Amazon warehouse workers in Inland Southern California, one of the largest hubs of Amazon warehouses in the world. We also analyse interviews with leading high-profile current and former black Amazon warehouse worker activists across US cities, affiliated with the Congress of Essential Workers, Amazonians United Chicagoland, the Awood Center, and Bay Area Amazonians who have demanded improvements in their working and safety conditions and faced retaliation, disciplining and/or firing during the pandemic.
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