Worker Walkouts Increase as New Depression Looms

By Miriam Cordova

On Monday, workers at a Staten Island Amazon facility held a walkout for the second time, demanding safe working conditions. The workers have not been deterred after Amazon revealed its true face, firing Christian Smalls, who led the first walkout at the facility on March 30.

The first Staten Island walkout was followed by others at Amazon facilities in Chicago and near Detroit. One worker in Chicago made it clear it was not about workers being lazy, but about adequate work conditions, saying, “We want to work!”

Some of the Amazon workers have organized into a workers’ group, and aside from demands of clean facilities and protective equipment, their demands include a stop on the shipment of all nonessential goods, quarantine pay, and a guarantee that they will not be fired for taking time off as essential workers.  

Other workers from McDonald’s, Instacart, Perdue Farms, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s have also organized walkouts amid the economic crisis. This wave of protests has mostly taken place among non-union workers, demonstrating the necessity of labor organizing that defies the class collaboration of unions.

As the US enters the New Depression, the ruling class uses the hysteria surrounding COVID-19 to discourage and repress workplace organizing and rebellion. The onset of this depression has the effect of strengthening monopoly capital at the expense of workers and small businesses, many of which will not reopen even after the shelter-in-place and other restrictions are lifted. Companies like Amazon seek to use rising unemployment figures to force desperate workers into compliance, however the economic crisis has also aroused workers’ resistance.

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