News & Commentary

November 22, 2021

Fran Swanson

Fran Swanson is a student at Harvard Law School.

Activists and workers in 20 countries will protest against Amazon on Black Friday, Insider reports. The effort is part of a larger campaign, Make Amazon Pay, that is being organized by environmental, consumer, and workers’ groups. The campaign organizers say that “from oil refineries, to factories, to warehouses, to data centers, to corporate offices,” Amazon employees and allies will engage in work stoppage, protests, and other actions. The campaign calls for better pay and working conditions for Amazon employees, data/privacy transparency to protect consumers, an end to working with law enforcement, and adoption of improved sustainability measures.

Approximately 700 Kaiser Permanente engineers remain on strike in Northern California, joined by thousands of other Kaiser health care workers striking in solidarity. The Mercury News explains that, for many of the employees participating in the sympathy strike, Kaiser’s refusal to meet engineers’ demands is indicative of the way company has treated the employees who have sustained it throughout the pandemic. Jenny Robledo, who has been a Kaiser San Jose nurse for 22 years, said that “the turnover rate is so high right now that I can come to work any day and look around and say, ‘I don’t know anybody here.’” Health care workers faced the intense stress of a surge in patients to care for, workplace outbreaks, the need to educate (and treat) patients who did not believe COVID was real, and care for their families at home. The pandemic has exacerbated an anticipated statewide nursing shortage. But striking workers say that, as Kaiser pushes back against union demands for higher wages, the company is willing to pay high wages to the traveling nurses it has brought in.

Across the country, other workers are planning to go on strike as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches. Concession workers at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport announced that they would begin their strike today, Arizona’s ABC 15 reported. They have been in contract negotiations with HMS Host since 2017, and are demanding a contract with strong protections for their tips, affordable health insurance, company retirement contribution, and protections against discrimination. Meanwhile, GoPuff workers are planning to strike tomorrow, PhillyVoice reports. As GoPuff’s delivery service expanded rapidly in recent years, relying on drivers it classifies as independent contractors. As driver Candace Hinson explained, the drivers’ demands are straightforward: “we’re human and we deserve to be paid for the effort we put in.” In the face of average wage cuts of $2/hour across the country, they are calling for a mandated minimum wage of $20/hour with the cost of mileage, protection from deactivation, and better shift access. And, in Denver this weekend, airport janitors won a $4/hour wage increase after striking for twelve hours. Tikdem Atsbaha, who has been a janitor at the airport for eighteen years, reflected on the victory with Colorado’s Fox 31: “[w]e walked off the job united, and we won historic wages and workload protections for janitors at this airport.”

Finally, Latino USA dives into the efforts of California ride-hailing drivers organizing against the gig economy’s exploitation of workers. The episode tracks the impact of Proposition 22 on workers—who are mostly immigrants and people of color—in the gig economy and the threat posed by copycat legislation across the country, even as Proposition 22 was struck down for violating California’s constitution. Software developer Ivan Pardo and Professor Veena Dubal explain how companies like Lyft and Uber created an “exploitative and unsustainable” business model and argue that this model poses a threat to workers across sectors.

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