On 25 January, more than 70 workers went on strike at Amazon’s newly opened Birmingham warehouse, EMA4.
It took 25 years for the first Amazon strike in the UK to take place. The Birmingham warehouse, however, was open for just over 100 days before the picket lines were up!
Upon its opening, unionised workers from the Coventry warehouse flooded in and brought the tactics of their previous strikes with them. Building the union in Bezos’ warehouses required new initiatives.
Right next to the picket line was a GMB recruitment stall. Workers coming in were stopped, told about the strike, and convinced to join the union. They grabbed their membership card and marched on to the picket. As the sun rose, GMB’s membership at the site had come close to doubling.
When we asked one worker why he joined the union that morning he told us simply: “Prices are high, profits are high, but wages are low.”
Another described the Big-Brother style management, where you could be disciplined for failing to return to your station within the enforced three minute break.
For many that morning it was their first time out on strike.
The workers come from all across the world, with English often being their second or third language. As well as this, the workers often have multiple jobs to make ends meet.
However, this hasn’t stopped them from banding together. They have no trust in the establishment to solve their issues. “All the politicians are corrupted by the billionaires”, spoke one worker.
This struggle is set to continue. A leadership committee was democratically established on the picket lines to organise the next round of action.
The labour movement must stand in solidarity to organise against one of the biggest monopolies on the planet.
The union aims to grow tenfold. Solidarity delegations from other workplaces; local workers helping with translation; and linking the movement to the broader struggles from Palestine to City Council bankruptcies: all this will help to electrify the workplace.
For years, companies like Amazon were seen as unorganisable. But just like Goliath in the old stories, even the mightiest giant can be brought down. The Amazon workers, in Britain and internationally, are well on the way to proving how true that is.