On Saturday 5 August, Amazon workers in Coventry successfully shut down the BHX4 distribution centre, whilst marking the anniversary of the first walkout at an Amazon warehouse in Britain.
This action was organised for the final day of the most recent round of strikes at centres in Coventry and Rugeley. It culminated in a rally organised by the GMB union, with workers from across Britain attending in solidarity.
Socialist Appeal supporters attended this rally and spoke with striking Amazon workers. Their struggle is an inspiration for workers not just in Coventry, but across all of Amazon worldwide.
One year ago today Amazon workers started the fight back.
Today Amazon faces the start of the biggest week of strike disruption in its history.
1100 workers walking out.
2 fulfilment centres.
26 total strike days.
Watch ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/x4L55ntO0a
— GMB Midlands (@GMBMidlands) August 3, 2023
Amazon’s bosses had prepared for a fierce struggle. They lined the road to the warehouse with barricades, and employed a private security mob to protect the main entrance in advance of the rally.
For good measure, the police turned up to intimidate striking workers on behalf of the bosses. They assisted the private security goons in pushing and shoving workers.
Despite all this, workers held their ground at the picket line throughout the day, convincing their colleagues to turn back.
“I think it’s not right the way [the police] treated us on the strike” one worker told us. “It’s my right to strike, but they were pushing me out of the road, away from the passing cars.”
As such these workers learnt an important lesson about the role of the police, which at the end of the day has always existed to defend the power and property of the ruling class.
The only way to resist such bully-boy behaviour is through the power of the working class when united in collective action.
Amazon are now deploying fences to try and stop the union.
But the union is inside the fulfilment centre.
Amazon workers are the GMB.
That’s why Amazon are facing the biggest week of industrial disruption in company history.
— GMB Midlands (@GMBMidlands) August 3, 2023
The dragons at Amazon HQ are clearly sitting on huge piles of money, as we saw with their underhanded tactic of hiring over 1,000 workers to dilute the unionisation ballot at the Coventry site.
Seeing the radical mood at the picket in the morning, and knowing that this would only grow with the commencement of the rally, the managers finally caved in and decided to send the remaining workers home.
In closing the warehouse and giving the workers a day’s pay, the bosses hoped to keep Amazon workers away from the wider labour movement.
Despite this, however, many workers hung around for hours until the rally, to listen to the speakers and discuss ideas for how to extend their struggle.
Another worker we spoke to told us of the conditions inside the warehouse:
“The things I saw there are terrible. None of the managers there are your friends.
“I remember my friend sliced his hand open on a box and no one gave him any help. The company didn’t even give him first aid, they told him to get an uber home and then call an ambulance to get a bandage.
“They don’t treat you like a human in there. I don’t feel like a person.”
“I finally feel with GMB that I have a voice, that they will fight for me. I think they are doing a good job, but they could be doing more. I want to help them reach my friends who don’t speak English in the warehouse. I want to fight with them.”
The mood from all of the speakers was similar, with many workers expressing outrage at the conditions in the warehouses, and all eyes focused on the campaign for unionisation.
A successful unionisation drive would be a lightning rod for workers across Britain and the world, as the formation of the Amazon Labour Union (ALU) in the USA was. If workers can unite at Amazon, they can unite anywhere!
Socialists, communists, and class-conscious workers everywhere must give their full support to this campaign, and help it fight for any and every measure to unite Amazon workers under the same union. £15 an hour is not a luxury, but a necessity, as the cost of essentials has skyrocketed.
The bosses at Amazon – one of the world’s richest companies – have more than enough money to pay these wages. They are currently paying double wages just to defeat the strike, to take just one example.
Claims that Amazon cannot afford wage rises are therefore blatant lies. To catch them out, the books should be thrown open! Let the labour movement see Amazon’s finances.
The success in shutting down the distribution centre in Coventry gives a glimpse of the power of workers when organised. Now to really hit the bosses where it hurts – their profits – this struggle must be escalated to all other Amazon sites in Britain, and beyond.
Ultimately, Amazon’s lies and tricks demonstrate precisely why they cannot be left in charge of workers’ lives.
Such monopolies must be nationalised under workers’ control, as part of a socialist plan of production and distribution.
Victory to the Amazon strikers!
For a real living wage!
Bust the bosses – not the union!