Strikes have rippled across Amazon’s vast logistics network in recent weeks, led by workers who feel the company isn’t doing nearly enough to protect and compensate them during the global coronavirus pandemic. This afternoon, their white-collar colleagues across a variety of tech firms began showing solidarity for these warehouse and grocery workers whose essential work was only recognised as such in the face of unprecedented illness.
“Whole Foods workers are crying and having panic attacks,” an organiser at Google who requested anonymity for fear of retribution told Gizmodo. “And knowing that Amazon warehouse workers are enduring the strain of Christmastime workloads while having to worry about getting sick at their job as I’m sitting at my home at my laptop—I just haven’t had a worse feeling.”
“While we supported various GoFundMes or mutual aid campaigns […] we at least wanted to make sure that we were telling workers that their voice matters and it’s having an impact on us, and we see them,” the organiser added. In the end, a group of these workers decided inaction was untenable—but were somewhat hamstrung on what form their action could take, with public gatherings off the table for the foreseeable future. They opted to tweet their support via the hashtags #TechSolidarity #AmazonStrike and #HuelgaAmazon, accompanied by pictures of themselves holding signs of support.
THANK YOU tech workers for speaking out @techspeaksout. Warehouse and tech need to stand together! We stand with you too!! #AmazonStrike #ProtectAmazonWorkers #HuelgaAmazon #TaxAmazon pic.twitter.com/UaqDAD364u
— Matt Smith (@mattcaucus) April 13, 2020
“In so many ways this feels like one of the most safe actions we’ve run and in a lot of ways it feels like the most dangerous action we’ve run,” the organiser said. Safe in the sense that there’s a clear moral imperative during a time of crisis, and the action makes no specific demands of its own. “We are not trying to put ourselves in the position of knowing what’s best for these workers,” the organisers said. “We would like to see Amazon acknowledge the same.”
At the same time, photos of tech workers, tweeted either from their personal accounts or agglomerated at the Twitter page Tech Speaks Out, is an escalation from the standard petition or Medium post meant to pressure these mega-corporations towards basic levels of human decency. It also comes after Google and Amazon both took extreme measures to clamp down on activism—to say nothing of the firing of strike organiser Chris Smalls by Amazon and the associated proposed smear campaign (not that either company’s record on labour rights was much to be proud of prior to the coronavirus outbreak.)
— Gianni (@volatiledream) April 13, 2020
The organiser Gizmodo spoke to would not comment on whether tech workers had planned or considered a sympathy strike.
We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment and will update when we hear back.
Today’s action, while smaller in scale, builds off the momentum of cross-company actions like the Global Climate Strike, which brought together employees concerned with our impending climate catastrophe from Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and elsewhere in protest. Creating a shared consciousness between tech giants is, apparently, the easy part. “[Tech companies] end up poaching talent from one another,” this activist told Gizmodo. “But that’s also how activists end up making a lot of connections.”
The organiser said they believe many people are “pretty sceptical of worker activism and the effectiveness of a lot of people coming together and saying ‘this is what we believe in.’” Still, they said, “I would really like to encourage, not just tech workers, but everyone, to take these small steps as often as they can. […] I think people really lose sight of what an incredible thing it is to just feel supported and listened to.”