THE LONG STRUGGLE OF THE AMAZON EMPLOYEES
Laboratory of Resistance
Jörn Boewe and Johannes Schulten - January 2017
By Jörn Boewe and Johannes Schulten. For more than three years, including over 100 days on strike, Amazon’s employees in Germany have been fighting for a collective agreement. Although they haven’t won yet, their struggle is emblematic of low-wage workers taking on a global corporation. The conflict at Amazon has become a “laboratory of resistance,” where important lessons have been learned, not only with respect to resistance against low wages and precarious employment in Germany, but also for workers who are fighting back at Amazon’s other sites in Europe.
Everywhere in Europe, Amazon takes an extremely anti-union stance, but trade union resistance is forming across the continent–in Poland, France, the UK, Spain, and elsewhere. Transnational networking of employees and dialogue about experiences in various countries are a vital precondition for a successful, cross-border fight.
This study is the result of intensive research by the journalists Jörn Boewe and Johannes Schulten on Amazon’s corporate structures and about both the experiences of trade union resistance in Germany and the prospects for cross-border industrial action by Amazon employees. This research is based on, among other things, a series of interviews with Amazon strike activists and participation in a number of trade union meetings. Since March 2016, when the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung organized an Amazon event, more than 6,000 copies of the German-language first edition of this study have been distributed. It has been discussed at various events accompanying strike actions at Amazon’s facilities in Germany, and its findings have been discussed with the workers there.
This revised and updated English-language version seeks to make these findings accessible to trade unionists and their allies in Europe, North America, and beyond and to contribute to the development of transnational trade union perspectives. Corporations like Amazon are “global players.” Workers and their unions are seeking to counter the power of these transnational companies through international solidarity and by not allowing themselves to be played off against each other. The movement is still young, but it is gaining strength. Their concrete experiences have much to teach us about transnational trade union organization.
Germany was not only the birthplace of Marx and Engels 200 years ago, but also the origin of strong working-class movements. While German socialists became dominant in the 2nd International before 1914, the year 1919 saw the split between Communism and Social Democracy—a political line that divided the country between 1949-1989, when West Germany considered itself a “social market economy” while East Germany built up a soviet-style planned economy.......
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