Workers at three Amazon warehouses in the New York City and Washington, D.C., metro areas walked off the night shift Wednesday in a coordinated effort to demand $3-an-hour raises and the reinstatement of 20-minute rest breaks.
At a warehouse known as ZYO1, in Long Island City, Queens, five workers, the majority of the night shift, walked out of the warehouse at 4:30 a.m., after shutting off the conveyor belt.
Outside the warehouse, striking Amazon warehouse workers were joined by 26 workers from DBK1, a neighboring warehouse, in Woodside, Queens, who walked off the job earlier in the night at 2:45 a.m. They chanted “Better pay, longer breaks!” and “Amazonians United will never be defeated.”
“We shut down the belt, did some chants, wrote on the [internal messaging] board, and were greeted by a crowd of DBK1 workers and solidarity supporters outside,” said Ellie Pfeffer, a warehouse associate in Long Island City. “They called in all the managers early to cover us.”
Striking workers say their wages of roughly $15.75-17.25 an hour are not enough to survive with this year’s rapidly inflated prices on the cost of housing, food, and gas. Last year, Amazon announced it was trimming back rest breaks from 20 to 15 minutes, ending a COVID-era perk intended to give workers extra time to maintain social distancing and safety procedures.
Striking Amazon warehouse workers outside ZY01, an Amazon delivery station in Long Island City, Queens on Wednesday morning. (Amazonians United)
Striking warehouse workers outside an Amazon delivery station in Upper Marlboro, Maryland on Wednesday morning. (Amazonaisn United)
“We’re proud to offer industry leading pay, competitive benefits, and the opportunity for all to grow within the company,” said Kelly Nantel, director of national media relations at Amazon. “While there are many established ways of ensuring we hear the opinions of our employees inside our business, we also respect the right for some to make their opinions known externally.”
The strikes took place at Amazon delivery stations, Amazon’s smallest type of warehouse, which sometimes employ only a few hundred workers and run much smaller shifts and are often located in or near major cities. At these warehouses, Amazon packages are loaded onto vans for delivery to customers’ houses.
The multi-warehouse strike follows a petition drive in December organized by the same group of workers, known as Amazonians United, an independent worker-led group, which has a presence in at least nine Amazon warehouses nationally. The petition included a similar set of demands, and the strike on Wednesday, they say, is an escalation of the petition.
At an Amazon warehouse in upper Marlboro, Maryland, known as DMD9, which serves the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metro area, 30 workers—which is more than half of the so-called “megacycle” shift that runs from 1 a.m. to noon—walked out of the warehouse at 6 a.m. on Wednesday.
“I make $16.90 after a year and a half of working here,” said Linda, an Amazon warehouse worker at DMD9, who struck on Wednesday morning, saying that workers were demanding a raise for myriad reasons.
“First of all, we have a Nordstrom warehouse across the street that starts at $19 an hour,” she said. “Many of us work multiple jobs. People are hurting themselves on this job. Their bodies are breaking down. I have a co-worker who hands out Aleve every day. We got nothing during peak, but they doubled our volume in our warehouse. Maybe we could get a thank you.”
Mukesh Patel, a 23-year-old Amazon warehouse worker in Long Island City who walked off the job Wednesday morning, earns $17.25 on the “megacycle” shift. He supports his mother and disabled father in Rego Park, Queens. “To be honest, with the amount of work, that’s not enough. As soon as you get there, it never stops,” he said. “I’m walking out because I do need the money, and at the same time, it’s bigger than that: I want to make sure people are getting what they deserve and what they’re working for.”
The strike coincides with a surge in organizing at Amazon warehouses around the country. In Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon warehouse workers at BHM1 are currently voting in a mail-in ballot re-election on whether to unionize. In Staten Island, Amazon warehouse workers at JFK8, the city’s largest warehouse, will vote in person on whether to unionize later this month.