Amazon workers’ actions should ignite a labor revolution

Employees must feel free to make their own decisions without being bombarded by intimidation and propaganda.

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Staten Island-based Amazon.com Inc distribution center union members celebrate after getting the voting results to unionize on April 1 in New York, marking the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the retail giant’s history.

Staten Island-based Amazon.com Inc. distribution center union members celebrate after getting the voting results to unionize on April 1 in New York, marking the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the retail giant’s history.

AP

On April 1, Amazon warehouse workers in New York voted to form the first union in the company’s history. Their unlikely victory against the $1.5 trillion behemoth’s union-busting campaign is arguably the most significant accomplishment for labor rights since the 1930s.

Together with newly formed Starbucks unions across the country, including Chicago, a post-pandemic labor rights movement could represent a turning point in union influence. We must seize the momentum generated by the Amazon workers’ victory and pressure Congress to pass durable labor reform legislation.

History has shown that major strides in labor reform occur when a spark triggers a wave of victories. In 1894, American Railway Union workers went on strike in Chicago protesting wage cuts at the Pullman Palace Car Co., which catalyzed a nationwide railroad strike. However, union influence has since decreased nationwide. But labor scholars say we could now be on the cusp of a major shift in labor relations, especially because of recent media and public interest.

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This movement must come with new legislation that protects workers’ rights. Amazon poured over $4.3 million on union avoidance consultants in 2021 alone to fund its union-busting tactics. Employees must feel free to make their own decisions without being bombarded by intimidation and propaganda.

Capitalists’ greatest deceit is sowing a fear among the work force that resistance is futile. We must ensure that the Amazon workers’ bravery is not an isolated success, but the first wave in a labor revolution. We need stronger protections against union-busting: Outlawing mandatory captive audience meetings and other intimidation tactics, guarding against retaliatory termination to ensure that workers are only fired for just cause, and guaranteeing that if a worker wants to be in a union, he or she has the freedom to join. The workers of the world have ushered in a new era of justice, and we cannot let it slip away.

Pilar Kelly, Logan Square

More federal initiatives needed to combat climate change

I am grateful President Joe Biden recently invoked the Defense Production Act to increase mining of materials to be used in electric vehicle batteries. But he needs to do more to respond to climate change.

Biden should declare a national climate emergency and invoke the DPA again to support the manufacture of heat pumps, renewable energy infrastructure and all the elements needed for a clean energy economy. This will put the United States on the road to mitigating some of the worst effects of climate change and will ensure our institutions can adapt to the changes climate change throws at us.

Jim Schwartz, Oak Park

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