East African women who load delivery vans for Amazon delivered a message of their own to the world’s largest internet retailer today.
Backed by community and labor allies outside Amazon’s Eagan facility, workers spoke publicly about the increasingly dangerous working conditions inside the warehouse, and of management’s refusal to accommodate workers who fast during Ramadan.
“They told us if you’re not able to do the job, then quit,” Amazon worker Nimo Hirad said.
Staffing in Hirad’s department dipped from about 50 to 20 workers a few months ago, she said, after management stopped assigning two workers to load each van. The move dramatically increased the pace of work inside the facility, which does not have air conditioning.
“We still do the same job,” Hirad said. “It’s just twice as hard as it used to be.”
Workers’ frustrations reached a tipping point as the weather grew hotter and their religious fast approached. Hirad and co-worker Deqa Mohamed said they asked managers for accommodations – like a return to two-person crews – that would allow workers who fast to do so safely on the job, but management refused.
Workers turned to the Awood Center, a Minneapolis-based worker center for East African people, for support. The worker center helped stage the public event today and reached out to prominent public officials like state Rep. Ilhan Omar, who offered her support for workers.
“We have rights to bring our concerns up, and we are not afraid,” Hirad said. “We just want someone to address our concerns.”
A manager at the Eagan facility met with demonstrators and received a list of demands – including air conditioning and two-person loading crews – signed by workers and supporters.
Amazon is one of Minnesota’s largest employers of East African workers, according to the Awood Center.