As the holiday package rush heats workers rallied last Friday to draw attention to failed negotiations on critical issues.
Below are several statements from the Awood Center and other regarding the rally.
In the middle of the holiday rush, hundreds of Minnesotans rallied at the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee to support the Somali community and Amazon workers who are pushing the corporate giant to do better for their workers and Minnesota communities. Organized by the Awood Center, the Muslim Coalition of ISAIAH (MCI) and Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota (CAIR MN), the action at the largest Amazon warehouse in Minnesota came after Amazon and the various groups have sat down twice (see: New York Times ‘Somali Workers in Minnesota Force Amazon to Negotiate’) but have not been able to reach an agreement on key issues, forcing workers and community to take this public action as the holiday package rush heats up.
Speaking during the protest, multiple Amazon workers shared their stories about what they are fighting to improve conditions at Amazon.
“Right now corporations like Amazon are stripping the wealth from our communities and keeping too much for themselves,” said Hafsa Hassan, who works at the Shakopee Amazon warehouse.
Leaders from the East African community spoke about the work to bring Amazon to the table and the community demands that have been part of the negotiations with Amazon.
“We are in full support of all the current workers, we are also in full support of the previous workers who have survived Amazon. They are our community members who live with the back pain, chronic illness and hurt and harm caused during their employment,” said Imam Ahmed Anshur of Al-Ihsan Islamic Center in St. Paul and the Muslim Coalition of ISAIAH. “Amazon is not allowed to wash their hands of the people who they have churned and burned. We will not stand by while they do this to our entire community.”
Leaders with the MCI also talked about the demand for Amazon to put a portion of the profit created in Minnesota towards a community-run fund to address Minnesota’s worst-in-the-nation racial disparities, which are made even worse by corporations like Amazon.
Imam Mohamed Omar executive director at Dar Al Farooq, a founding mosque member of the Muslim Coalition of ISAIAH. “I want to be clear. Funding the Community Care Fund is not a handout or a donation. This is so that Amazon can pour back into the communities a portion of what they have taken so much of. They have made billions off the backs of our communities. When they make a profit, that is all of our profit. It’s time that we see it materialize for our families.”
Multiple workers spoke about the harsh working conditions and the push by Amazon to demand more and more from their employees, causing injuries to Minnesotans working in the warehouses, especially around the holiday rush.
“The way we are treated simply is not fair. No person should have to choose between unsafe workloads that could hurt us and a paycheck we need to survive,” said Khadra Hassan, a Amazon Shakopee warehouse employee.
Another concern brought up repeatedly was the need for Amazon in Minnesota to respect and support their majority East African workforce, not only by making sure the civil rights of workers are respected, but by promoting members of the community and ensuring Amazon isn’t selling and delivering products that promote hatred and bigotry.
“If Amazon wants to be a worldwide leader, they need to start in their own back yard by making sure their employees have equal rights to practice their religion during their break times. This means basic accommodations for prayer and making sure their workplace has managers who understand the languages and cultures of their employees,” said Jaylani Hussein, the Executive Director of CAIR MN. “It also means that Amazon must refuse to sell products that promote hatred and bigotry. In Minnesota we believe that civil rights are important and something we must always fight to protect, and big corporations like Amazon can and must be a leader in this issue.”
In reponse to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezosmaking a donation to a Minneapolis homeless shelter, the Awood Center, Muslim Coalition of ISAIAH (MCI) and CAIR MN,released the following statement.
“Amazon workers & the East African community in Minnesota have made clear to Amazon management in our meetings that while they are making billions of dollars in profit each year, their workers & our community are struggling. We are glad that Mr. Bezos seems to have heard our concerns and is making a donation to help address the homeless crisis in Minnesota. We believe this is a great first step in recognizing that rampant income inequality caused by corporations like Amazon is bad for the wellbeing of our communities. We know the wealth and power Amazon has, so we look forward to continuing to push them around our demands to support good jobs, reject bigotry, promote workers from their majority East African workforce and use their immense profits to start a community fund to address issues like the lack of affordable housing facing too many families in our city. We are excited to bring our demands to Amazon’s doorstep at our rally Friday in Shakopee and hope they will hear our voices.”