By: Ted Stracket, Red Phoenix Correspondent, Baltimore
Saturday, March 20th, a series of nationwide solidarity demonstrations were held in support for the Amazon workers of Bessemer, Alabama who are attempting to unionize to secure safe working conditions, hazard pay, and the provision of personal protective wear. On March 30th, the workers of the Amazon plant will be holding their vote by mail, even though initially the company fought to push the vote to in person—in the middle of the worst pandemic in recent history and in one of the worst affected areas of the country.
In Baltimore, MD, two demonstrations were held to spread awareness, to support and encourage the brave workers of Bessemer, and to expose the greed and corruption of the one the largest monopolies in the country owned by the wealthiest man in the world. The Ujima Peoples Progress Party of Maryland organized the first rally outside the Amazon distribution Center on 27350 Mathison Way, which lasted around 90 minutes. Several organizers from UPPPM and from the teamsters, teachers’, and retail workers’ unions spoke at the event. Each speaker underlined the connection between Bezos’ wealth and the exploitation of Amazon workers, and the way workers across the country, in every field, are run ragged for little personal gain and enormous gain for bosses and middle managers! As the speeches continued, workers from the Amazon plant came outside to see just why a couple dozen people had assembled on the other side of the highway with banners and flags, just why so many cars passing by were honking their horns and rising their fists out the window in support.
The second march, planned in the early afternoon to go from city hall in Baltimore to a nearby Whole Foods on the waterfront, began with a minute of silence for the victims of the massacre of 8 people, including six Asian women at a massage parlor in Atlanta, Georgia. The intersection of white supremacy, capitalist greed, and state violence has ever been on the minds of working people post-George Floyd, and that day was no different. The representative of the hosting People’s Power Assembly loudly condemned the police response, “We have to call hate for what it is! And reject racism whatever shade it takes!” Many organizations delivered presentations before the march began, with a speaker on behalf of the NAACP announcing that “No one should be a billionaire when people can’t afford their rent, medicine and anything beyond basic human need is out of the question.” Reverend Anne Chambers railed against the busting of unions, racial chauvinism, and condemned the fight for fifteen for not going far enough and linking the impotence of our government to the historical power of the people, especially working people.
As the march began, Andrew Concon of the People’s Power Assembly, when asked as to why he and his organization organized that days march, responded that the victory of the Bessemer workers to unionize would have a “domino effect leading to national action.” Another member of the DSA responded that the hazard pay, protective wear and safe workplace that the workers of Bessemer are organizing to defend are “the bare minimum” that many US workers are still denied. The recurring theme of that day across the wide political spectrum of those attending was that even the victory of striking workers in a union busting state would not be enough. In the wake of the George-Floyd movement, and the failure of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the working class movements have begun to see to a person the magnitude of the work that lays ahead.
Throughout the whole march, one of the most striking things was that we received no jeers, no boos, or expletives from traffic passing by, beyond general apathy, there were many cheers and fists raised in solidarity and support for our demonstration of support for workers half the country away. Naturally the police dogged the march for closing down East Fayette and President streets downtown. Arriving at the Whole Foods on S. Central, the march, which had attracted the attention and, to a lesser degree the participation of pedestrians along our route. Chants of “unions yes, Bezos no!” and “When workers rights are under attack, stand up fight back!” rang through the towers and apartments of downtown Baltimore. Russell with People’s Power Assembly spoke on the need to put the pressure on Amazon to allow workers to unionize and to encourage Amazon workers around the country to unionize, and workers of every workplace to do the same. To cheers and pictures with the organizers from passing shoppers and commuters, the march concluded with loud chants of “Union-busting? Shut it down! Baltimore is a union town!”
Walking back to city hall, I talked with Andre P of the Socialist Unity Party and we agreed, after talking about our different organizations, that the working class proved on days like today that it will fight beyond the ballot box and will form its own organizations to do just that, even though a degree of sectarianism and division in those organizations, recent events have fostered a greater desire for cooperation in establishing working democracy in the United States against poverty, hunger and avoidable crises. Solidarity across the nation has reaped its rewards as the community of Bessemer, a town in the deep south, now leads the way. The Retail Wholesale and Department Store union declared recently that over a thousand Amazon workers around the country contacted them about the forming of a union for their own stores. March 20th was a day of pride and national working class unity that showed, with little doubt, that while the puppets of the bourgeoisie posture on the right side of history, only the organized working class can make history, as it did in Bessemer.