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Bessemer employees demand 'Amazon pay' on Black Friday

WVTM 13 Birmingham 11/26/2022 Ayron Lewallen
Amazon fulfillment center © WVTM 13 Amazon fulfillment center

Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. More than 80 labor unions and allies across 32 countries used the day to bring attention to what some call poor working conditions in Amazon facilities all over the world — including in central Alabama. Our Revolution, a national grassroots organization, asked the community to stand with employees by not purchasing items from the retail giant.

Amazon employees said they're overworked, underpaid and undervalued by the company. Some even drove to Alabama from Atlanta to support the "Make Amazon Pay" effort.

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Jennifer Hamm started working at the Bessemer Amazon facility two years ago.

"Everything was brand new,” Hamm said. “It was exciting. You didn't know much about anything basically. The past year is when things were kind of an eye opener for me."

Hamm lost her mother in August. She said she was only given three days to grieve her death. She believes that's not fair.

"For a parent and a company like this … I deserve longer than three days to grieve my mom,” Hamm said.

That’s why she and dozens of Amazon employees and community partners hit the picket line on Friday. They’re fighting for better working conditions and accountability from the retail giant.

“We sit back a lot and we look at the commercial come across the screen from Amazon with a smile across the building,” Mike Foster, RWDSU Lead Organizer, said. “That smile is not on those workers faces. The only smile you see is on that building.”

Foster is standing with Amazon employees demanding change.

Employees claim they haven't received a raise since May 2021. They’re also frustrated about Amazon not doing anything to protect its employees — most recently when a delivery driver was carjacked in Birmingham on Sunday.

“Those workers — whether they're working in the plant, in the facility, or they're driving the trucks, they deserve to be protected,” Eric Hall, Our Revolution Birmingham Chapter co-chair, said.

Our Revolution said Amazon employees are going through one of the toughest and longest shopping seasons, especially after the online retailer announced its plans to lay off 10,000 employees earlier this month. During the holiday season, employees claim they work between 60 to 65 hours a week to meet staffing needs.

Hamm is protesting to improve working conditions for everyone but to keep her mother's memory alive, too.

“We all have a voice,” Hamm said. “Enough is enough.”

WVTM reached out to Amazon for comment but have not heard from the company at this time. Organizers of Friday's protest are pushing to start a union at the Bessemer location to make sure employees are protected. There could be a vote coming up soon to do that. Most believe the vote will likely pass.

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