On Saturday, July 23, at noon, local community leaders gathered at the closed-down Starbucks across from Franklin High School for a rally in opposition to a proposed Amazon warehouse in the neighborhood. While it has been widely reported that Amazon no longer has plans to build a warehouse in the Rainier Valley neighborhood, protesters rallied, calling for the company to officially pull its permit of development.
On Thursday, Nov. 11, more than 15 youth activists ranging in ages from 7 to 15 years old took their demands directly to Amazon as they held a “climate teach-in” and delivered a report card on Amazon’s pledge to reduce the pollution from shipping by 2040. The young activists from Climate Action Families Seattle (CAFS) gathered outside the Amazon Headquarters in the Day 1 building in front of the Amazon Spheres. As each activist came to the microphone, they took turns reporting on Amazon’s climate goals and current profits and how those conflict with the reality of climate change.
These youth demanded that Amazon step up and show leadership around promises to end maritime shipping pollution. Their demands included that Amazon commit to the Ship It Zero plan, wherein Amazon would transition to 100% zero-emission ships by 2030. The cargo ships used by Amazon currently use bunker fuel, a high sulphur fuel that leads to increased CO2 emissions. The activists are asking Amazon to switch to marine fuel, which burns cleaner and costs more.
Amazon opened a new grocery store in the heart of the Central District this month, a sign for many longtime residents of the uncertain future facing what was once the established core of the city’s Black community.
The Central District location is Washington State’s second Amazon Fresh — the retail behemoth’s new line of full-size grocery stores — and the first to open its doors in Seattle itself. The chain, which launched its first store in Southern California late last year, now has 17 locations nationwide.
“We’re thrilled to bring the first Amazon Fresh grocery store in Seattle to the Central District, providing customers with a wide selection of low-priced, high-quality fresh foods and a convenient in-store shopping experience,” David Nielson, regional manager of Amazon Fresh grocery stores, said in a statement. “We’re proud that this store has brought hundreds of great jobs to the area and we are committed to continuing to contribute positively to the community.”
In moving into the historic intersection at 23rd Avenue South and South Jackson Street, however, Amazon Fresh has put itself at the center of a decades-long conversation about gentrification and displacement, which have splintered the neighborhood’s Black residents and businesses. Some who were born and raised in the Central District see Amazon as a potential partner — even a good neighbor, if the company lives up to its promises — while others harbor deep distrust of a brand seen widely as a symbol of Seattle’s growing exclusivity.
“Amazon’s here, the neighborhood’s been gentrified,” Reginald Dennis, who was born in the Central Area in 1959 and has lived there nearly all his life, told the South Seattle Emerald. “It just seems like more of what the neighborhood has already been through.”
(This article originally appeared in Real Change News and has been reprinted with permission.)
Amazon owes the U.S. government $1.5 billion in taxes. Instead of paying that bill, it got a $129-million tax rebate in 2018 and continues to bully the cities that house its ever-growing number of warehouses for tax breaks, secret deals, and immunity from regulations that protect residents (such as the more than 50,000 Seattleites who work for it). A large percentage of its revenue, which totaled $11.5 billion in 2018, comes from government contracts. It skirts safety and seems to think humans are robots who exist to do nothing but gobble up more and more jobs, which of course pay so little that those “robots” (the majority of whom are contractors, not employees) qualify for food stamps. Workers sustain major injuries and even die violently on the job — but many of them “don’t blame the company.”
After reading Alec MacGillis’ Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, I wondered what it would take for people to start blaming the company. While there is mounting dislike of Amazon in what MacGillis calls Seattle 3.0 (after first discussing the original two iterations of the city), efforts to curb, regulate, or at least mitigate the damage done by Amazon have been insufficient.
A video storytelling campaign was launched at the beginning of this month to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage. “Our Stories Are Your Stories” (OSAYS) is a growing video collection of short oral histories from AAPI people of all walks of life in the greater Seattle area. Coinciding with AAPI Heritage Month, another goal of OSAYS is to help dispel harmful misconceptions about these diverse communities and create empathy as a response to the disturbing trend of anti-Asian violence and xenophobia.
Notable Seattle athletes, artists, actors, and community leaders like Doug Baldwin, Dr. Vin Gupta, Hollis Wong-Wear, Gary Locke, Lana Condor, Yuji Okumoto, Lauren Tran, and more have kicked off the campaign by contributing their stories — and OSAYS expects more to come. The oral histories don’t have strict guidelines but primarily explore the questions, “What does it mean to be Asian American or Pacific Islander?” and “How does identity inform your life?” Anyone from the AAPI community is encouraged to contribute. The OSAYS videos will become part of the Wing Luke Museum’s oral history archives.
Last week, votes from the largest union election in recent American history — both in terms of the number of eligible workers and the media hype surrounding the campaign — were counted, and the results weren’t pretty if you’re a fan of workplace democracy, economic justice, or collective action. Only about 55% of the 5,800 eligible workers at the Amazon distribution center in Bessemer, Alabama, cast votes in an election that dragged on over the course of seven weeks. Of the 3,215 workers who did vote, only 738 chose to certify the union; 1,798 elected not to. Hundreds of additional ballots weren’t even counted, since they belonged to workers whose eligibility was contested and whose votes would not have changed the outcome, anyway.
It was a devastating outcome for organized labor, according to the national press, after weeks and months of optimism that the pro-union workers might succeed. For many who were on the outside, stories of insufficient bathroom breaks, erratic scheduling, low wages (relative to other warehouses in the area), and general job insecurity made the case for the union a slam dunk. That about 85% of the workers at Bessemer are Black and a majority women in an area of the country with a long history of civil rights struggle only added to the excitement. The workers would win in Bessemer and create a spark throughout the country, galvanizing low-wage workers everywhere to rise up and demand liberation from the conditions that have oppressed them. After decades of decline, labor unions in the U.S. would finally be reborn.
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Derek Chauvin Trial Update | Officer who killed Daunte Wright charged | PCC protests over Board vote | Amazon eyeing Rainier Valley County | Exec calls for Sheriff resignation
On Friday, April 9, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that the vote to form a union at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama had failed. The historic campaign, which would have made the warehouse the first unionized Amazon workplace in the United States, lost by 738 votes in favor to 1,798 against, with an additional 505 ballots being challenged.
The result comes after several months of intense campaigning by both sides. Joining the pro-union side was a broad coalition of Democratic, labor, and progressive voices from across the country, including sitting president Joe Biden. However, the unionization drive was met with intense backlash from Amazon. The company was accused of employing a variety of union-busting tactics, including holding anti-union meetings during working hours, paying workers to quit so that they aren’t able to vote, and pressuring USPS to install a mailbox at the warehouse where voting could be monitored by Amazon officials.
Where there once stood a historic Seattle ballpark, land that’s now home to the Rainier Valley Lowe’s hardware store may soon be leveled once again to make way for an Amazon distribution facility.
Despite being re-zoned to accommodate dense, affordable housing and small businesses, concept documents filed with the City this week suggest that the Lowe’s property on Rainier Avenue South could soon host a 68,000 square-foot distribution center and a small ocean of parking spaces. The Pepsi plant north of Lowe’s is also part of the proposed reconstruction and it appears as though a deal with Amazon would involve the use of both properties.