The Guardian view on Alabama’s Amazon rebels: the dignity of labour | Editorial

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Workers fighting to form the first union at an Amazon workplace in the US are pioneers in the battle to civilise big-tech capitalism “We are not robots” was chosen as the slogan of a GMB-led campaign against dehumanising work practices at Amazon warehouses. But these days many of Amazon’s employees are, in effect, managed by them. Self-driving autonomous robots bring containers to workstations, dictating the rhythm at which items are stacked and sorted. Eliminating walking time for employees has helped Amazon to triple individual output. But the even more relentless pace has led to a reported rise in worker injuries, as corners are cut in the struggle to keep up.
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In most mid-20th-century factory environments, such a clear and present danger to health and safety would have been taken up by the relevant trade union. But 21st-century titans of the digital age, such as Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, have completed the destruction of that old settlement between capital and labour. By aggressively undermining attempts at organising, Amazon has ensured that in the United States, where it employs close to a million people, not a single workplace is unionised. If an equitable balance of power is to be restored, it will require the kind of courage and persistence shown in Britain by the fledgling App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU). Last week’s landmark verdict by the supreme court, which upheld the ADCU’s demand that Uber class its drivers as workers entitled to benefits, rather than self-employed, should inspire other insecure and exploited workforces to band together.
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