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Here’s what you need to know about the ongoing fight to unionize Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama

Last week, 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted on whether to unionize. If a majority vote in favor of unionizing, this will be a historic win for workers in the United States. Even if the union doesn’t pass, The New York Times describes the recent efforts in Bessemer as “the most significant unionization effort in Amazon’s history.” 

Over the last few decades, progress has occurred at a rapid pace. There have been new innovations intending to transform all walks of life. Amazon has largely been at the forefront of this change, introducing technological advancements to many of its operations across retail, grocery, entertainment, and more. However, as Amazon continues to expand, its employees are drawing attention to the cost of this aggressive advancement: workers’ health, wellbeing, and dignity.

As the second-largest private employer in the U.S., Amazon’s growth has helped to create thousands of jobs. The behemoth has also been applauded for paying its workers above the federal minimum wage, which at the time of publishing is $7.25; most Amazon employees start at $15 per hour.

Bessemer warehouse workers are arguing that compensation is still too low in light of the grueling conditions they endure while at work. 

AP News reports that Bessemer Amazon employees work on their feet for 10 hours a day and only receive two 30-minute breaks. At a Senate hearing, one worker testified that people are punished or even fired for taking more breaks than the allotted two. This has prevented warehouse workers from using the restroom a “normal amount,” according to Vice—which echoes complaints by Amazon’s delivery drivers, who often have to urinate in bottles to meet quotas.

Reveal investigated a “mounting injury crisis” at Amazon warehouses. After obtaining company records, Reveal found that injuries have increased over the past four years, with Amazon failing to hit its internal safety targets because of its rapid rate of production. Vice adds that during the pandemic, Amazon failed to properly protect its warehouse workers, resulting in almost 20,000 workers testing positive for COVID-19. 

In addition, Bessemer workers say they do not feel valued or respected. Many have noted that they are monitored throughout the day in order to ensure productivity goals are met. This surveillance on top of what  TIME describes as a “punishing pace of work,” has created low morale as workers feel dehumanized and disposable. 

The culmination of both the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic has brought to light employers’ responsibility to respect, protect, and listen to their employees. In addition to fairer compensation, many of the Bessemer workers who voted in favor of the union simply want to feel dignified in their workplace and have their complaints heard by Amazon. Vox reports that 80% of Bessemer Amazon employees are Black, with Amazon’s “overall front-line workforce disproportionately composed of people of color,” leading union organizers to also focus on issues of racial empowerment and equality. 

Historically, big businesses have discriminated against workers of color, often paying BIPOC less than their white counterparts. In the South, unions have long supported racial empowerment and equality, with sanitation, steel, and mining unions, to name a few, championing for Black workers’ rights during the Civil Rights Movement between 1954 and 1968. Unions are also who we have to thank for creating the framework of today’s work conditions. CNN lists weekends, 8-hour workdays, better pay, health care and retirement benefits, and banning child labor as the results of unions tirelessly working to protect workers and advance their interests.  

However, not all employers and employees support unionizing. Business Insider spoke to two Bessemer employees who voted against the union. They asserted that Amazon already provides what a union would, such as decent pay and benefits, and that a union would not be able to protect workers against termination. 

Amazon is also opposed to the union, preferring to speak with its employees directly on workplace issues. The company has taken an aggressive approach, including a PR campaign and papering employee bathrooms with anti-union rhetoric.  

While Amazon is doubling down on its treatment of workers, Vox notes that Amazon could be more worried that a union would “upend the speed and agility of warehouse operations; typically, the faster Amazon pushes warehouse workers, the quicker the company can get orders out the door to customers.”

It’s also important to note that Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO,  continues to amass billions of dollars in wealth, while his employees do not. Brookings reports Amazon has “shared little of its astonishing profits” with its workforce. Specifically, Amazon earned an additional $9.7 billion in profit last year while Bezos added $67.9 billion to his personal wealth—and yet the company chose to end its $2 per hour pandemic wage increase.  

March 29, 2021 was the last day for Bessemer employees to vote on unionizing. After months of advocating, lobbying, and organizing, the results of the vote are expected to arrive any day now. No matter the result, many labor experts are expecting the efforts of Bessemer Amazon workers to inspire other warehouses, with Vox predicting a possible reshaping of the future of warehouse work in the U.S. 

However, the question remains: what is the price of progress? How far we are willing to go in the name of innovation must take into account individuals. It is people who make up a company, and it is people who are helping to drive digitalization. Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, remind us that the price of progress cannot and should not be people’s lives, wellbeing, and dignity.

If we sacrifice that, what will remain?


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USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections Politics The World

The Democratic Party owes its Presidential election victory to BIPOC organizers

This is it, folks. After a nerve-wracking and close race, Joe Biden has won the presidency, with Kamala Harris as the Vice President-elect. Biden also received the most votes ever cast for a U.S. presidential candidate, in a race that saw a historically high voter turnout. As we look back upon a polarizing election season and the bitter years that preceded it, it is important to acknowledge the hard work of grassroots organizers, youth leaders, and volunteers who ultimately flipped the vote in critical swing states. In particular, Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour (BIPOC) played a key role in mobilizing communities and countering disinformation and voter suppression to make every vote count.

Grassroots BIPOC Organizers made a huge difference 

Key electoral gains in states like Arizona – which hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1996 – Michigan, and Pennsylvania can be largely attributed to meticulous grassroots organizing at the county-level, challenging the Trump administration’s repeated attempts to delegitimize votes, declare premature victory, and cast doubt even as ballots were being counted.

Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour (BIPOC) played a key role in mobilizing communities and countering disinformation and voter suppression to make every vote count.

Across southern states, organizers and community leaders worked hard for years to build power in marginalized communities. Biden’s win in Georgia is significant – the state hasn’t supported a Democrat since 1992 – many credited his lead to Democratic Party’s Stacey Abrams and her lifelong work to address voter suppression. In 2018, Abrams became the first Black woman chosen as a major political party’s nominee for a state gubernatorial election in the country. Abrams lost the election to Republican opponent but her campaign then founded Fair Fight Action to empower marginalized voters in the state. Abrams worked alongside a host of other groups like the New Georgia Project who registered thousands of BIPOC voters and empowered them to exercise their political rights in and beyond the electoral cycle. 

Stereotypes about Republican-leaning southern states undermine how Black organizers – especially women – have fought for and engaged historically overlooked communities. The political and cultural shifts due to the hard work of these organizers may or may not translate into statewide electoral wins for the Democrats, but a blue wave in the elections cannot be the only indicators of progressivism in a state – community-level changes are just as important as national elections.

Reflecting on the importance of community organizing in southern states, Yasmine, 23, a volunteer with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) said,  “Historically, the South is ignored and written off because of stereotypes. But it’s important to realize that the racist white people don’t define what the South is. It’s the BIPOC communities that have created environments for themselves where they care for one another, dismantle barriers to civic engagement, and advocate for everyone’s liberation.”

It’s the BIPOC communities that have created environments for themselves where they care for one another, dismantle barriers to civic engagement, and advocate for everyone’s liberation.

Progressive BIPOC-led organizing invested long-term in community coalitions and young voters, foregrounding critical issues like criminal justice reforms, mass incarceration, ICE detentions, climate change, and COVID-19 relief. Dream Defenders, a BIPOC youth-led power-building organization that was formed in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, are one of the many groups in Florida that worked to increase voter turnout, championing causes like defunding the police and minimum wage reform. In counties across Arizona, BIPOC groups helped Biden gain a lead in the state, despite being historically marginalized by the Democratic Party and the GOP. This was made possible by the advocacy of member-led grassroots organizations like Living United for Change in Arizona which have consistently mobilized working-class families and fought for social, economic, and racial justice. Mi Familia Vota engaged Latinx and immigrant communities in different states and advocated for stronger infrastructures for civic participation. 

In Arizona, Indigenous women community leaders fought to challenge years of voter suppression. Leaders like Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, ran to be the county recorder and co-founded Indivisible Tohono, a grassroots organizing group which made the voting process more accessible. 

lhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who were re-elected to Congress in Minnesota and Michigan respectively, tirelessly rallied voters at the local level and ensuring Biden’s victory in their states. Community activist and nurse Cori Bush – who became the first Black woman elected to Congress from Missouri – was endorsed by the Sunrise Movement progressive political action committee Justice Democrats who previously endorsed Congress members Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others. Run for Something, a political organization recruiting young progressives running for down-ballot offices, endorsed young progressive candidates like Mauree Turner who became the first Black Muslim nonbinary state legislator from Oklahoma. 

The summer’s Black Lives Matter protests should be credited for sparking conversations about structural injustices, and the importance of showing up to vote.

Black Lives Matter protests politicized the electorate

The summer’s Black Lives Matter protests should be credited for sparking conversations about structural injustices, and the importance of showing up to vote. Some studies even suggested that the protests were responsible for an increase in voter registrations. The protests also politicized many, particularly young BIPOC first-time voters, empowering them to understand the interconnected nature of oppressions that maintain the status quo in an unjust society. 

In Philadelphia during election week, protesters took to denounce Trump’s premature declaration of victory in the state. The protests converged with simultaneous BLM protests in response to the murder of a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr., by the Philadelphia police. Other protest organizers also called for the release of Philly for REAL Justice activist Anthony Smith. In this context, the demand to count all votes was framed as one of the means to the greater ends of protecting civil rights, challenging police brutality, and authoritarianism, and holding a racist criminal justice system accountable.

Volunteers and poll workers saved the day

In between social distancing laws and divisive political struggles, thousands of volunteers for the Democrats utilized digital resources and low-risk physical outreach methods to connect with voters. For Laura, an organizer working with the Chicago chapter of NAPAWF, information access for diverse communities was critical: “We put a lot of emphasis on making information accessible in multiple languages and canvassing. In Georgia specifically, we were able to get older South Asian women to help us phone-bank within their community. This was effective since most of them don’t speak English.” In many swing states, almost 200 NAPAWF volunteers for the Get Out the Vote campaign reached out to AAPI women voters in more than 15 languages, made over 40,000 calls and sent out over 12,000 texts. 

Elsewhere, during and after election day, poll workers risked their lives to count every vote. In Maricopa County, Arizona, poll workers were harassed by Pro-Trump supporters spurred by conspiracy theories of voter fraud and stolen votes, driven by merit-less claims peddled by Trump. Nonetheless, the workers persisted, and the county voted blue. 

It is undeniable that the bulk of progressive organizing was led by BIPOC leaders, but this labor, which is typically not compensated proportionally, should not be romanticized.

Organizers put in the work, what about the Democratic Party?

One of the most significant victories of this election cycle belongs to Kamala Harris, who became the first woman and Black and South Asian-American person to be elected Vice President. However, as many have noted, representation does not guarantee transformational justice. She has been critiqued at length for her controversial track record as district attorney. It is also ironic, that she was elected alongside Biden who, as a Senator, actively caused harm to poor Black communities through legislation.

All of this is to say that despite the impending end of the Trump presidency, the Democratic Party must address its own conservatism and how it continues to uphold oppressive structures through governance. If the Party wants to honor those who won them the election, it must take the voices of BIPOC communities seriously and commit to radically progressive agendas in policy-making. It is undeniable that the bulk of progressive organizing was led by BIPOC leaders, but this labor, which is typically not compensated proportionally, should not be romanticized.

Martha, 23, a volunteer with Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and the Sunrise Movement, stressed that political leaders and white voters should dismantle white supremacy: “Young organizers turned out the huge number of young Democrat voters in this election. But we also saw that more young white voters voted for Trump than any other young demographic. White people must reflect and actively work against our own roles that uphold white supremacy… Organizing without challenging this will only reproduce the racist systems of the past.”

A Biden Presidency is just the start of a long and difficult road towards such liberation. Perhaps the movement will pause and take a break to celebrate, perhaps it will shift and manifest in new and more powerful forms. Perhaps a better future is indeed closer than it seems. In the meantime, organizers will continue to hold space for the most vulnerable, reminding us that the fight goes beyond one election cycle.

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Culture Life

The divide within the African diaspora won’t get us anywhere

When I was in elementary school,  another Black student told me that she and her family were simply ‘African’ and not ‘African American’ because her ancestors had never been enslaved. If you thought I, a fellow Black woman, was confused at that moment, imagine how puzzled our predominantly white classmates, who had already mentally grouped this Black girl and me as the same person, were.

I initially failed to understand what this student meant by her separation between recent African immigrants and North American Black descendants of the enslaved. But as I learned more about our history, over time, I began to comprehend what she meant. Throughout my life, this discourse would come up again and again.

Although we look the same in everyone else’s eyes, there’s still an “otherness” in our history and culture that, oftentimes, separates us.

I’ve been told by recent African immigrants that because I am a descendant of slavery, my ancestors and I are weak, whereas Africans are stronger because they had the choice to come to this country. I’ve heard Black slave descendants use coded language when referring to Africans, saying things that allude to them being “unkempt” and “savage”. I’ve seen them question recent immigrants’ intelligence, talk down to them, or insult their beauty.

I’ve felt this divide within our community and I’ve seen it with my own eyes.


But recently, the world has experienced a global reckoning that criticizes the ways in which we approach race, culture, and ethnicity. Since the inhumane death of George Floyd on Memorial Day of this year, industries across all boards have had their historic dirty laundry with racism, colorism, and sexism aired out for the world to see as the public has assertively held them more accountable than ever.

With this, I’ve taken the time to truly question my nationality within this country, and have further understood the power of unity within the African diaspora through identification.

First, it’s important to understand where the ill-feelings between us comes from. The tension and animosity between Africans and descendants of the enslaved in North America are traced back to both group’s individual experiences with migration, slavery, and colonialism. 


The Atlantic slave trade stripped enslaved Africans of our culture and left us to recreate a completely new one, which many present-day Black Americans identify with. And whether we understand it or not, American Black culture today has strong and direct influences from slavery that those who were never enslaved in America may not be familiar with.

African empires and kingdoms have had their own relationships with slavery but with completely different meanings. Writers Daivi Rodima-Taylor and Zadi Zokou describe it as “local socio-cultural patterns of clientage and adoptive kinship rather than a large-scale commercial enterprise.”

Africa, which is the second-largest and oldest continent in the world, has many different unique cultures within it too. Like anywhere, Africa’s complicated history has similarly been processed into a unique modern-day culture that African Americans just may not understand.

Our cultural differences are at the forefront when associating with each other. On both ends, there’s an attitude of othering and criticizing.

And despite completing an ancestry test that told me exactly where in Africa my ancestors are from, I still am confused culturally as to where and who I should identify with. It feels like a bridge that will never be crossed and something that slavery has taken from me forever.

If I’ve learned anything from the recent reignition of civil rights discussion though, it’s that the diaspora’s otherness won’t make us any better as we exist in this country together. When looking at each other internally, we may notice our differences, but to anyone else, we are simply Black.

It isn’t the slave descendants’ fault that they were forced to assimilate. But it also shouldn’t be pushed upon recent African immigrants to assimilate if they do not choose to. There is no blame to be given to those of us that are non-consensual foreigners to this land. We shouldn’t side-eye each other because we are unfamiliar with each other’s culture.

There’s no easy solution and even I don’t have the answers to this age-old discourse in the slightest. But in this introspective time for the world, I’ve rethought my identity and nationality.

For myself, as an American descendant of the enslaved, I hope to only be referred to as Black. I’ve made this decision because of the danger and separation that I think the identification of ‘African American’ holds within our community.

When we separate African Americans from African immigrants, we, in a way, recognize slavery as the qualification to be a *true* Black American. But slavery is not the sole definition of what makes me who I am. It creates a false qualification that is unattainable for African immigrants. ‘African American’ also does not include the entirety of the diaspora. I think of the term as a way to further push this “otherness” narrative and it can separate us from the diversity within our community, rather than embracing it.

So no, the other classmate in my elementary school may not have identified herself as African American, but now I don’t either. I’m Black (with a capital ‘B’) whose ancestors came from Africa. Slavery may have reinterpreted my culture, but it does not define the legitimacy of myself as a Black woman in America.

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Health Care Love Advice

We need to decolonize the self-care movement – here’s why

Over the past few years, self-care has become a household term in North America and beyond. It’s become synonymous with bubble baths, wine, alone-time, coloring books and more. It’s often seen as a movement that was both discovered and invented in the recent past. However, just as it was conceived, it has also been catered towards a specific audience: white people.

While anyone can enjoy the the activities mentioned above, the idea of self-care being an invention is something that plays into the idea of Western superiority– that it needed to be invented in the West for it to be a valid tool for healing. It also fails to recognize the multiple methods of self-care that have been a part of marginalized groups’ identities in the West.

We need to decolonize self-care so that it’s accessible to all people – particularly Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), because marginalized people are told repeatedly not to center their own self-care. In a world where white supremacy, anti-Blackness and Islamophobia is rampant, BIPOC need to be able to reclaim their space and agency by taking care of themselves.

Artreach Toronto, a community organization defines self-care as “creating and maintaining practices that help you sustain your energy and spirit.” Our understanding of self-care needs to be widened as what it’s come to represent isn’t what the practice initially sought out to create.

This can be done through various practices that may work for different people, ranging from bubble baths to learnings from ancestral traditions like food or art. Self-care can often be weaved into many traditional and cultural practices for BIPOC peoples as these are often tools of healing, remembering, or even resistance.

For refugees or those from diaspora, food can be a means of connecting to their homes even when they cannot go or be there themselves. It acts as a means of preservation of not only recipes, but tradition and the ethos around the food itself. This can be seen with the preservation of Palestinian cuisines to Syrian refugees sharing their foods as an act of remembrance to resurgence with some Indigenous cuisines. Tradition is intrinsically tied to food and in this there is an avenue for self-care that can be explored for BIPOC. Traditions around food are also important to note as they can be generally made during certain events, festivals or times of year. Food is an important part of culture that has a role to play in self-care because it can connect people to fond memories and their own traditions.

As self-care can be meant to be grounding and rooting, it could include engaging in activities that you grew up with. When looking at the movement from this perspective, it allows those looking to access self-care as something that isn’t confined to particular practices. It doesn’t have to include expensive practices, such as buying bath bombs. It can be as simple as working with what you already have.

Exploring self-care from a low-income perspective is important because it should be accessible for everyone. Simple things such as going for walks, spending time with family or friends, and reading are free methods of practicing self-care. There are accessible, affordable activities like cooking, cleaning or just binge-watching your new favorite show. Self-care can be what you want it to be and whatever makes you calm – and these can be things that bring you joy and that are easily accessible, such as going for a run.

For Black, Indigenous and people of color, the popular culture references of self-care may not feel relatable for them. While these popular care methods may work for some BIPOC, it may not work for all of them. Traditional knowledge isn’t always accounted for or acknowledged as a valid form of self-care, which means our views on the practice are often limited.

Generally speaking, when asking someone what traditions, foods, or art they find comforting that comes from their cultural background, the topics they speak of are integral to their conception of self. Without recognizing that traditional knowledge can form a huge part of self-care, the movement is limited and not truly accessible to everyone.

Self-care should be accessible for everyone, but the notion that there are only a few valid forms of the practice is a disservice to how it’s been weaved into many different cultures, traditions and beliefs. By expanding and decolonizing self-care, it can become a more useful tool for BIPOC particularly given the political climate today with Muslim bans, rampant anti-Blackness, anti-indigeneity and more.

We need to decolonize self-care to make the movement both accessible and equitable for everyone, and it starts with having frank conversations about what self-care is and who it’s for.

Race Inequality

Do I count as a person of color if I’m Asian-American?

Throughout my life, I’ve held on dearly to the bonds I’ve formed with people of color.

I especially revere my core group of friends who identify as women of color because of the sense of solidarity we’ve felt for each other. We grew up in a predominantly white, southern town, so the connections we fostered across racial and ethnic lines were powerful.

In a barrage of whiteness, building this coalition made me feel less alone. These relationships were crucial building blocks for me to unapologetically embrace my intersectional Filipinx American identity when I so often felt ashamed of how I stood out as the “other.”

This collective friendship was the first time I had ever experienced sincere solidarity among people of color. But as I’ve grown to build upon my social consciousness and expose myself to activist spaces for people of color, I’ve begun to question more and more my place in these spaces as an Asian American woman.

Before college, my understanding of social justice was admittedly shallow. I had narrow means of consciousness-building amid a public school education that taught us that the U.S. Civil War wasn’t really about slavery, and limited access to resources to cultivate my own self-education in the first place. All I knew was that the connections I fostered with my core friend group came from a place of what I perceived as shared struggle.

What I didn’t acknowledge were the degrees to which that marginalization affected us individually. While I acknowledged the obvious differences in experiences between me, a Filipinx American woman, and my Latinx and Black friends in high school, I didn’t know how to deconstruct the way my privileges as a light-skinned Asian American set me closer to whiteness than my Black and Brown friends, and how problematic this can be when identifying as a person of color.

When I entered college, I immediately immersed myself in my alma mater’s Asian American community. I not only learned about and advocated for the issues that uniquely affect my community, but I also became keenly aware of how Asian Americans were used as a wedge between Whiteness and Blackness, and how our community has been used to antagonize Black Americans with the model minority myth.

After learning how Asian Americans can be complicit in anti-Blackness. I became leery of an identity that I previously thought was irrefutable. I started questioning more and more, “can I even call myself a person of color?”

The answer to that is a bit complicated. If non-Black people of color in general are going to use the term, we must use it with extreme caution to context and know when to sit down during racial justice conversations.

Colorism and classicism are real. As a light-skinned Filipinx American woman from an upper-middle background, I do not experience oppression and violence the same way folks who have darker complexions or those who come from lower-socioeconomic households do.

Although I am an Asian American woman who experiences oppression and marginalization in unique ways, my experiences are not interchangeable with those of Black Americans. This difference is key in critically discussing race relations and how centering my own experiences can diminish the significance of others.

Systemic forms of oppression like racism affects different communities in different ways, and language is crucial to assuring that these differences are recognized and that we’re uplifting the most marginalized, even in the ways that we use the term “people of color.”

I often feel exploitative when I call myself a person of color, which in itself is already a broad umbrella term. By claiming this name without context, I am unwittingly erasing the experiences of Black and Brown folks that experience oppression in ways that are often more violent and fatal.

While I can acknowledge the ways white supremacy oppresses me and other Asian Americans, I can acknowledge and advocate for my community’s struggles without erasing the very real and violent experiences of others.

For non-Black people of color, we have to recognize our privileges and confront how we unwittingly oppress each other when we erase Blackness in an attempt to form solidarity. I am simply not entitled to all spaces for people of color, and that’s okay.

I can identify as a woman or person of color for purposes of coalition-building and unity, but I have to de-center my experiences as a non-Black woman of color when hearing about the experiences of Black women of color. We need to center the experiences of those most marginalized and disenfranchised, not conflate them with our own.