What Next for Amazon Workers?

A defeat is a defeat, but the retail, wholesale and department store union’s failure to win a certification election at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., Last month seems far more of an affirmation than of the overwhelming power of this huge corporation a referendum on the willingness of its employees to organize for collective action.

After the vote of the National Labor Relations Board, even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos voted says His company must “do a better job for our employees”. In a country where a recent Gallup poll The fact that only 10.3 percent of all workers are enrolled in a union shows that something is very wrong.

It would help repair America’s utterly dysfunctional labor laws, but that doesn’t seem like it is in sight in a tightly divided Congress. While working class upheaval along the lines of Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter would be transformative, even the most seasoned organizers strive to achieve it on a single construction site, let alone across the country.

But trade unionists and liberals have a different weapon. Today we are in the midst of a radical rewrite of antitrust law, sentiment and administration. Both Trump partisans and their opponents can agree on one thing: Silicon Valley has too much power. It’s not just that these companies are old-fashioned monopolies like John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil that can eliminate competition and increase the price of the service or goods they sell. Companies like Amazon and Apple – and Walmart too – are monopsons, buyers so big and powerful that they have a huge impact on both the wages paid across an industry and the “vendors” from whom they sell goods and services Buying services in their world – cross-supply chains. And then there is the enormous cultural and political influence that they have. Their website portals deal with contemporary and historical reality, not exactly the equivalent of Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” from the 21st century, but close enough to be chills down your spine.

Nearly half a century ago, Robert Bork and a generation of Chicago School economists captured the ideological and legal basis for the importance of antitrust law and the proliferation of business regulations. In a merger, the only problem the government had to consider was: would it cut prices for consumers? When companies merge or just grow to gigantic sizes, their size creates new efficiencies, allowing them to pass lower operating costs on to consumers as lower prices.

The Reagan administration turned Bork’s theory into an official Justice Department policy that remained largely unchanged through subsequent Democratic presidencies. In 1985 there were about 2,300 corporate mergers in the United States. By 2017 there were more than 15,300. Silicon Valley companies are notorious for buying young competitors in order to eliminate real competition. And Wall Street is taking note. When Amazon bought Whole Foods, its market cap jumped $ 15.6 billion – $ 2 billion more than it paid for the chain. Meanwhile, the rest of the food industry immediately lost a $ 37 billion market value.


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