Awe inspiring Amazon picket line in Coventry

100 GMB pickets brought the Amazon plant in Coventry to a halt this morning.

At 6.30am the pickets who had gathered on the footpath swarmed into the road. At first a few cars drove at speed through the line but soon the pickets brought the cars to a halt and the road was ours.

To chants of “What do we want? £15”, “we are not robots” the strikers held the road for over an hour. “The workers united will never be defeated” was less well known but was soon taken up as a chant.

Amazon lorries were trapped in the traffic alongside people heading to work.

While some pickets were blocking the road others were working along the queue talking to the drivers and recruiting to the GMB.

I asked one of the organisers if it was like this every day on the picket line? “Oh yes” he said casually, they take over the road every day.

After the picket we had a march around the Amazon car park. One of their staff attempted to read out a trespass order which includes the line “desist from your nuisance” which amuses the organisers.

While it may be just a strike, this strike is more, it’s more like a rebellion.

Today’s strike was the last of 14 days of strike action. The GMB is growing every day. They are demanding £15 per hour. Although that has not yet been won Amazon felt enough pressure to increase the rate by 50p per hour. People report an improvement in working conditions inside the plant.

The strike is an inspiration. I’ve been at a variety of meetings over the last year or so where Amazon staff have spoken. Their story has changed as they have progressed. It started out with them talking about the pressures in the plant, more recently about their first sit down stoppage in the canteen. Now they talk about how they are organising in the plant and fighting for union recognition.

They have had to overcome many hurdles. There are people from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe in the plant, with differing first languages. But on the picket line this is a strength. Everyone driving in knew someone on the picket line and we heard discussions in a variety of languages.

Amazon is one of the wealthiest organisations in the world, skilled at tax evasion and not recognising unions. Jeff Bezos can afford to join the rich boys space race. When the GMB win recognition in Coventry it will open the door to every plant in the country, and the GMB is already organising in a number of them.

As trade unionists we should celebrate the work being done to unionise Amazon and lend them all the support we can.

Pete Jackson

Pete is standing for the NEC on the Democracy Alliance slate. The full slate can be found here ->

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