An activist organization born out of the alleged unfair working conditions imposed by Amazon held a “massive” protest at the company’s Shakopee center Friday, and Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05) was in attendance.
As The Minnesota Sun reported last week, a non-profit called the Awood Center is seeking to build “East African worker power” in Minnesota, and is protesting the work environment at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Shakopee. In particular, the group claims that Amazon’s new productivity requirement, which asks workers to pack 70 more items per hour, is unrealistic and doesn’t account for the lawful prayer breaks many employees take.
Omar praised the Awood Center in a recent tweet after the group of Somalian activists managed to pressure Amazon into negotiations, and on Friday she spoke at their walkout.
“We are here to hear your voices. On this holiday season, you all are doing the important work of making sure people are able to celebrate cheerfully as they receive their holiday gifts, and what people are looking forward to is that happy celebration,” Omar said Friday, stating that Minnesotans “need to know that every worker here is not fully happy.”
Proud to stand with @Amazon workers in Shakopee as they stand up and fight for fair treatment and safe, welcoming working conditions.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 14, 2018
“Their dignity is not being uplifted. For the honest work they are putting in, that is not being respected. And when we work, we expect there to be dignity, we expect there to be respect, we expect there to be fair compensation,” she said to applause from those in attendance.
In October, Amazon announced that it would raise its minimum wage for all U.S. employees to $15 an hour, which is double the federal minimum wage.
“We expect, here in Minnesota, we expect that there are working standards where people feel like they are coming to a place of work where they’re not only making people happy, but where they’re also fulfilling their mission,” Omar continued. She called for a “partnership” between Amazon and its Somalian employees, but acknowledged that Amazon has helped close “the gap in unemployment that exists in the East African community.”
“We also need for them to have a partnership with us where they uplift these communities, they respect these communities, and they treat them with dignity,” she concluded.
Video from Friday’s protest shows a crowd of employees gathered outside of the facility, chanting: “Amazon workers need a rest, we work, we sweat!”
“Thank you to everyone who came out today. What a powerful show of unity and power,” the Awood Center said in a statement after the protest. “Amazon knows we expect them to hear our voice and listen to the demands from their workers and our community.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Ilhan Omar” by Southwest News Media.