in which an email reminds me to resurrect a very old post: join athena to change amazon

Do you support Athena?

Athena is a broad coalition of people and organizations who seek to change Amazon's practices through a variety of tools and tactics, including from the inside. 

In a braindump called the post of orphaned notes, I found this.

athena is organizing against amazon, and you can help -- even if you use amazon. especially if you use amazon.

That's the title of an empty post, sitting in drafts since December 2020. When I received an email from Athena about Juneteenth, I thought it was finally time to post about them.

Athena invites everyone -- Amazon workers, customers, shareholders, and anti-Amazon activists -- to join their coalition to improve Amazon's working conditions, business practices, and environmental practices, and to push back against Amazon surveillance.

Fighting a behemoth as powerful as Amazon is akin to overthrowing an empire. Every legal  option must be on the table. (Although no empire has ever been overthrown entirely by legal means -- since the empire controls the law.) Certainly when it comes to a corporate empire, boycotts alone are pointless.

A personal boycott of Amazon, like any personal boycott, is fine if it works for you. I have a few personal boycotts myself. But I don't delude myself: my not shopping at Walmart makes no difference to Walmart. 

No boycott could never be widespread enough to make even a tiny dent in Amazon's corporate empire. It's also not reasonable to ask people to pay more for a product offered at a lower price elsewhere, or to pay for shipping when a free-shipping option is available, or to track everything Amazon owns, including their streaming platform. 

Then there are folks who rely on Amazon. "Shop local" works if you live in a big metropolitan area, but for many people who live in rural and remote areas, boycotting Amazon would be a difficult sacrifice. I do "try local first," as we say here. And I do buy directly from companies' websites whenever possible. Amazon is not my first go-to. But it's an option that I can't afford to ignore.

That's why I support Athena.

The Athena coalition has come together on these principles.

Corporations like Amazon are dangerous to our communities, our democracy, and our economy. Together, we need to:

  • Govern our own communities. It’s we who should decide what is best for us in our communities — not big corporations. We can stop Amazon’s sweetheart tax deals from local governments, draining of public resources, and big-footing into our neighborhoods with no regard for the rest of us.

  • Put our health before their bottom line. Amazon relies on, and profits off, the oil and gas that poisons our communities and worsens our climate crisis. It’s time to end that.

  • Shield our local economies, so they can thrive.  Amazon is so big it can prey on and manipulate customers, small businesses, and help themselves to tax money that should go to schools, housing, transit, and whatever else our communities need. No more.

  • Protect people from Amazon’s dangerous surveillance. We must block Amazon from selling and using technologies to track us at home and work, mining our personal data for profit, and fueling harmful and discriminatory policing of immigrants and communities of color.

Here's Athena's Juneteenth email that prompted me to finally post about this.

* * * *

Every year, through MLK Day, Black History Month, and now Juneteenth, Amazon plans to cover its website, pitch newspapers, and run ads celebrating itself for what it claims to be its commitment to Black people, from its workers, to small businesses and its customers.

This Juneteenth, Amazon decided to stay quiet, knowing that this movement will continue to spotlight their offensive celebrations (like offering dress up day or chicken and waffles instead of a day off and attempting to put Jeff Bezos’ name alongside that of MLK) and redirect back to the how Amazon is part of, serves and chooses to profit from anti-Black systems.

Here are some things Amazon could have not ignored on Juneteenth:

  • Amazon can stop supporting Cop City. Amazon sits on Atlanta Police Foundation’s board that is proposing to destroy the equivalent of 298 football fields in Weelaunee Forest to build a mock city near one of America’s largest Black populations. The purpose of this city is to train police across the nation on military tactics against civilian populations and activists, and people are fighting back.

  • Amazon could end its Ring-police partnerships. Amazon collaborates with over 2,500 police departments across the US, providing them with warrantless access to footage from Ring cameras, giving police unprecedented power. Sometimes even without consent from owners of Ring devices. During the George Floyd uprisings, the LAPD was found to request footage seeking surveillance of protestors. Ring’s privacy protections are so bad that Amazon had to pay over $30M for illegally surveilling its own customers, including children.

  • Amazon can stop paying Black workers less than white workers. NELP found that Amazon is paying Black workers 63 cents on every dollar paid to their white coworkers in its Shakopee, Minnesota warehouse.

  • Amazon can stop targeting Black neighborhoods for pollution. Breathing exhaust from high concentrations of vehicles puts people, especially elders and kids, at increased risk of asthma, cancer and heart attacks and may cause premature births and miscarriages in parents. Consumer Reports and The Guardian recently showed how Amazon opens their facilities deep inside Black and brown communities.

  • Amazon can stop targeting the unhoused. In King County, Washington, home to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, Black adults are evicted almost 6x more than white adults, contributing to Black adults making up nearly 30% of the unhoused, which is 4x more than their percentage of the population. When its city council considered a very small tax on ultra wealthy corporations to support affordable housing programs, Amazon threatened to pause its expansion, and heavily leaned on local government until it was killed.

  • Amazon can stop targeting Black worker organizers. Amazon can end its pattern of targeting Black workers for termination and retaliation for worker organizing. From the peak of COVID lockdown, Chris Smalls was one of several Black workers being fired after advocating for safe warehouses, all the way to just last week when Amazon was forced to reinstate Jennifer Bates, who it illegally fired after her shareholder activism.

  • Amazon can end its plan to destroy sacred South African land. Amazon is pushing through against the will of indigenous people, to build a massive site on top of sacred land commemorating one of the first African fights against colonialism.

  • Amazon can stop funding racist lawmakers. When we found that many January 6th insurrection supporters were lawmakers supported by Amazon, Amazon vowed to end donations to them. That is until it didn’t: right before elections.

  • Amazon can stop helping ICE. Black immigrants are 7% of the undocumented population but over 20% of those in deportation proceedings. By providing the Department of Homeland Security specialized cloud computing technology, Amazon is directly fueling and profiting from ICE’s inhuman detention and deportation system.

What not to miss this week:

  • Bernie Sanders launches Senate Investigation into Amazon labor practices. On Tuesday morning, Sen Sanders, as chair of the Senate Committee on Healthy, Education, Labor and Pension, launched an investigation into workplace health and safety practices at Amazon.

  • NY Warehouse Worker Protection Act in Effect! Starting this week, all Amazon workers across New York State are protected by the WWPA, which greatly limits Amazon’s ability to use quotas and surveillance to push workers into serious injuries. ALIGN NY, Amazon Labor Union, Teamsters and RWDSU led the way to this victory.

  • Keep Standing with Writers. In LA and NYC, join picket lines with Writers Guild of America to win a fair contract with Amazon Studios and others. RSVP to your local picket location.

Go here to join Athena.

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