The progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told Amazon’s first unionized workers in New York on Sunday that their victory was “the first domino to fall” in what she expected to be a wave of similar votes for representation across the country.
The leftwing Democrat joined Vermont senator Bernie Sanders on stage in Staten Island to celebrate the historic achievement and to call for workers in more Amazon facilities in the US to follow their example.
“What happened out here … what you guys did in Staten Island was just the beginning. It was the first domino to fall,” she said, noting that workers at a second Amazon sorting facility in the New York borough were voting on Monday.
“We have another election tomorrow, and we’re going to support them in that. And the day after that, and the day after that, all the way. But what we need Amazon to do first and foremost is to recognize the union that won their election.”
Amazon has so far refused to acknowledge the vote at its Staten Island fulfillment center, after it was accused of intimidating and hounding workers during the campaign with anti-union messages, and spending millions of dollars to try to ensure the vote failed.
Immediately after the result, Amazon, owned by the world’s second richest man Jeff Bezos, whose personal wealth is estimated by Forbes at $170bn, went to court to try to get the outcome overturned.
“First and foremost, Amazon, Jeff Bezos, everybody, we got to recognize the fact that they did this thing, and they won a union election fair and square,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“You got to treat our people right. You can give our workers a bathroom break, you can ensure you’re treating people well and giving them solid health care benefits, and that they don’t have a three-hour commute to and from work, that they can afford a house they can live in, that people are not going to be sleeping in their cars in order to work for Amazon.
“All of this is an indignity and an injustice and it has no place in New York city and we’re going to change that, and right here our workers out here are going to change that.”
Sanders was equally scathing of Amazon’s treatment of workers. “When you got a corporation that is making huge profits, you know what, you can pay your workers good wages, provide good benefits, and you can have decent working conditions, not what you got right now,” he said.
Addressing Chris Smalls, the union organizer behind the successful New York vote, and fellow activists in attendance, Sanders added: “You may not know this, but you have been an inspiration for millions of workers all across this country, who have looked at you and said, ‘these guys in Staten Island stood up to an extraordinarily powerful corporation. If they can do it in Staten Island, we can do it throughout this country’.”
Sanders also took a shot at centrist Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, whom he said were “sabotaging” America’s working class with their opposition to Joe Biden’s social reform agenda.
Although he did not mention them by name, it was clear he was attacking the two Democrats whose opposition to Biden’s Build Back Better package of social spending, welfare assistance and climate measures blocked its passage through Congress.
“To get it passed we need at least 50 Democrats who are going to stand up with the working class of this country, we don’t have it,” he said.
“We have a couple of people who are busy sabotaging the working-class agenda.”