WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — Workers’ rights campaigners are pushing for better protections for the nearly 500 workers who will soon find themselves in a future Amazon warehouse — and are urging local politicians not to be financially swayed by the giant.
On Thursday, union representatives and members of the West Humboldt Park Community Coalition and Black Workers Matter gathered outside 1260 N. Kostner Ave., carrying signs reading “Amazon Bribes,” “No Tax Breaks For Union-Busters.” and “No More Bad Deals.” .”
Howard Ray of the West Humboldt Park Community Coalition said he wants Amazon to sign a community benefits agreement requiring a minimum wage of $28.50/hour and 60% of employees living in the community.
“We never stopped Amazon from coming here,” Ray said. “But we need them to be a good partner in our community.”
Organizers have been energized by the recent success of Amazon’s first union in New York, said Dan Giloth of Black Workers Matter. He said workers would earn $18/hour at the warehouse. Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“The [Amazon Labor Union] really re-taught us something we knew: that you need to have the solidarity of the workshop, a good committee and strong leadership from the workers,” said Giloth. “And if you support these people, you will have power.”
Many West Siders have pushed back against Amazon’s warehouse since it was announced last year.
Amazon is taking over the 26-acre Kostner Avenue site formerly owned by metal maker Allied Metal and replacing it with a 140,000-square-foot “delivery center” offering nearly 500 full-time and part-time jobs, officials said. company officials. Allied Metal will remain on the site for two years.
The project has the support of Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), whose neighborhood includes the distribution facility.
But neighbors and community leaders said business owners and mittens had consistently ignored their concerns about the retail giant’s arrival in the area. Many said they were worried about whether the warehouse will benefit residents, whether the jobs are long-term, and whether the facility will raise property taxes in the area and drive out low-income neighbors.
Organizers also raised concerns about Amazon’s model of building facilities in Opportunity Zones, under a federal program that offers tax breaks to spur private investment in Opportunity Zones. economic difficulty. The West Humboldt Park warehouse is in an opportunity zone, according to state data.
RELATED: Amazon Takes Over Old West Humboldt Park Site, But Some Residents Say Their Concerns Are Being Ignored
Alderman and mayoral candidate Raymond Lopez (15th) and State Representative Lakesia Collins joined the teamsters in support. Organizers invited three candidates for the 7th congressional district — Kina Collins, Denarvis Mendenhall and incumbent Danny Davis — to sign a pledge to support a community benefits agreement and pledge not to accept donations from Amazon.
Collins and Mendenhall signed the pledge. Activists slammed Davis for accepting a $1,000 campaign donation from Amazon and not participating.
“I would ask the same questions of Congressman Danny Davis, but as you can see he’s not here,” said Anthony Stewart of Black Workers Matter. “We will reach out again to change his mind and see if he will side with the workers, side with the people.”
Davis told the Block Club he didn’t come “basically because I was doing something else.” When asked if he would accept Amazon’s $1,000 donation, Davis replied, “I definitely did.”
“It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. $1,000, really,” Davis said. “Their contribution cannot make me change my mind about supporting workers.”
Davis said he was “in favor of every element” of a community benefits deal, including higher wages and local hiring, but was unsure about standing among organizers after communicating with them on Zoom.
“One of the reasons I didn’t go was I didn’t know enough about what they were going to say,” Davis said.
Collins said her parents are unionized and she hopes Amazon workers in Chicago can organize for better terms.
“Amazon raised over $33 billion last year and their employees are working paycheck to paycheck, this is absolutely unacceptable,” Collins said. “What’s too much for me are people working over 40 hours a week earning slave wages.”
Mendenhall said he once worked for Amazon, “on his feet 10 hours a day.”
“Everyday you say it’s not right,” Mendenhall said. “People need a good salary to support their families.”
Giloth said the Amazon site is set to open in August and there must be “accountability before they even open the door.”
“Once the workers are here, they can decide for themselves how they organize themselves,” Giloth said. “But for now, we need to create a support container for these workers, so we don’t catch up later.”
Stewart said workers’ rights inside require politicians and corporations to “stop following the bandwagon.”
“We’re David, standing outside a fight with Goliath,” Stewart said. “We need them to fight alongside us.”
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