Protesters raise issues about worker safety on Amazon Prime Day

  • Al Norman, Mary Siano and Tom Tolg, all of Greenfield, protest Amazon on the Greenfield Common on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Al Norman, Mary Siano and Tom Tolg, all of Greenfield, protest Amazon on the Greenfield Common on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/22/2021 4:58:32 PM

GREENFIELD — Despite the rain, a few residents gathered on the Greenfield Common on Tuesday afternoon to protest the alleged treatment of workers at Amazon.

“It’s particularly an issue on Amazon Prime Day,” said Al Norman, who organized the group on the common.

Amazon Prime Day is a 48-hour event during which Prime subscribers are offered special deals on products through the website. This year, the event lasts from June 21 at 12:01 a.m. and continues through 11:59 p.m. on June 22.

“The group, Athena, asked people to take these banners and attach them to overpasses, but I felt we should bring it right here to Greenfield,” Norman said, referring to the “Amazon Hurts” poster he and four others held. “It’s been a killer for retail, even the big ones, like Walmart.”

Athena, a national Amazon watchdog group, is a coalition of partners that represents working people, small business people, people of color, immigrants and neighbors, along with activists, advocates, policy experts and academics, according to its website.

Norman said Amazon is “obsessed with speed,” so much so “they have humans working at robot speed.”

“And they’re getting injured because of it,” he said, referencing a report by Reveal News in 2020 about rising injury rates among Amazon’s warehouse workers.

Norman also pointed to the environmental impact online shopping has — requiring transport from far distances of small items that could otherwise be purchased locally.

“That’s why I’m standing out in the rain to let everyone know what’s wrong,” he said.

Norman, whose book “RAVINGS: American Wild Talk” is available on Amazon, said he doesn’t expect for people to abandon Amazon altogether; but instead to not rely on it entirely.

“It’s not so much a question of never using Amazon,” he said in a separate phone interview. “I’m saying, always start off buying what you can locally.”

Although three of Norman’s books were published by a small publisher in Vermont, he said he had trouble finding a publisher willing to publish his 2018 book of 19 short stories from American history.

“I went to Kindle Publishing, which is part of Amazon,” he said. “It was an attractive alternative to trying to find an agent … and then finding a publisher, which is even harder.”

As far as Amazon goes, he said, the publishing aspect is “one of the better things they do.”

“This is a company that does some things that are very unpleasant, and also does things that make sense,” he said. “The book publishing world is elitist these days, so for someone who isn’t already a celebrity or an athlete, it’s hard to break into the world of publishing.”

Norman’s books are also available at local book stores, including Federal Street Books, he noted.

“I think what they’ve done to book stores is very damaging, but the fact they publish books without requiring authors to already be famous, that’s a good thing,” he said. “I like the model. It think it’s a more democratic model.”

Standing beside him on the Greenfield Common, longtime activists Mary Siano, Garret Connelly and Tom Tolg, all of Greenfield, also were there to advocate for the health and safety of Amazon workers.

“I thought it was important to stand up to corporate domination,” Siano said. “And I do care about workers and their health and safety.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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