NEW YORK—A new report from Demos and For Us, Not Amazon (FUNA)—a coalition against an Amazon takeover in Northern Virginia—highlights how organizers are fighting for the rights of working people, immigrants and people of color as the multinational company prepares to open its new headquarters in Virginia next year.
FUNA coalition members cite local and state governments’ rush to accommodate Amazon without conditions regarding oversight or accountability to community members as an example of an economic system that supports corporations at the expense of people of color. As part of a campaign to bring Amazon to Virginia in 2019, state and local governments promised the company nearly $800 million in incentives. Meanwhile, local working people are without similar aid in the face of an increasingly uncertain economy, FUNA notes. For example, housing prices in the area skyrocketed after Amazon announced that Arlington would be the site of its second corporate headquarters, colloquially known as HQ2.
FUNA organizers observed similarities between the impact of Amazon’s arrival in Northern Virginia and the kind of abuse and inequality Amazon triggered upon its launch in Seattle, the site of its original headquarters.
“Amazon has a track record of exploiting public subsidies, displacing working-class families, and working with law enforcement agencies to monitor and target Black and brown people,” said Danny Cendejas, an organizer with La ColectiVA and FUNA. “Our elected officials were willing to make a deal with the devil under the guise of creating jobs, but knowing this corporation’s history of unabashed exploitation, FUNA couldn’t sell out the people of Virginia.”
As noted in the new report, FUNA implemented accountability mechanisms when the government did not. Organizers led direct actions, street shutdowns, media outreach, and flyering to encourage community members to attend meetings that previously had little-to-no prior public notice. Among the successes of their campaign were: an agreement for Amazon to distribute community updates in Spanish; a September 2020 agreement from Arlington County Police Department to stop engaging in surveillance using Amazon’s Ring home security systems; the Up Against Amazon Institute, an effort to conduct public education around Amazon’s predatory practices; and participation in Make Amazon Pay, a global campaign aimed at forcing Amazon to raise warehouse workers’ pay, end union busting, commit to zero carbon emissions by 2030, stop partnering with police and immigration authorities, and pay its taxes in full.
“Because government chose profit over people, Amazon has been afforded the opportunity to build unconstrained growth and influence that’s devastated local and regional economies. Its unchecked abusive labor practices, tax evasion, and anti-union aggression have hit Black and brown communities particularly hard,” said Lebaron Sims, Associate Director of Policy and Research at Demos. “Organizers at FUNA have been standing on the fundamental principle that when the world’s richest man sets foot in a community, everyone in that community—including warehouse workers, delivery workers, and area residents—should benefit.”
This case study is the fourth of four Demos reports on economic democracy. The series highlights the ways in which Black and brown people in the United States can — and should — have greater control over the institutions and economic forces that shape their lives.
Demos is a think tank that powers the movement for a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy. Through cutting-edge policy research, inspiring litigation, and deep relationships with grassroots organizations, Demos champions solutions that will create a democracy and economy rooted in racial equity.
For Us, Not Amazon is a coalition of working people, immigrants, and people of color against an Amazon takeover in Arlington and Virginia.