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Workers and Communities vs Amazon

A Detroit community demands a new Amazon warehouse meet job and environmental guarantees; Amazon workers in Alabama fighting to unionize. Community activists and union organizers Tonya Myers and Frank Hammer on theAnalysis.news

Transcript

Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay and welcome to theAnalysis.news. Please don’t forget there’s a donate button at the top of the website.

Amazon is so far the most significant corporation to emerge from the digital revolution, beautifully and rationally organized, a massive global corporation that employs 1.3 million people, rationally organized internally, but part of the overall chaos, that’s today’s hyper-capitalism. When Amazon comes to a community promising jobs and a better life, does it deliver?

Why are Amazon workers getting organized into unions, even though Amazon claims they’re getting all the benefits without the dues? Today, I talk to two organizers from Detroit who have been waging a campaign to force the city to extract real promises of community benefits or turn the Amazon warehouse deal down. The city council and mayor didn’t listen and are going ahead with the project anyway. Now joining us, Detroit attorney Tonya Meyers Phillips, who currently serves as the Community Partnerships and Development Director of the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice, and Frank Hamer, a former president and bargaining chair of UAW Local 909 and General Motors at Warren, Michigan.

He’s co-founder of the Autoworker Caravan and co-chair of the International Auto Workers Council, GM section. Thank you both for joining me.

So, Tanya, start us off. Give us a bit of the story. How did this all come about, because it wasn’t just about Amazon coming to Detroit it was about a fairgrounds that you thought the community should have some say in what happened to it. So give us a bit of the background and then we’ll get into the whole fight with Amazon.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Sure, and thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this very important discussion, Paul, I mean, certainly what’s happening in Detroit is not an anomaly. It’s happening in cities all across the United States and all across the world.

So we’re pleased to share our fight and our struggle just as we continue to learn from those of others and other cities as well. So where to start?

Of course, Detroit, Frank and I are both hard-core Detroiters. I was born and raised in this city and still live here by choice, and I’m proud of my city. We have a pretty hard-core reputation.

 We’re a little scrappy in Detroit, right. We’ve been through uprisings, we’ve been through economic downturns, we’ve experienced hard times in the city of Detroit, and I say that as a backdrop too. It’s important to recognize the context. We’re not out of the woods yet. Detroit is a predominantly African-American city, about a third of the city right now are living in poverty. When you look at structural poverty, some statisticians look at what might be closer to 50 percent, and it’s important to understand what our needs are as a residents in the city of Detroit. Michigan State Fairgrounds was, prior to it’s closing, was one of the longest-running public fairgrounds in the country, just a beautiful park, recreational activity. People have fond memories of free concerts. The Jackson 5 and many greats played there. I mean, the state fair was an incredibly popular affair in Detroit.

Unfortunately, a lobbyist petitioned and convinced our governor (Rick Snyder) at the time to close it and it was shuttered.

So this a 142-acre site and there were various proposals presented for redevelopment of this site over the years that were not ultimately approved by the city of Detroit, and this particular proposal came to light in August of last year.

Apparently, it had been negotiated in secret for about a year, working out the details and the kinks and our coalition, the State Fairgrounds Development Coalition, which Frank and I and many members of the community, over 200 members of the community, have worked together on to present holistic plans for the redevelopment of the site. So it wasn’t a site where that nobody cared about pretty much, and I want listeners to understand that.

We’ve done a lot of work, award winning work on soliciting or setting the context to solicit proposals that included affordable housing, sustainable development, good jobs, recreation, just a nice 21st century modern, inclusive plan.

We were informed in August that our mayoral administration, our mayor, and his team agreed to sell the land to a private out-of-state developer so they, in turn, could lease the majority of the land to Amazon to build a warehouse. So we were told this was going to happen. That’s what the deal was, and it was just it.

Paul Jay

So why aren’t you jumping up and down for Joy? Because Amazon’s coming all these jobs and all of that.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Well you know Amazon is one of the richest corporations in the world, right, and you think that prosperity will follow, but statistics demonstrate quite the opposite. Many Amazon workers continue to live in poverty. $15 an hour, the starting wage, is better than the minimum wage, but it certainly is not a living wage. The retention rate with the Amazon corporation, we were extremely and remain extremely concerned about that.

We know the selling point at Amazon and the city puts forward as, there are twelve hundred jobs that will be created for Detroiters, but we know, and it’s been well documented that most Amazon workers did not last longer than a year. The company has a very poor retention rate. So these are not jobs that will last. These are not jobs that will propel families into a sustainable middle-class. Frank is going to talk a little bit more later about the necessity to organize for unions to be able to form and change those working conditions, but for right now, the Amazon effect has actually been shown to cause a net job loss, not only because workers are not retained, but because of Amazon’s business model, because they are – and Congress is investigating this now – many people believe that they are a monopoly.

The Amazon effect actually puts other small businesses in the surrounding area out of business. So looking at this total Amazon effect that we’ve seen in other cities, we just are not convinced that this corporation will bring prosperity to Detroit, but will in effect, if no other actions take place, will continue to drive poverty in Detroit.

Paul Jay

Let’s dig into this issue of retention rate to start with. What is it? What’s the normal retention rate and why do you think it’s so low? The retention rate. I saw one stat it’s like over a 90 percent turnover within a year or something..

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Yes, nearly 100 percent. Why? That’s part of the Amazon business model. They are a private enterprise. They don’t have to conduct their business in that way, but it seems to be more profitable for the Amazon corporation to run a kind of churn and burn operation instead of investing in people’s continual growth. As people remain employees, they expect an increase, a promotion, and right now it just doesn’t appear to be in the Amazon business model to provide middle-class jobs, but really, a teaser for a time to get you started and then drop you. Of course, we looked at the recent investigation to their tip workers there, their Flex drivers or whatever they call them, and how the United States government recently found them, they settled, that they were effectively stealing the wages that almost a third of those drivers pay, and their business model, the way that they’ve essentially structured their business, is one based on low wages and short wages.

Paul Jay

How were they taking their wages? Their delivery drivers?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Their delivery drivers and their delivery drivers are essentially contract workers. Most of them work on a system and platform very similar to that of Uber, Lyft, ship workers, and the particular algorithm they were using to calculate their wages and tips. They did not pay out all the money they were owed, essentially.

Paul Jay

And this is the same as Uber, as you say. There’s been a lot of this going on.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Exactly, exactly, but Amazon is one of the largest.

Paul Jay

So you had like almost 200 people involved in it for a long time.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Yes.

Paul Jay

 Lobbying, planning, advocating what should happen with these fairgrounds, and then this deal’s made, is there any consultation with your committee before the property is sold?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

No, no, we were provided 24 hours, I would say it’s a heads up or FYI, but there was no community call for input, no community planning. There wasn’t even information until the deal was done. So the process was backward. It was anti-democratic. The decision was made and the reason why this matters is because this involved the sale of public land. This was 142 acres of public land and the scale of this project. This will be the largest facility of its type in the nation upon completion. So the environmental and health impacts upon this poor Detroit community are going to be severe if no further action is taken.

Paul Jay

I don’t understand how can they do that without public hearings?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Well, we had public hearings after the fact,  and the hearings were, pretty much designed to allow you had one minute of public comment. You can have your say and then the vote was taken, but the negotiation of the deal was already done and the purchase agreement had already been negotiated in terms of there were two things that needed to happen. We had to amend our city master plan. Normally, amending a master plan is a big deal.

It takes time. You just don’t change it willy nilly, but in the city of Detroit, we had two hearings, a total of two hearings to amend the master plan that governs the decision-making process in development for the next ten years. We did this in two meetings and one meeting stretched until after midnight after midnight, and one of the commissioners, Vice-Chair Lauren Hood finally said this is inappropriate. I don’t feel after midnight, I don’t feel like I have enough information.

We’ve been in this meeting for seven hours. It is almost bullying. Maybe that’s not her word. That might be my word. OK, but it feels tantamount to bullying to ask someone to make a decision that can impact people for the next decade or more under those types of circumstances. So a master plan, our master plan was amended from regional park to light industrial in two meetings. That was it, and a master planning process in other cities, you’d expect it to take months, maybe even a year.

Paul Jay

Let me ask Frank, did you then present at some point the experience of Amazon in other cities and that the sort of data that Tonya is presenting does not make for a very persuasive argument for just handing this all over to Amazon.

Frank Hammer

So I can tell you that if they had had their way and I’m talking about the administration of Mayor Duggan here in the city, we’re talking about a city of over 80 percent African-American, the city council is majority African-American, but I can tell you that it was very clear from the outset that the city was tone-deaf to the community and was doing the Amazon’s bidding, and they wanted to muscle it through all of it, including what Tanya just described within a month. It was extraordinary.

Paul Jay

They must have thought this was a big coup to get Amazon because of all these jobs, but did they not see some of the data that Tanya’s talking about?

Frank Hammer

So I can tell you that whether they did or they didn’t, they did not acknowledge it when we raised these issues. On the contrary, they with a straight face on numerous occasions said these are the jobs of the future. These are middle-class jobs, and they defied reality in order to promote Amazon’s line, which is what they did on to the city and to the city council, and the health issues that we were raising because we’re not only talking about what Tanya was referring to earlier about the turnover is because the rate of work, is because of the speed of the process in the warehouses, that workers do not last. They suffer injuries.

They suffer breakdowns, nervous breakdowns, and so on, because it is so key to the robotics of the warehouses, which they are very proud of. Along with that we found out through one of their studies, a traffic study, that at peak hours they anticipated, over 500 18 wheelers driving in and out of the site, and there are no provisions, no protections for that community, for the city of Detroit and beyond in regards to the emissions of these diesel trucks.

 I think that, by and large, they did it so quickly, that it is going to take a while for the city to figure out – I’m talking about the residents – this is going to be a huge health hazard. I mean, we’ve been talking about Covid-19 for over a year now or close to a year, and we talk about all the preconditions, asthma, heart conditions, and so on. This Amazon warehouse is going to accelerate that, is going to worsen what’s already a sacrifice zone in the city of Detroit.

Paul, you’re absolutely right. They put a bow on this and they said, oh, we’re going to create 1200 jobs. Originally, they say it was going to be for Detroiters. We looked at the purchase agreement. That was a lie it was not promised Detroiters. There is not a single job that’s guaranteed for Detroit.

Paul Jay

Well, what is guaranteed? Well, is there any community benefit?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

They are saying that they are making a contribution to construct a new transit center and that is our community benefit.

Paul Jay

What does that mean? A bus stop?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

That means a glorified bus stop. Yes. Right now this is a prime area in the city of Detroit. It connects Detroit and Wayne County to Oakland County. It lays the state fairgrounds bordered on the iconic 8 Mile Road. It’s close to Interstate 75 highway. It’s close to Davison Highway and also is close to the iconic Woodward Avenue. So this is a major, major intersection.

Paul Jay

How much did they pay for the land?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

They paid less than nine million dollars for the land. They pay less than nine bucks for the land. Now, what they’re saying is, well, we made this contribution for this bus depot also. So the city is our contention with them and the subject of our litigation is they’re saying, no, no, no, we paid 16 million dollars for the land are like, no, you didn’t. You paid about nine million dollars for the land and you made a contribution towards the construction of this bus terminal, which is essential for Amazon’s logistics.

So the fact that the city of Detroit even assumed liability in the purchase agreement for transportation in the purchase agreement, it says if the city doesn’t get this bus station built on time, the city is liable for providing Amazon’s interim transportation capacity. That’s how important it is. That’s what that benefit is about. It’s not about us, and they knocked down. They put the station in the path of these historical assets or they’re knocking down businesses, not businesses, but structures that are on the historical registration lists.

So they’re knocking down historical buildings. They’ve cut down all the Oak Grove trees in order to get this new bus depot situated within a convenient five minutes for workers, and that actually amplifies the harm that Frank was speaking about earlier, because you not only have this heavy diesel emission and that location, you will have over 30,000 bus riders coming into that location every week. So you have diesel emission, bus emission, car emission.

It is going to be an environmental and health nightmare that we have little to no protections to guard against right now.

Paul Jay

Well, we’re going to show a photograph of some kind. But how close to this site do people live?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Across the street.

Paul Jay

It’s right in a residential area?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

It is.

Frank Hammer

To the south and the east, there’s are generally very blighted residents who have stuck it out. Yeah, and they live right across this two lane street.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

And a senior citizen home too.

Paul Jay

Did you get an independent appraisal of the land?  Frank, what would the land be worth if it was at market value?

Frank Hammer

Do you want to take that?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Sure well we don’t have the resources at this time to do a full-blown independent appraisal of our own, but we did do an assessment of their appraisal, and we do have some comparables that indicate just looking at comparable land sales, that there could be at least an extra two million dollar value on that land, just looking at comparables alone.

And if you look at other independent appraisal methods, again, which we don’t have the resources to fully explore at this time, then I do believe the value of that will come back much higher, but where it again comes to our litigation, our community benefits statute tax, it’s triggered to the land sale, and when you look at the land, our statute calls for when land is sold below fair market value, then the community benefits ordinance comes into play and looking at their own appraisal, the appraisal that their party conducted, the land was appraised at roughly 12 million dollars, but they will account for roughly nine million dollars.

And based on their own documents and their own assessments, we believe our ordinance should be triggered and community members should be assembled and have a voice and monitoring and regulation and oversight of this development going forward. So that’s what we’re fighting for right now. We don’t think the vote should have happened. We think we deserve better as Detroiters. We deserve so much better.

But notwithstanding, even though the vote happened, we believe our ordinance demands that community members be assembled into an advisory commission where we can request documents, where we can hold their feet to the fire and we can, demand some other conditions that actually protect the health and quality of our life be set forward for this operation. So that’s where we are now.

Paul Jay

And so this litigation is now in court. It’s been filed.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Yes.

Paul Jay

And what are the community benefits you’re looking for?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Well, we don’t have enough health and safety protections, that’s where we need to start number one. In our expressions of discontent to the Detroit City Council we did secure a provision for an air quality survey to be implemented. And that is better than nothing, but it’s not a lot better because it doesn’t have any regulations on those emissions levels.

And it doesn’t do anything to address the fact that people are going to be harmed, and unfortunately, Detroit is not a stranger to air pollution. As part of the recent deal between the state of Michigan and Canada, we’re building a new bridge, and along with a new bridge comes additional truck traffic and environmental concerns. And part of the community benefits provision for that international deal the city of Detroit was actually required to do a health impact study to study the various health harms and actually make a plan to address them.

So residents that live in that particular area of town because of this international agreement, they’re getting things like air filters for their home. They’re getting their windows retrofitted to make sure environmental pollution doesn’t seep in. They’re getting things that will actually protect them. They have community based air monitoring stations. So you can tell when the pollution levels are rising. Those are the type of things that we need A.S.A.P. near the state fairgrounds site in order for people to have a fighting chance.

So the city of Detroit has been through this before. They know how to do it. The main pushback to it is that it’s expensive. Well, and we say human life is worth it. So that’s where we are. That’s one benefit.

Paul Jay

But it’s hard to believe that Amazon could afford any of this.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Oh, no.

Paul Jay

Such a struggling corporation.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Not the trillionaire Jeff Bezos. No, no.

Paul Jay

He can pay for it himself out of his lunch money. Frank, in the final analysis, the kind of community benefits you’re talking about so far, at least, is really for the community surrounding the warehouse, for the workers themselves that are going to wind up working at this warehouse it’s really going to come down to whether they get organized or not and there’s a big organizing effort now going on in Alabama that may help set the tone for Amazon warehouses and offices right across the country.

So where is that out and to what extent do you think Detroit workers will be looking at what’s going on in Alabama?

Frank Hammer

Yes, and if I may, before I answer your question, let me just add another note. One of the stipulations that we were advocating for is the question of sustainable development in regards to the issue of the climate crisis. The site is not only going to be occupied by Amazon, is going to be occupied by two other industrial facilities that have not been named and Amazon has been crowing about how climate-conscious they are, but we haven’t seen it in terms of what the plans are for this site.

So we are concerned not only for the immediate health for Detroiters, but really we have to be concerned about the planet. And that ultimately, of course, has an effect on Detroiters as well. And we’re trying to hold the developers, these two developers, one is named Perot from Dallas, we’re trying to hold their feet to the fire that this is going to be a carbon-neutral site going forward.

Paul Jay

Doesn’t Bezos claim that he’s all for such policy?

Frank Hammer

Yeah, and we want to cheer him out and say, oh, yeah, you’re absolutely right but you know what? There’s a whole bunch of other acreage on this site that’s going to be industrially developed. What about those? Are they going to be also addressing the zero-emissions or is it just a veneer, a marketing ploy by Amazon because they know that the tide is turning and that people all over the world are now becoming increasingly concerned about the issue of the climate crisis.

So I think it’s a question, is it a marketing ploy or are they going to insist that the entire site of the fairgrounds is going to be a sustainable site?

Paul Jay

Has your community had any direct contact with Amazon or have you tried meeting with them?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

No, the city has done a fine job of blocking that kind of interaction, but hopefully as time as time goes on.

Paul Jay

How can they stop you?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Well, in this process they are the ones who have assembled brought the developer to the table. The City Planning Commission actually asked a representative from Amazon to come forward and to address the body and provide some assurance that Detroiters would get a fair shot at these jobs, even though they are not the kind of jobs that will lift anyone out of poverty, but they requested to come and they did not, and they understand that they have seen this type of thing.

The city can use its leverage. It could have used its leverage and position to get them to the table to say we’re not going to do this deal until you come and give an account to people in the community of your intention, but they didn’t, and Amazon is protecting Amazon’s interests. So they took full advantage of that that cover and did not. The city made it very difficult for community members to assert that kind of leverage when they basically say, we’re doing this anyway, don’t worry about them, we’ll take care of it.

But they aren’t here yet. There are still many more days until they get here. So we are looking at other ways of how to get them to the table, even though they didn’t come initially.

Paul Jay

Well, at some point, the issue of unionizing this warehouse, assuming it opens in Detroit, so what goes on in Alabama is going to have a lot to say in terms of where that’s at. So where are things going? Where’s that at in Alabama?

Frank Hammer

So Alabama, a lot of eyes are on Bessemer, Alabama, where they built a warehouse and it is so incredibly similar to Detroit. It’s Bessemer, Alabama is majority-black city.

Over 80 percent of the workforce is 70 percent African-American. It was opened earlier this year, and very rapidly, workers really got the flavor of what it meant to work at Amazon, and lo and behold, where would you see the first union organizing drive of this kind?

But in Alabama, of all places? And really what we see is the strong working-class tradition in Birmingham and what used to be the steel and the coal industry. And I think it’s very clear that the union culture that was built didn’t go away and these workers organizing it, it’s a small union of about sixty thousand members. It’s the department store workers they are affiliated with a United Food and Commercial Workers. They’ve been organizing. They’ve been getting cards signed.

They went to the NLRB. They requested certification for the union and they requested mail in ballots in light of the coronavirus. Amazon vehemently contradicted and said, oh, no, you got to do these in person, under these conditions. The NLRB stuck to its guns, and the mailing of the ballots has already been initiated starting in February 8th. It will end sometime at the end of March.

And there is now a national effort to build solidarity with the Amazon workers in Alabama.

It’s a very important crossroads between the Black Lives Matter movement and the burgeoning union organizing. It’s going to be going on more and more because people are really fed up with working conditions that they’re faced with.

So there’s a real nexus between the historic Black Lives Matter movement and the working-class movement in Bessemer. So all we can do, they’re going to have support actions on February 20th across the country. There’s are numerous states that already are showing up. You can go to I think it’s called black workers. Southern Workers Justice I believe is called you can go to the website (Southern Workers Assembly https://southernworker.org) and you can see whether there’s a local support activity in your area, but it’d be really important to do.

Paul Jay

Apparently, the Amazon anti-union campaign has been so I guess, vigorous or vicious that even some European investors that I think it was like 20 or 30 million dollars of Amazon stock issued a statement telling Amazon to back off.

What are some of the things Amazon is doing to try to fight the union?

Frank Hammer

Well, let me just say to come back to Detroit, we understood the nature of Amazon so when we went to Mayor and we went to the city council, we said, all we want you to do is get Amazon to sign a statement that they will respect the labor law and allow workers to organize without interference, and the city ran interference for Amazon and said, oh, no, no, we couldn’t possibly do that.

We’d be caught we’d be guilty of violating the law and went to such great lengths to interfere for Amazon in a non-union environment. Here this is a union town in Detroit. So now what Amazon is doing is what they typically do in every warehouse. They have monitors, digital monitors on the workers, and their caught talking union they face discharge. I’m sure that’s as well going on there. They’ve opened up a website. Now, do it without dues, I think it’s called. So they’ve gone anti-union law firms whose specialty is to prevent unions from organizing the workplace. So they’re going all out to try to prevent this example of unionization because they know that if these workers make a breakthrough, that it’ll be just a matter of time before other warehouses begin to get organized as well. And when they open, the one here in Detroit we’ll be ready for them.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

That’s right.

Paul Jay

As you said, Detroit is union town. Detroit is UAW union town. As UAW do you think if they haven’t already, would they get involved, support a unionizing effort?

Frank Hammer

So we’ve reached out to some of the unions in the city of Detroit. I want to tell you that the one that has come forward and in fact, joined us in a demonstration at the fairgrounds was the SEIU local one. We had a political director of that union with us and we will be reaching out to the Metro AFL CIO. We will be reaching out to the restaurant hotel worker. We have a series of gambling casinos. We will be reaching out to my union, the UAW, and saying, you got to get on board we’re going to unionize this place when they open.

Paul Jay

Tonya in terms of the people living in the communities neighboring the fairgrounds site, how are ordinary people responding to all this? Is there activism there? Are people getting organized or are they a little bit betwixt and between because there might be some jobs there.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Yeah, a little of both. I will say one element, which is really unfortunate, too many people still don’t fully even understand what happened.

Just like so many other places we’re working from home. People are sheltering in place. We’re not able to gather and the technology divide is a problem in terms of organizing and getting information out. People traditionally go downtown to the city hall meeting. You go to your block club, you go to your churches. That’s how you get information, how you organize and find out what the word is.

But getting on Zoom it’s just it’s a challenge. There’s a very real technology divide and it cuts across race and class, even if people don’t want to talk about it is true. And a lot of people have not got all of the information about this deal, unfortunately. Some people do believe that there will be a job around.

Some people believe that Amazon will cause further development. That’s how it was marketed, a very one-sided kind of marketing scheme by the city, and individuals should be able to believe their public officials. That’s what you should be able to do. So you can’t fault the people for that, and then there are many that stand with us and are furious about the sale of this property.

They don’t believe we received enough compensation. That black vendors are being shut out of the construction bidding process, not just for this development, but it’s been a problem in Detroit for a long time, looking at African-American firms and firms of color receiving a contract to work on these development deals and people are concerned about the environmental impact surrounding the community. There are seniors living across the street. There are individuals living in single homes across the street and going back towards Woodward it is, a slightly more prosperous area of Detroit, but it’s dense, and as those trucks are coming down and going to come down neighborhoods, a lot of people are not looking forward to how it will literally change the face of the community from what was what is now a mostly residential area, becoming an industrial hub.

It’s going to change, but we are certainly continuing to get information out about what’s coming.

Paul Jay

Do you think it leads to the communities neighboring more industrialization or gentrification?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

It seems to be leaning more industrialization, and looking at looking at what they have in mind for this site. I mean, it’s a large, large piece of land here, and I think it’s going to be difficult for communities to – I don’t think people who gentrify are going to want to live next to that facility, and some of the comments that we heard in our very, very limited public sessions were how is this going to affect my property? Am I going to have to move? Is my property going to dive in value? Am I going to be stuck here next to a warehouse if I’m not able to sell later on, and those concerns were really brushed aside and not answered.

So looking at the trends in other cities, unfortunately, with this particular development, it looks like more industrialization, and those, particularly those who do not have the means to take care of their own property, who don’t have property to sell, who are just living and existing the best they know how, are really going to catch the brunt of this, and all of those transit workers who will be exposed to these harmful emissions day in and day out are going to catch it. And unfortunately, that impact also cuts along race and class as well.

Paul Jay

Just finally, Frank, how’s the media been covering this in Detroit? And worst is the public aware of what’s going on?

So I have to say that due to the fact that our coalition has had a really excellent media person working with us, we’ve actually managed to get our side of the story, by and large, into the corporate media, including the two major newspapers, Crain’s Business, it’s been really rather extraordinary that we’ve been able to get our message out as well as we have, but I can tell you, in the absence of our coalition, in the absence of the community voices, I mean, it was very clear that they were going to completely adopt the city’s narrative and Amazon then the two developers their narrative to give to Detroit, and that’s what we’ve had to fight.

We’ve had to combat this narrative, oh, we’re getting jobs, and this is going to be the best thing since sliced bread and so on, and I think that we’ve been able to counter that with an effective media strategy, and especially in light of the things that Tanya was describing as what limits our immediate day to day contact with a lot of the people that are going to be affected.

Paul Jay

Tanya, where do people go on the web if they want to find out more about all this?

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Well, you can catch us on Facebook. You could go to we’re on Facebook. So Michigan State Fairgrounds, I get the Facebook site right Frank. I don’t want to screw it up, but our website is definitely mifaigroundsfuture.org, but catch us on Facebook or our website and let’s just double-check and make sure that I gave the right site there Frank. 

Frank Hammer

And the site is mifairgroundsfuture.org and the Facebook is Future of the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Kind of a long name. All right.

Paul Jay

Well, we’ll come back and revisit this when things get further along. Thank you both for joining me.

Tonya Meyers Phillips

Thank you so much Paul.

Frank Hammer

Thanks Paul.

Paul Jay

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One Comment

  1. Hi Paul,

    It probably goes beyond Amazon creating a fair worksite and allowing unions. Amazon is testing automation and will likely eliminate its warehouse staff (and drivers, if possible) in the future. I suspect Amazon is the end tip of a mass consumer culture that will rapidly retreat in the face of automation and climate change.

    Here’s something I wrote on a similar subject over at Scheerpost.com (see https://scheerpost.com/2021/02/25/lee-camp-its-time-for-major-wealth-redistribution-yes-i-mean-it/):

    Our economy is parasitic, on people and the planet: its’s not a party that can last forever. American capitalism, and neoliberalism at large, is hollowing out society and anything it finds of value. What happens when you eliminate a whole consumer class through automation and AI? What happens when the tipping points of climate change are reached, and there are floods, famines and fires of biblical proportions?

    Even if wealth was redistributed, it’s how we treat the Earth and other people that is the problem: the middle classes in the US contribute to a throw-away society, too, and are quite willing to buy the products of sweatshop labor.

    Nature has a way to achieve its own redistribution when exploited: it’s called extinction.

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