I worked at non-union & union warehouses. Yes to the union!

My name is Tamara Clay from Camden, NJ, I’m a warehouse worker and as a proud union member I’m speaking out about the state of our industry.

I’m old enough to have experience in plenty of warehouses. Because of that, I can understand why warehouse workers across the state are standing up and demanding a Code of Conduct that ensures respect, safety, and fair pay. I’ve been there too.

It wasn’t long ago that I was working at an Amazon warehouse. From my experience, Amazon management doesn’t see its employees as human beings but as robots. It was like a “Good morning” or “How are you today?” prevented us from scanning boxes.

The workplace is more than benefits. Thinking of your workforce as automatons whose only mission in life is to pack, scan and ship boxes has real consequences. When you only care about production quotas, humanity is left behind.

This obsession for Production, production, production! also affects safety. It felt like management was more concerned about covering up accidents than making sure we have the tools and training to have a safe workplace.

Here is another example of the lack of respect for basic human dignity at Amazon. The company monitored every single movement you make and would fire workers who did not meet their extreme production quotas. This mentality of only looking at production with total disregard for human dignity hurts workers, their families, and their communities — we all lose!

However, there are employers who listen to their employees and recognize workers’ right to have a collective voice in the workplace.

Now, I work at a unionized warehouse. My employer, H&M is the example that a warehouse can be well run and respect its employees’ humanity at the same time. Crazy, right?

Our current workforce is a mix of backgrounds, the real picture of working America.

I have to say that I knew little about what a union means before I joined the Laundry, Distribution and Food Services Joint Board, Workers United, SEIU. And now I cannot imagine a workplace without a union.

As union members, my colleagues and I are treated as human beings in the first place. I know the bar was quite low, but union perks go much further. It’s not just reasonable production quotas, decent benefits, and respect. It’s not just that I have time to spend with my partner, my friends and my lovely nieces and nephews. For me, discovering the union has meant that I’m part of something bigger than just me, something that has the potential to changes millions of lives for the better. And I say it because I’ve lived that change first-hand.

Tamara Clay, H&M warehouse worker in Camden, NJ

March 2019.