by Elisabeth Wichser and Claire Bayler
On December 9th, the City of Worcester Planning Board held a public “Webinar” meeting to discuss permitting the redevelopment of the defunct Greendale Mall site into a warehouse and distribution center heavily speculated to be intended for Amazon.
Over 80 members of the community, including a number of Independent Socialist Group members, waited over 4 hours for the only opportunity for public comment on the entire question of Amazon entering the Worcester area. The Planning Board restricted the discussion by only allowing each member of the public 2 minutes for comments and questions and cut the discussion off at an hour. Amazon’s corporate spokesperson attempted to sell the distribution center to Worcester residents by dangling the promise of jobs in front of workers devastated by COVID and the economic crash. Amazon made claims that the distribution center would create over 70 full-time jobs with $15/ hour pay and full benefits. Of course, she also let slip that these jobs worked 10-hour shifts. But the majority of total jobs created at the site would be through Amazon Flex, basically, an Uber-type gig job where workers use their own car to deliver packages, bearing all of the costs and liability with none of the employment benefits and protections. Worcester city government has taken no action against Amazon conquering new territory. The Worcester Chamber of Commerce argues that this is an excellent deal because it comes without any tax breaks for Amazon, but Amazon has already proven that it will use its weight to force cities to provide infrastructure, tax breaks, data access, and more to keep the company local.
Workers know how exploitative Amazon is. Workers and community activists have exposed the horrors of Amazon’s operations. This includes Amazon employees sleeping in tents outside warehouses, peeing in bottles because they can’t take bathroom breaks, and the over 20,000 cases of COVID that have spread across Amazon distribution centers because of a lack of COVID protections. Amazon recently built a similar site in Milford, MA which has caused increased traffic and numerous headaches for workers there.
We need real democratic decision making from the Worcester community about Amazon’s attempt to invade Worcester. This should include not only opposing Amazon but also democratically deciding on public uses for the Greendale Mall site.
As every community member at the hearing made clear, workers do not want Amazon in our city. We know we deserve better. The Independent Socialist Group instead calls for the Greendale Mall site to be rebuilt as municipally-owned public housing and with a public service center including a health clinic, a child-care and after-school center, and other resources the community needs, to be built and staffed by full time, well-paid, unionized positions.
We stand at the precipice of a housing crisis—we need housing and support programs for workers, not one of the most exploitative anti-union companies on the planet. While the Planning Board, the City of Worcester, and the private developer hope to make this sound like a done deal, workers have successfully fought Amazon in the past and won—like keeping Amazon HQ from invading New York City. We can resist a takeover of our city by Amazon, but to do it, we’ll need an organized fightback of workers, union members, and community members.
Image Credit: Tod Van Hoosear via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0