One of the biggest points I make in A History of America in Ten Strikes is that the success of a strike is often determined by the actions of a state. When corporations and the state combine to limit worker power, it is very difficult for workers to win. When the state is neutral, workers can win. One thing that has marked American history is that corporations make major demands of the state to serve as security forces for private capital and that the state has often acquiesced to that. This was certainly the case before the New Deal, remained somewhat true during the peak of American labor success, and has definitely increased in recent decades, since Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. American companies have sought to create similar arrangements overseas and Latin American labor history is to some extent shaped by this, ranging from the CIA overthrowing Arbenz in Guatemala to protect United Fruit’s interests to South American governments killing to workers at the service of American fruit or mining companies. This hasn’t significantly changed with the rise of the tech economy, although the inherent violence in the system is a bit more hidden now. But these new companies still make the same demands on the state to help them defeat worker activism. This takes us to Spain.
Amazon asked police in Spain to intervene in a mass strike at a warehouse on the outskirts of Madrid, according to local reports.
Amazon wanted a police presence at the warehouse to ensure that productivity remained high within the fulfilment center, while workers staged their protest outside, according to Spanish newspaper El Confidencial.
A source at Spanish union CCOO, which helped coordinate the strikes, told Business Insider that Amazon “wanted to send the police inside the warehouse to push people to work.”
Spanish newspaper El Confidencial reported that Amazon met with police officials after the strike was announced. It wanted local officers “to force employees to go to their respective jobs and ensure their performance was identical to that of a normal working day.”
Amazon’s request “dumbfounded” police, according to El Confidencial. “The request was categorically rejected by the police, who maintained that controlling labour productivity doesn’t fall within its powers,” a police source said.
Law enforcement officials reportedly emphasized to Amazon that Spanish law protects workers’ right to strike. They told the company that police would be present at the strike but would limit themselves to keeping the peace.
Amazon is of course denying all of this but there is no reason not to believe it is mostly true. This is exactly what Amazon wants. European nations are very unlikely to fall for this. But the U.S. government? You bet that the Trump administration would be open to this sort of arrangement and that the Roberts Court would back it up. Expect more of this as these companies grow in power and workers see their ability to organize restricted by bogus legal rulings from right-wing courts.