Channahon Amazon workers stage ‘walkout’

Seven workers show up calling for $25 an hour wage, but they say 150 have signed petition

Amazon workers gather outside the Channahon warehouse for a demonstration for higher wages on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.

Several Amazon workers in Channahon left the workplace Friday to stage a second local demonstration for higher wages at the company’s local warehouses.

About 15 workers at a Joliet warehouse participated in a similar demonstration Tuesday.

Both events were described as walkouts, although it appeared that most if not all workers were taking permitted time off to participate in the demonstrations.

“Everyone here has walked off the job,” Barry Haywood, a worker at the Channahon plant, said Friday. “We’re rallying to show our strength and our power to Amazon.”

Seven workers had come out of the Amazon warehouse by noon, shortly after the start of the demonstration at the facility that employs 800 people.

Haywood said he was encouraged by the number and expected it to grow. He said 150 signatures had been collected for a petition seeking a wage increase to $25 an hour.

Workers held signs saying “$25 to Survive,” which appeared to become a slogan for an effort to seek higher wages from Amazon.

Haywood said workers at the Amazon warehouse were informed last week at meetings that hourly wages there were being raised from $18 to $19.

“That’s when I stood up and said, ‘We need $25 an hour,’ ” he said.

He said the demonstration outside the warehouse on Bluff Road was organized after Channahon workers learned of the similar demonstration in Joliet.

Workers who came out of the Joliet warehouse were met by a group of about 40 people that included members of the Teamsters union and Warehouse Workers for Justice. At least some of those workers had taken permitted time off to join the demonstration.

An Amazon spokesperson said 10 employees left the plant during their lunch break and then returned to work.

Several people, including Will County Board member Rachel Ventura, who is running for a state Senate seat, also joined the Channahon workers Friday.

Baqar Hasan said he believed more workers would have joined the Channahon demonstration, but they were concerned about leaving the workplace without having sufficient unpaid time, known as UPT, to cover their absences from the job.

Hasan showed a memo sent by management Thursday to workers at the warehouse detailing the policy for UPT and noting that workers could be disciplined for violations.

“I have 10 to 15 people who wanted to come out, but the only reason they didn’t come out was because they didn’t have enough UPT,” Hasan said.

Hasan also said he was encouraged by the turnout for the demonstration, calling it “the beginning of the fight.”

Amazon spokesman Richard Rocha issued a statement saying the company is “investing $1 billion over the next year to permanently raise hourly pay for front-line employees, and we’ll continue looking for ways to improve their experience.”