This afternoon, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that Amazon will withdraw its proposal to build an air cargo hub at Newark Liberty International Airport. Amazon was unwilling to meet minimum requirements the Newark and Elizabeth communities set forth on labor and environmental practices for the deal, and ultimately decided to walk away.
“As an Elizabeth resident, where we have been designated an ‘overburdened community’ by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, this is a huge victory for our communities of color, workers and environmental justice advocates. Black and Latinx Newark and Elizabeth residents that carry the burden left by traffic and pollution––high levels of asthma, cancer, elevated blood lead levels, cardiovascular diseases and developmental disorders––led this fight.
“While our communities fought for basic health and safety, Amazon was unwilling to comply with basic labor and environmental standards. This fight has shown us that when we come together and fight against corporate greed and environmental destruction, our communities win,” stated David Lenis, a member of Make the Road NJ and Elizabeth resident.
“This is an important victory for workers and former workers who have been injured working for one of the several Amazon’s warehouses here in the state, like myself. I had an extreme allergic reaction while working at Amazon, I had to wait hours for the company to call an ambulance,” said Nayeli, member of Make the Road NJ and former Amazon worker. “Amazon disregards worker’s health. My mother worked at Amazon as a seasonal worker without health insurance. She became so injured on the job from pulling heavy packages that she is suffering from chronic pain.”
The air cargo hub project, first reported in August 2021, would have given Amazon a twenty-year lease through the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build two 250,000 sq. ft. air cargo facilities next to the airport, letting the company significantly expand its footprint in the tri-state region. The plan has been shrouded in secrecy from the beginning, with virtually no formal community input and an ongoing lack of transparency.
“We are setting a new standard: corporations coming into our communities must guarantee good jobs, clean air, and be accountable to working-class people,” stated George Boada, lifelong Elizabeth resident and member of Teamsters Local 863 and Joint Council 73. “We have shown that when workers and community members unite together, we are more powerful than the largest corporations in the world, even Amazon. No one should ever have to compromise their health and safety in the workplace or in our communities in the name or corporate profits. This is only the beginning.”
Newark and Elizabeth workers, environmental justice activists, small businesses, unions and worker centers, and community and faith leaders formed a coalition to demand transparency and accountability from Amazon and the Port Authority. Throughout the 10 months since the proposal was first reported on, community organizers have mobilized to:
- Knock on thousands of doors to inform community members in Elizabeth and Newark, the communities surrounding the Airport, about the secret deal.
- Organize community members to speak at the Port Authority’s monthly meetings. Each month, community organizers rallied hundreds of local residents, Amazon workers, and activists to protest the secret deal with Amazon at the Port Authority meetings; in March, organizers delivered a petition with thousands of community signatures in opposition to the agency’s controversial plan.
“This is a great victory for South Ward residents who came together in solidarity for Clean Air and Good Jobs,” stated Kim Gaddy, Executive Director of South Ward Environmental Alliance. “I applaud all the residents for their participation to fight for a healthy and vibrant environment where families can work and thrive.”
Megan Chambers, Co-Manager of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, affiliated with Workers United, SEIU, stated, “This is a win for the community and for workers. The Amazon cargo hub secretly planned last year for Newark Airport would have increased toxic pollution in the area, jeopardizing the health of the overwhelmingly Black and Latinx community residents who live nearby. Amazon has been building warehouses across our state at a head-spinning rate, without community input and without a commitment to safe, quality jobs. We need good jobs and clean air in New Jersey, not this Amazon cargo hub. Our union is proud to have been part of the coalition that opposed this misguided secret deal.”
The Good Jobs Clean Air NJ coalition also worked to publish original, breaking research about Amazon’s impact on New Jersey communities:
- Last month, a new report released by The National Employment Law Project (NELP) found that turnover at Amazon warehouses was about 124% across the state, meaning for every Amazon warehouse job in New Jersey, more than one worker is let go or quits each year.
- In April, new research was released from New Jersey Policy Perspective, and Dr. Carmen Martino, Professor of Professional Practice and Director of the Occupational Training and Education Consortium (OTEC) in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University. The report analyzes OSHA records in 2021 to find that Amazon workers’ serious injuries comprise 55% of all serious worker injuries in New Jersey.
- In March, an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Data from the Good Jobs Clean Air NJ Coalition and United for Respect found that in the decade between 2010 and 2020, as Amazon rapidly expanded warehousing and delivery in New Jersey, wages in those sectors declined significantly. Between 2015 and 2020, Amazon’s New Jersey workforce grew nearly 800%. In that same period, New Jersey’s Delivery and Courier wages declined 10% when adjusted for inflation, while Warehousing and Storage inflation-adjusted wages declined 17%.
“For an environmental justice community continuously fighting for our right to clean air and well paying, safe jobs for its people, this is a big triumph. When business comes in, we envision an opportunity for good jobs, alongside community engagement and uplift. Amazon has shown they do not align with their unwillingness to comply with basic standards of safe, well paying jobs without added pollution or injury rates set by the community. This win has shown our voices can fight the careless greed of corporations that add harm to our environment,” said Chloe Desir, Environmental Justice Organizer at Ironbound Community Corporation.
“We were at a crossroads of crisis and justice. We chose justice. Environmental justice and labor advocates, representing Newark and Elizabeth, stood strong in this effort to shut down the secret deal between Amazon and the Port Authority. This is a huge victory for Newark, Elizabeth and the rest of New Jersey. Our coalition is committed to setting higher standards: No more bad jobs, and dirty air in black and Latinx communities. Our community deserves protection,” stated Terrance L. Bankston, NJ Environmental Justice Organizer at Clean Water Action.
Additionally, the coalition brought local elected officials into the fight. U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (NJ-10), U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ-1), Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, State Senator Joe Cryan, and Assembly Majority Conference Leader Annette Quijano have expressed their concern and opposition to the proposed deal.
New Jersey State Senator Joe Cryan stated, “Today, workers rights and dignity won in a battle against corporate interests, and I am so thankful to the Port Authority of NY/NJ for siding with the workers. This effort could not have been possible without the hard work and grassroots organizing efforts of legislators and advocates such as Make the Road New Jersey, who fought long and hard for fair employment protections.”
In June, 15 federal, state and local elected officials sent a letter to the Port Authority demanding an end to the secret deal. In addition, Congressman Donald Norcross has called on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to conduct an investigation into work conditions at Amazon warehouses.
Chanda Causer, Executive Director of Main Street Alliance, stated, “Corporate greed limits economic opportunity for workers and small businesses alike. Black and Latinx organizers fought and won against Amazon in Newark, demonstrating the power of our communities. Main Street Alliance is proud to elevate the voices of small business owners in partnership and solidarity with workers, as we push our leaders to act and rein in monopoly power.”
“It is very inspiring to see a coalition of grassroots organizations, local businesses, and labor unions, supported by residents, motivate the Port Authority and our representatives into taking action for the benefit of our community, well-being, and planet. This is the paradigm of Environmental and Social Justice we should continuously strive for, true community input, representation, and empowerment,” stated Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds, Newark Environmental Commission and Executive Director of Weequahic Park Association.
“This is a win for the community and for workers. The Amazon cargo hub secretly planned last year for Newark Airport would have increased toxic pollution in the area, jeopardizing the health of the overwhelmingly Black and Latinx community residents who live nearby. Amazon has been building warehouses across our state at a head-spinning rate, without community input and without a commitment to safe, quality jobs. We need good jobs and clean air in New Jersey, not this Amazon cargo hub. Our union is proud to have been part of the coalition that opposed this misguided secret deal,” said Megan Chambers, Co-Manager of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, affiliated with Workers United, SEIU.
Good Jobs Clean Air NJ is a community coalition from Newark, Elizabeth, and communities surrounding Newark International Airport that demands good jobs for workers, clean air for children and families to breathe, reduced traffic congestion and zero emissions, and protection for small businesses.