Leading figure of the trade union movement at Amazon died

Florian Wilde, Fanny Zeise

Obituary for Christian Krähling

We were stunned and deeply saddened to learn that Christian Krähling – ver.di ombudsman at the Amazon site in Bad Hersfeld and perhaps the most important leading figure of the trade union movement at Amazon in Germany – died on his 43rd birthday. Christian had been closely associated with the work of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung (RLS) for many years.

Since the first “Renewal through Strike” conference in Stuttgart in 2013, he was a participant in this conference series, which he always enriched with his own contributions and to which he travelled together with colleagues from the dispatch centre. At the 2016 RLS “strike conference” in Frankfurt, for example, he described in the workshop “Industrial action under difficult conditions” how he and a handful of upright Verdi unionists were the first to stand up to the online giant Amazon and take up the struggle for an appropriate collective agreement. His company group grew rapidly and was soon able to motivate colleagues at the other German sites to also become active and join the struggle. This struggle has been going on for 10 years now, with the workers using ever new forms of action, pinpricks, boycott actions and strikes to put pressure on their cause. In the process, the activists themselves are under strong pressure from the global corporation, which tries in ever new ways to undermine their solidarity and weaken their fighting strength. In 2019, Christian dealt with these perfidious attacks at the 4th strike conference in Braunschweig in a working group on “Countering the low-wage sector” and gave a lecture on “Divisive strategies of the giant, counter-strategies of the activists”.

With Christian, the globally operating company had an unwavering internationalist as an opponent. Early on, the strikers in Bad Hersfeld had the experience that Amazon shifted the shipping to other European countries without further ado, in order to take away the effect of their strike actions. Again and again Christian visited the Amazon workers in Poland, France and Spain. He also played a central role in the international council “Solidarity across borders” organised by the RLS in October 2015 and used the opportunity to establish a network with union-active Amazon workers from other European countries. The RLS brochure “Der lange Kampf der Amazon-Beschäftigten. Laboratory of Resistance: Global union organising in online retail” would probably never have been published without Christian’s worker expertise

Like all Amazon workers, Christian was subjected to almost seamless surveillance of his work by the data octopus corporation using the most modern technologies – and he organised resistance against this as well. In 2017, he spoke about his experiences with the dark side of digitalisation at a symposium jointly organised by ver.di, IG Metall and the RLS entitled “Digital revolution – who says where things go? Christian emphasised that trade unions must be proactive in these conflicts, “and find a language that colleagues in the factories understand”.

Making left-wing and trade union politics understandable in the workplaces was a matter close to his heart, and he tried to develop his own ways of expressing this through poems and music. These poems bear witness to the fact that Christian was a tough and undaunted fighter, but also an extremely sensitive person.

We don’t know whether his boss Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, took any notice of the passing of one of his most important counterparts within the company. He is probably far too blinded by the additional billions in profits he is profiting from the Corona pandemic, which has boosted his fortune to $121 billion. It currently continues to grow by $2,498 per second – more than Christian netted in an entire month of hard work at Amazon. Bezos’ wealth is based on the merciless exploitation of his workers – a state to which Christian tried to put an end and for which he argued, organised and went on strike for 10 years.  “Picket late shift FRA3 stands!” – was his last Facebook post on 1 December 2020. A few days later he passed away. He will be greatly missed, by us too. We see Christian Krähling’s much too early death as an obligation to continue to support the struggle for dignified working conditions and a decent collective agreement for Amazon workers.

Amazon brochure in English: www.rosalux.eu/struggle-of-amazon-employees

Amazon borchure in German: www.rosalux.de/publikation/id/8529/der-lange-kampf-der-amazon-beschaeftigen