Amazon workers stage global 'Prime Day' strikes over poor working conditions

On 15-16 July 2019, Amazon warehouse workers around the world plan to stage strikes during 'Prime Day' - a two-day event where Amazon offers it's Prime members discount deals - over poor working conditions, including low wages, high targets, and dangerous working conditions. Workers in the US are also protesting against Amazon's involvement in the US authorities' deportation efforts.

In response to US strikes, Amazon has said: "We provide great employment opportunities with excellent pay... and comprehensive benefits including healthcare, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more... [Amazon] encourages anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other retailers and major employers... across the country.” You can read further comments in the articles below.

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Article
8 August 2019

US: Continued allegations of bad working conditions in Amazon warehouses

Author: Michael Sainato, The Guardian

"Revealed: Amazon touts high wages while ignoring issues in its warehouses", 7 August 2019 

Amazon won praise when it raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in October 2018. Since then, the company has responded to criticism over its working conditions by claiming it is an industry leader in compensation, but a Guardian investigation has revealed many workers take issue with this messaging, as serious workplace issues remain that they say are still not being addressed. 

They include claims workers are being punished for injuries; the elimination of bonuses and stock options, which has lessened the impact of the wage rise; poor working conditions; higher productivity demands and the hiring of temporary workers who do not have the same benefits as Amazon staff...

An Amazon spokesperson told the Guardian in an email: “It’s more complicated than that and we’re not able to provide private medical information.” They added that their action had been in accordance with New Jersey state workers’ compensation laws.

Other workers have complaints about different aspects of Amazon’s working conditions.

“Amazon is leaning heavily on this compensation angle for a lot of their messaging, but they’re not addressing the core workplace issues workers are bringing up,” said William Stolz, a picker for two years at the Shakopee, Minnesota, Amazon fulfillment center who last month helped organize an employee walkout...

Stolz noted the Amazon minimum wage increase came with the elimination of monthly bonuses and stock options for employees. He also claimed that since the beginning of this year, his fulfillment center had exclusively hired temporary workers who don’t have the same job security and benefits as direct hires.

An Amazon spokesperson said 150 out of 1,500 workers at the Shakopee fulfillment center were currently temporary employees, and 100 temporary workers at the center had been hired into full-time roles this year. 

An Amazon spokesperson told the Guardian in an email...  “Simply put, people would not want to work for Amazon if our working conditions truly were as our critics portray them to be during this period of record low unemployment and plentiful job opportunities. But 250,000 people choose to work for Amazon in our fulfillment network.”

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Author: Le Figaro et AFP (France)

« Les salariés d'Amazon se mobilisent à l'international contre leurs conditions de travail », 16 juillet 2019

À l'occasion du «Prime day», une journée de super promotion...des salariés d'Amazon ont organisé une journée de contestation afin de réclamer de meilleures conditions de travail...

«Nous avons reçu des informations horrifiantes sur des employés obligés d'uriner dans des bouteilles en plastique faute de pouvoir aller aux toilettes ou sur des femmes enceintes forcées de rester debout et certaines visées par des licenciements», a écrit dans un communiqué le syndicat britannique GMB.

Outre les cadences jugées trop rapides, la surveillance des employés à travers des méthodes contestées de «tracking» (contrôle du temps de travail et des performances) ou la suppression des pauses, les employés d'Amazon Logistics déplorent leurs salaires trop faibles et réclament des conventions collectives ou un dialogue social plus apaisé...

...Malgré ces critiques, la direction du groupe se défend localement. «Amazon prouve chaque jour qu'on peut être un employeur honnête et responsable vis-à-vis de ses employés en Allemagne sans accord collectif»...Dans les centres allemands, les salaires «sont au plus haut de ce qui est payé pour des emplois comparables», a-t-il ajouté, soulignant que plus de «8000 employés» travaillaient chez Amazon «depuis plus de cinq ans».

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Article
18 July 2019

USA: Amazon's response to policymakers' letter re. poor working conditions

Author: Amazon

"Amazon renews open invitation for Sanders, policymakers to visit fulfillment centers", 16 July 2019 

...The allegations outlined in this letter are not an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings. But don’t take our word for it, join the more than 125,000 people, including 441 policymakers and their staffs, who have taken our public tours this year... Our visitors have included U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar who did not raise concerns in the months following her tour of our Minnesota facility. We have also given Senator Bernie Sanders an open invitation to visit a facility of his choosing... He committed to visiting, but to date has never stepped foot in one of our buildings...

Safety is a fundamental principle across our company... We continually invest in innovative ways to create a safe working environment...We regularly seek employee feedback about safety...

For us, one incident is too many. That’s why we take all necessary measures to ensure we meet and exceed safety requirements and continuously update our safety policies and trainings to prevent incidents.

If Rep. Omar and Sen. Sanders really want to help the American worker, they should focus on passing legislation that raises the federal minimum wage — $7.25 is too low.

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Article
18 July 2019

USA: Members of Congress ask for probe on Amazon working conditions following 'Prime Day' protests

Author: Rebecca Klar, The Hill

"Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses", 16 July 2019 

A dozen Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the Department of Labor... asking the agency to investigate Amazon for potential workplace abuse as employees at a Minnesota center protested what they called unfair and unsafe conditions. 

The letter... calls on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to look into conditions at all Amazon warehouses.

Amazon, in a blog post, denied the allegations of unsafe conditions and renewed an open invitation for lawmakers to tour facilities... 

"Hundreds of stories shared with our offices paint a picture of desperation and a corporate employer with little regard for the health of its employees," the letter reads. One worker described the warehouse as a "21st century sweatshop," and other workers said there is no air conditioning in facilities...

Some Amazon employees said they feared retaliation for bathroom breaks and would limit the amount of liquids they consumed, and one said they took medication to not have to use the restroom, according to the letter...

Amazon defended itself against the allegations outlined in the letter, saying the claims are not an accurate portrayal of its buildings... 

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Article
15 July 2019

Germany: More than 2000 Amazon workers strike during Prime Day over poor wages

Author: Paul Carrel, Thomson Reuters

"Amazon workers in Germany strike over pay, Verdi union says", 14 July 2019

More than 2,000 workers at seven Amazon sites across Germany have gone on strike over pay for at least two days, labor union Verdi said on Monday.

The walkouts, under the motto ‘No more discount on our incomes”, started overnight and coincide with Amazon’s Prime Day...

...“While Amazon fuels bargain hunting on Prime Day with hefty discounts, employees are being deprived of a living wage,” Verdi retail specialist Orhan Akman said in a statement...

...Amazon did not provide exact numbers for how many employees were striking but said participation was limited and had no impact on customer deliveries.

“The company must finally recognize the collective wage agreements for the retail and mail order sectors,” Akman said. “Wages and salaries at Amazon must no longer be determined in the style of a lord of the manor.”

An Amazon spokesman said the company was a fair and responsible employer even without having a collective agreement in place, adding: “In our fulfillment centers, our wages are at the upper end of what is paid in comparable jobs.”

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Article
15 July 2019

UK: Amazon warehouse workers stage Prime Day protests in response to dangerous working conditions

Author: GMB Union

"UK-wide Amazon Prime Day protests", 15 July 2019

...GMB, the union for Amazon workers, is staging Prime Day protests across the UK in anger at the appalling working conditions in the retail giant’s warehouses.

From today, the union will hold demonstrations outside Amazon fulfilment centres, including Rugeley, Swansea, Peterborough, Warrington, Coventry, Doncaster and Milton Keynes.

GMB research has revealed the dangerous conditions Amazon workers struggle under. Since 2015/16, more than 600 reports have been made from Amazon warehouses to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

GMB members report targets being so horrific they have to use plastic bottles to urinate in instead of going to the toilet, and pregnant women have been forced to stand for hours on end, and some pregnant women have been targeted for dismissal...

...Mick Rix, GMB National Officer...“Amazon workers want Jeff Bezos to know they are people – not robots. It's  time for him to show empathy with the very people that have helped to contribute to his vast and increasing personal fortune..."

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Article
15 July 2019

US: Activists plan Prime Day protests against Amazon's labour practices and involvement in US deportation efforts

Author: Kari Paul, The Guardian

"Prime Day: activists plan protests in US cities and a boycott of e-commerce giant", 15 July 2019

Activists, immigrants and Amazon employees are planning actions against the e-commerce giant on its annual Prime Day, to protest against its labor practices and its involvement with US authorities’ deportation efforts.

The protests on Monday are set to take place in at least seven US cities, and will coincide with the yearly sale that made the company more than $4bn in 2018...

...Protesters will deliver to Jeff Bezos’s home in Manhattan on Monday 250,000 petitions calling on Amazon to cut ties with government agencies responsible for deportation. Protests will also take place in Seattle and San Francisco...

...Amazon Web Services hosts Department of Homeland Security databases that allow the department and its agencies to track and apprehend immigrants.The company is also in talks to expand a partnership to host new DHS biometric databases that store more extensive data, including eye color, tattoos and other identifiers...

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Article
15 July 2019

USA: Amazon tech workers join Prime Day strikes in support of warehouse workers

Author: Julie Bort, Business Insider

"Some of Amazon's highly paid tech workers say warehouse worker conditions are 'a source of shame", 12 July 2019

A group of Amazon's tech workers are openly supporting the planned strike by Amazon warehouse workers in Shakopee, Minnesota, next week during the online retailer's Prime Day shopping event.

Some of them will even be flying out to walk the picket line and give speeches during the strike, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice...said.

Others are publicly sharing letters and words of encourage to the strikers...with multiple employees saying they are ashamed of the treatment of the fulfillment center workers... 

...While Amazon customers are anticipating the bargains, these Minnesota workers are using the spotlight to push for better conditions. They want higher pay, more reasonable workloads, and better opportunities for advancement...

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Article
15 July 2019

USA: Somali immigrant-led strikes against Amazon take place during Prime Day in response to labour rights violations

Author: Harvey Markowitz, Workers World

"Somali immigrant-led Workers’ Center to strike on Amazon Prime Day", 14 July 2019

Workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn., plan a wildcat “Prime Day” strike Monday, July 15, as an act of worker power against one of the richest corporations worldwide. An anticipated 100 workers, organized with the help of the Awood Center, will hold a six-hour work stoppage for parts of the day and night shifts on the first day of the company’s summer sales event...

...These workers are taking action against the increased daily indignities and dangers which workers face all over the U.S. and worldwide... 

...The five Amazon facilities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area have been recent hotbeds of labor actions and demands...

...Unlike their counterparts at Amazon warehouses in continental Europe, the workers in Shakopee, Minn., are not unionized. Yet they managed to bring Amazon into negotiations and won some initial limited concessions. The workers continue to demand safe conditions, livable wages, decent benefits and the respect they deserve...

...The workforce at the fulfillment center is predominantly made up of East African immigrants, but workers of many nationalities support the walkout. Previous worker solidarity actions have featured signs and chants in Somali, Amharic and Oromo languages, as well as English...

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Article
10 July 2019

USA: Amazon warehouse employees plan Prime Day strike against unsafe working conditions and labour conditions

Author: Anthony Cuthbertson, The Independent

"Amazon Prime Day 2019 strike planned as shoppers await best deals of huge sales event", 9 July 2019

...Employees in Amazon’s Shakopee warehouse in Minnesota will walk out during Prime Day on 15 July in protest against perceived unsafe working conditions.

Awood Center, a workers’ rights advocacy group, is leading the protest and is demanding reduced quotas and for more temporary workers to be granted full-time positions.

...Amazon claims that 90 per cent of the workers at the Shakopee warehouse are employed full-time, with over 100 temporary workers converting to full-time positions this year.

...[Amazon] also claims that productivity metrics have not changed since November 2018.

“The fact is Amazon offers already what this outside organisation is asking for...We provide great employment opportunities with excellent pay ranging from $16.25-$20.80 an hour, and comprehensive benefits including healthcare, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more.”...

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