Thousands of Amazon warehouse workers in about 40 countries plan to protest and walk out on Black Friday, which is one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.
As the cost of living crisis gets worse, workers in the U.S., UK, India, Japan, Australia, South Africa, and the rest of Europe are calling for better wages and working conditions in a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay.” The campaign is being run with the help of environmental and civil society groups by an international group of trade unions.
Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union and one of the campaign’s organizers, said, “It’s time for the tech giant to stop their awful and dangerous practices right away, follow the law, and talk to the workers who want to make their jobs better.”
At the e-commerce giant, workers have been a source of trouble for a long time. They have complained about unfair labor practices and tried to form unions at some facilities. This year, workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted to join a new union. This was seen as a big step forward.
Amazon spokesman David Nieberg said, “We’re not perfect in any way, but if you look at what we’re doing in these important areas, you’ll see that we do take our role and our impact very seriously.”
He said that the company’s goal is to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and that it is “continuing to offer competitive wages and great benefits and coming up with new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy.”
CGT and Ver. di unions in France and Germany are leading the newest collective action, with coordinated strikes in 18 large warehouses aimed to delay shipments across key European markets.
Monika di Silvestre, the chair of Ver.di’s Amazon committee in Germany stated that workers were particularly concerned about how computers carefully monitored their productivity, with algorithms defining targets such as the number of packages they needed to handle each hour.
“With these algorithms, the workers are under a lot of strain,” she explained. “It makes no distinction between workers, whether they are elderly or have restricted mobility.” Workers are kept awake at night by their productivity statistics.”
She asked European politicians to improve the rights of workers all over the bloc. “On a European level, we don’t have the right to go on strike,” she said.
In the UK, GMB union workers are planning protests outside of several warehouses, including one in Coventry.
Amanda Gearing, a senior GMB organizer, said, “Amazon workers in Coventry are overworked and underpaid, and they’ve had enough.” She added that “hundreds” of people will gather to demand a wage increase from £10.50 an hour to £15.
Amazon announced last month that warehouse workers in the UK would get a £500 bonus. If a worker quits in the middle of a shift, they could miss out on the second half of the bonus. The final payment will only be made if there are “no unauthorized absences” from November 22 to December 24. The GMB has said that linking pay to attendance could be seen as an illegal way to get workers not to go on strike.
Protests and rallies will take place around the United States, including outside an apartment building on 5th Avenue in New York, where Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns a home.
Multiple rallies are also planned in India, while members of a newly formed union in Japan will protest in front of the company’s national offices in Tokyo. Garment workers from Amazon’s supply chain will march in Dhaka and Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Some protests will focus on Amazon’s environmental and social footprint, such as in Ireland, where protestors will rally outside the company’s Dublin offices to oppose two new data centers proposed for the city.
Protesters in South Africa will congregate near Amazon’s new offices in Cape Town, which are being built on indigenous people’s holy territory.
Some labor unions expressed concern about the present economic situation, after Amazon’s warning that its peak Christmas season may not be as busy as normal. The company’s decision to lay off 10,000 employees will also make salary discussions more difficult.
Laurent Cretin, a representative for the French CFE-CGC union, said the company will have 880 workers in a warehouse in Chalon-sur-Saône this Christmas season, down from 1,000 previously, citing tightened consumer spending and the shift of activities to robotized warehouses.
“The projections aren’t terrific, and we’re not convinced we’ll do as well as we did last year, which saw a post-covid boom,” he said.