While people all over the globe will be splurging at the Amazon’s most awaited Prime Day sale, the employees of this e-commerce site are protesting at multiple sites across the globe demanding better working conditions among others. Workers at the Amazon warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, went on a six-hour work stoppage on its Prime day sale. As per reports from the BBC news, 2000 Amazon workers in Germany were on strike yesterday. And in the UK week long protests are planned.
Amazon started offering this sale five years ago, to its Prime customers who pay subscription fees in exchange of deep discounts on a range of products available on the site, with free shipping, next day delivery and other perks involved.
Bloomberg reports that, Willaim Stolz, one of the employees at Minnesota organizing the strike said, “Amazon is going to be telling one story about itself, which is they can ship a Kindle to your house in one day, isn’t that wonderful! But we want to take the opportunity to talk about what it takes to make that work happen and put pressure on Amazon to protect us and provide safe, reliable jobs.”
He says he has to pick an item about every eight seconds, or 332 per hour, for a 10 hour day.
“The speeds that we have to work are very physically and mentally exhausting, in some cases leading to injuries,” he said.
“Basically we just want them to treat us with respect as human beings and not treat us like machines,” he said.
Further Bloomberg also reported that Minnesota warehouse had become central to Amazon worker activism. There were talks between the employees and management to reduce workloads during Ramadan and designate a conference room as a prayer space.
But according to the workers Amazon has failed to meet these demands and the company terminates employees who do not meet the productivity quotas. In a letter last year to the National Labor Relations Board reported by The Verge, an attorney for Amazon said that hundreds of employees at one Baltimore facility were terminated within about a year for failing to meet productivity rates.
In May, the Washington Post had published a detailed report on how Amazon had gamified and made the productivity goals dynamic for its workers. Gamification generally refers to software programs that simulate video games by offering rewards, badges or bragging rights among the workers. The Amazon workers at its warehouses need to complete various tasks in order to earn these reward points.
While the protest was planned by Amazon warehouse workers, in an effort to show solidarity a few of the white collars Amazon engineers flew to Minnesota to join the protest. They are demanding the company take action against climate change, ease quotas, and make more temp employees permanent.
Amazon workers plan “Prime Day” Strike at Minnesota warehouse. Engineers plan to show solidarity w/colleagues.
To stand in solidarity w/them, please don’t cross the digital picket line by ordering from or going to Amazon’s site or app July 15-16 https://t.co/72174iqWbB
— Mar Hicks (@histoftech) July 8, 2019
”’We’re both fighting for a livable future,’ said a Seattle software engineer. “It’s the latest example of tech employees with very different jobs trying to forge common cause in the hopes their bosses find their demands harder to ignore.” In May, Amazon shareholders rejected 11 resolutions put forward by the employees which included Amazon’s controversial facial recognition technology, demands for more action on climate change, salary transparency, and other equity issues.
Tyler Hamilton, who works at the Shakopee warehouse, said he hoped that consumers would remember that there were people behind the packages that show up at their doors, often less than 48 hours after placing an order.
“We are the faces behind the boxes,” Hamilton said. “The little smiley face that comes with every package, not everyone in there smiles all the time. It can be rough sometimes. And, you should think about that when you order it.”
In Germany, Amazon employs 20,000 people. Labour union Verdi said more than 2,000 workers at seven sites had gone on strike under the logo “no more discount on our incomes”.
“While Amazon fuels bargain hunting on Prime Day with hefty discounts, employees are being deprived of a living wage,” said Orhan Akman, retail specialist at Verdi.
In the UK, GMB union officials handed leaflets to workers arriving at the site in Peterborough in the East Midlands, and in the coming days protests are expected at other sites such as Swansea and Rugeley, in the West Midlands.
Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said “Amazon workers want Jeff Bezos to know they are people not robots. It’s prime time for Amazon to get round the table with GMB and discuss ways to make workplaces safer and to give their workers and independence voice”.
Next week we’re staging protests at Amazon sites across the UK over the appalling conditions our members work under at the company.
— GMB UNION (@GMB_union) July 9, 2019
Amazon in response to this said that it “provided great employment opportunities with excellent pay”. The company has encouraged people to compare its operations in Shakopee with other employers in the area.
In the UK, where it employs 29,500 people, a spokesperson said the company offered industry-leading pay starting at £9.50 per hour and was the “employer of choice for thousands of people across the UK”.
It said its German operations offered wages “at the upper end of what is paid in comparable jobs” and it was “seeing very limited participation across Germany with zero operational impact and therefore no impact on customer deliveries”.
The planned strike has caught the attention of politicians. Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both offered public support on social media for the strike.
“I fully support Amazon workers’ Prime Day strike,” Warren said in a tweet. “Their fight for safe and reliable jobs is another reminder that we must come together to hold big corporations accountable.”
I fully support Amazon workers' Prime Day strike. Their fight for safe and reliable jobs is another reminder that we must come together to hold big corporations accountable. https://t.co/ZkDDt9zeHv
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) July 15, 2019
“I stand in solidarity with the courageous Amazon workers engaging in a work stoppage against unconscionable working conditions in their warehouses,” Sanders tweeted. “It is not too much to ask that a company owned by the wealthiest person in the world treat its workers with dignity and respect.”