Just in time for one of the biggest holiday shopping days of the year, Amazon workers across Europe and the United States are striking. The “Make Amazon Pay” campaign has organized strikes for the past four years, but now officials with the GMB Union, a UK trade union that organized the protesters, said in a statement “Today will see the largest day of industrial disruption in Amazon’s thirty-year history.”
‘Make Amazon Pay’ Black Friday Strike
Although Black Friday started in the US, it has become a popular shopping day in Europe as well. Traditional in-store shopping has dropped quite a bit as cyber purchases become more popular. For Amazon employees, this means warehouses filled with products that need to be packaged and shipped.
Citing a need for better pay and working conditions, Amazon workers across the UK went on strike on Black Friday, Nov. 24. The organizers, UNI Global Union, claimed to have assembled employees from more than 30 countries, including the US, to protest on behalf of the company’s treatment of employees. Here are a few brief highlights:
England: In Coventry, more than 200 workers went on strike. They have held 28 days of strikes already this year.
France: Amazon parcel lockers were plastered with posters in protest. The anti-globalization organization known as Attac, which called Black Friday a “celebration of overproduction and overconsumption,” planned the protest and said about 40 lockers across the country were targeted.
Germany: Amazon’s second-biggest market by to sales last year, Germany, saw around 2,000 workers strike across six fulfillment centers. At a warehouse in Rheinberg, 500 workers protested, accounting for almost 40% of the workforce, and in Leipzig, around 250 went on strike, about 20% of employees.
Italy: More than 60% of the workers at the Amazon warehouse in Castel San Giovanni protested.
Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union said:
“This day of action grows every year because the movement to hold Amazon accountable keeps getting bigger and stronger. Workers know that it doesn’t matter what country you’re in or what your job title is, we are all united in the fight for higher wages, an end to unreasonable quotas, and a voice on the job.”
In the US, Jessie Moreno from California said she and other workers “are on strike against Amazon’s unfair labor practices.” In a statement, she added:
“We have taken our picket line across the country and now we’re joining our colleagues from around the world to demand respect, fair wages, and a workplace where our health and safety are a priority. Amazon is no match for the power of its workers united.”
Amazon spokesperson Mary Kate Paradis said the “vast majority of these allegations are false or misinformed.” In a statement to The Hill, she elaborated:
“The fact is Amazon has created millions of good jobs, while helping create and support hundreds of thousands of small businesses around the world. We offer great pay and benefits for our employees with great career opportunities, and provide a modern and safe working environment for all.”
From warehouse staff to delivery drivers, Amazon workers claim they are overworked and underpaid. Most attempts to unionize have been thwarted by the online behemoth. The Teamsters claimed that when drivers in California tried to unionize, the company would not recognize a contract negotiated with the service partner, Battle-Tested Strategies (BTS), and the drivers were fired, according to CBS News. However, Amazon told the outlet that BTS only unionized with the Teamsters after the company terminated their contract, not before.
Amazon contracts its drivers through delivery service partners rather than employing them directly, and this is where American unions have focused their efforts. Last year, New York voted to form the first union, and while other similar drives have failed since, the push to unionize is becoming stronger.
Amazon claims the strikes happening in the UK and US will not impact customers, but Amanda Gearing, a senior organizer with GMB, told the BBC that “Amazon bosses are desperate to claim it will be business as usual for Amazon and their customers this Black Friday.”