Looking to score a great deal on Prime Day? Workers who make the shopping holiday possible want you to think twice before you hit "order."
Employees and workers for the online retail behemoth in several countries — including the U.K., Poland, Spain, Germany, and the U.S. — went on strike or held rallies on Monday to protest unfair pay and working conditions ahead of the busiest days of the year for the company. The protests are also coming at a crucial time for the company, when for the first time it has extended Prime Day to two days, and started offering one-day shipping for Prime members, which workers say is contributing to overwhelming pressure in their jobs.
The protests started Sunday night, with workers at several Amazon sites across Germany going on strike, CNN reported. Using the slogan, "No more discount on our incomes," the protest was organized by Verdi, a German labor union. Around 2,000 workers participated to call for collective bargaining agreements that would raise pay.
"While Amazon throws huge discounts to its customers on Prime Day, employees lack a living wage," Verdi retail specialist Orhan Akman told CNN.
Around 3 p.m. Monday, warehouse workers at an Amazon facility in Shakopee, MN, began a six-hour strike, Bloomberg reported.
“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,” William Stolz, one of the Shakopee employees organizing the strike, told Bloomberg. “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.”
According to CNBC, a crowd of about 75 people had gathered outside the Shakopee facility by 5 p.m. Monday. They chanted "Amazon, hear our voice!” and “We work, we sweat, Amazon workers need a rest!”
Amazon said in an email to Refinery29 that a small number of employees participated. “Roughly 15 associates participated in the event outside of the Shakopee fulfillment center. It was obvious to the 1500-full-time workforce that an outside organization used Prime Day to raise its own visibility, conjured misinformation and a few associate voices to work in their favor, and relied on political rhetoric to fuel media attention," a spokesperson said. "The fact is that Amazon provides a safe, quality work environment in which associates are the heart and soul of the customer experience, and today’s event shows that our associates know that to be true. We encourage anyone to come take a tour anytime.”
Other supporting rallies were planned in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., according to CNN.
Meanwhile, pilots who fly the cargo planes that make Amazon delivery possible released a digital ad campaign on Prime Day calling attention to “concerns about how they are being overworked, underpaid, and disrespected by their carriers,” Adweek reported.
Although Amazon isn’t an airline carrier itself, it subcontracts its cargo planes to carriers and is a key player in the pilots' working conditions and their ongoing dispute with various carriers, including Atlas Air. The pilots' union launched a website called PilotsDeserveBetter.org to state its case, and issued a statement of solidarity in support of the striking workers in Minnesota.
"We are disappointed with the current state of relations between Atlas and their pilot union. Neither side seems willing to work towards a reasonable compromise," Amazon said in response to a request for comment from Refinery29 regarding the pilot dispute. "This is contrary to the interests of Atlas, the pilots, and the customers they both serve. We have an obligation to deliver to our customers, and so do they.”
In addition to garnering support from various labor unions and some consumers who pledged not to buy on Prime Day or use Amazon-owned services, the protests caught the attention of at least two 2020 presidential candidates. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has made reining in the power of tech companies like Amazon a central issue in her campaign, issued her support on Twitter, saying the protests were "another reminder that we must come together to hold big corporations accountable."
Sen. Bernie Sanders also weighed in, adding that fair wages are only "one component of the fight for workers' rights," in reference to the fact that the U.S. protestors are asking for improved working conditions.
In response to requests for comment from Refinery29, Amazon hit back against its critics. "Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues. These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause — industry leading pay, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees," an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Refinery29. "We can only conclude that the people who plan to attend the events are simply not informed. We encourage anyone to book a tour of our fulfillment centers and compare our overall pay, benefits, and workplace environment to other retailers and major employers in the community and across the country."
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Update: This post has been updated to reflect additional comments from Amazon.