Amazon employees around the globe will protest on Black Friday: here's why
Employees of Amazon are gearing up to protest the e-commerce powerhouse in over 20 countries during one of the busiest days of the year for retail: Black Friday.
The movement behind the strike is called Make Amazon Pay. They proclaim to be "workers and activists divided by geography and our role in the global economy, but united in our commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes and for its impact on the planet."
The main complaint has been about how Amazon treats its workers, from long hours to limited bathroom breaks. On top of that comes the strain that workers in online commerce have been facing since the Covid-19 outbreak.
Not helping the public image of Amazon is its founder, Jeff Bezos. The richest man in the world, according to Forbes, has earned over 80 billion US dollars since early 2020.
Forbes also reports that Bezos, who got worldwide attention for his spaceflight in July 2021, paid less than 1% in taxes between 2014 and 2018 while his fortune skyrocketed.
"During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion dollar corporation. (...) Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse
workers risked their lives as essential workers and only briefly received an increase in pay," the organization Make Amazon Pay declares.
According to Business Insider, this strike is part of a bigger battle led by Amazon workers to try to unionize in the United States. "The e-commerce giant became embroiled in controversy earlier this year after reports surfaced that it allegedly participated in union-busting tactics," Business Insider writes.
Besides working conditions and tax evasion, other complaints include the company’s impact on the environment. This photo shows a protester against the construction of a new Amazon warehouse in southeastern France holding a sign that says "Amazon destroys the planet."
Kelly Nantel, director of national media relations at Amazon US, told VICE that although the company isn't perfect, they are doing their best to address these issues. "If you objectively look at what Amazon is doing in each one of these areas you’ll see that we take our role and our impact very seriously," she declared.
Nantel also stressed that Amazon’s average starting wage is more than $18 an hour in some locations, more than double than the average minimum wage in the country. Finally, she said that the retail giant hired more workers in 2020 than any other company in the United States.
Make Amazon Pay claims in their website that they have the support of over 70 trade unions and organizations around the globe, including Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Oxfam, Labour Behind The Label, and the International Trade Union Confederation.
Among the countries that have joined the protest are groups in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Turkey and Cambodia.
This is hardly the first time activists have used Black Friday to protest. GMB, one of the largest trade unions in the UK, organized a strike in 2018 with the motto: "We're not robots."
This year, The Guardian reports, up to 85% of small retailers are planning to boycott Black Friday. They do so because of their belief that e-commerce giants like Amazon have an unfair advantage.
In 2019, several labor and environmental groups in France tried to block an Amazon distribution center in a movement called 'Block Friday.' The protesters were dispersed by the police.
One of the most successful protests happened in Italy in March of 2020, when a nationwide strike made the entire company stop for 24 hours. "We’re not asking for pay rises right now, but for a more humane working schedule," remarked one of the trade union leaders behind the protest.
However, given the sheer scope of Amazon's operation, it's hard to tell how effective these protests across the globe can actually be. After all, the whole company won't stop with Christmas just around the corner.
People in many countries have also grown accustomed to the ease of online shopping, not to mention the lower prices in comparison to retail stores. To these consumers, the cost of such convenience may not always be clear.