Amazon workers’ worldwide Prime Day strikes

This 16 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Some Amazon Workers Go On Strike As Prime Day Begins | NBC Nightly News

As Amazon rolls out hundreds of deals, warehouse workers walked off the job, calling for safer workplace conditions and less strenuous standards to meet the huge demand for free two-day shipping.

By Kayla Costa in the USA:

Amazon workers internationally protest against conditions on Prime Day

16 July 2019

Thousands of warehouse and tech workers in the United States, the UK, Germany, Poland and Spain are engaged in strikes and demonstrations on Amazon “Prime Day”, a shopping holiday created by the online retail giant to promote sales through discounts to subscribers of its Amazon Prime membership.

This year, Amazon extended Prime Day from 36 to 48 hours. The one-trillion-dollar corporation headed by CEO Jeff Bezos expects to rake in more than $5 billion in sales over the two days, a new record for the company’s annual promotion.

The sales bonanza is carried out on the backs of the workers, who are forced to move faster and process higher volumes of orders with no increase in their poverty-level compensation.

Since last year’s Prime Day, when workers carried out strikes in the US and Europe, conditions have only worsened. Amazon representatives boasted to the media yesterday that “our wages are at the upper end of what is paid in comparable jobs.” They claimed that the protesting workers were “misinformed”, since the company had raised its minimum US wage to $15 an hour. They were silent on the fact that Bezos had at the same time eliminated bonus payments, actually reducing take-home pay for some workers.

Workers continue to report health and safety violations, speedup, increased quotas, harassment and injuries. This is the reality that has propelled Amazon workers in many parts of the world to protest against dangerous working conditions, inadequate compensation and grotesque inequality between employees and corporate executives. Amazon workers are also solidarizing themselves with immigrants being scapegoated and persecuted by the Trump administration and governments across Europe. They are denouncing Amazon’s ties to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the midst of immigrant raidsDonald Trump’s massive anti-immigrant raids starting launched Sunday and Trump’s latest attack on the right to asylum.

Two thousand German workers participated in strikes at warehouses in Werne, Rheinberg, Leipzig, Graben, Koblenz and Bad Hersfeld. The strikes, organized by the Verdi union, were held under the slogan “No more discount on our incomes”, though rank-and-file workers raised a number of issues beyond pay.

In the United Kingdom, hundreds of workers will join protests across the country throughout the week to voice their opposition. …

Workers in Spain and Poland will also participate in demonstrations throughout the week.

In the United States, some 1,500 full-time workers at a fulfillment center near Minneapolis, Minnesota are holding a six-hour strike between the day and night shifts. This is the second major action workers have carried out at the facility since a group of East African Muslim workers began speaking out 18 months ago, and it is the first major strike by Amazon workers in North America.

On top of the usual harassment, speedup and on-the-job injuries that all warehouse workers face, immigrant workers were initially denied adequate time for prayer breaks. Even after the company agreed to the breaks, workers were still required to meet the quota of 230 items per hour, heightening the risk of being arbitrarily fired or injured. Immigrant workers began organizing themselves alongside native-born workers, with the support of a local immigrant rights organization, the Awood Center.

Amazon workers and supporters are also protesting the ties of Amazon Web Services (AWS) to ICE, as well as the poor conditions facing AWS workers. Demonstrations were attended by hundreds in San Francisco, Portland and New York, in addition to a protest at the headquarters building in Seattle, Washington. Activists associated with Jobs with Justice plan to turn in a petition at Bezos’s Manhattan mansion and the company’s San Francisco office demanding an end to the use of AWS facial recognition technology by ICE. The petition has 270,000 signatures.

Tech workers published an open letter to Bezos in June of 2018 opposing the contract between AWS and ICE after Google and Microsoft employees drafted similar letters in opposition to their companies’ ties to US militarism. More recently in Boston, hundreds of Wayfair workers walked off their jobs at the online furniture retailer to protest the company’s decision to profit from sales to immigrant detention centers.

The protests this week are an indication of the power that can be unleashed by Amazon workers internationally. Within the global logistics and technology supply chain, the workers constitute an international force at the heart of the world economy. It is especially significant that American workers are protesting not just poor compensation and working conditions, but also the role of the company in aiding the US government in its savage crackdown on immigrants.

The World Socialist Web Site spoke with several Amazon workers about the Prime Day events. Michelle, an injured warehouse worker from Texas, sent a message via the WSWS to the striking Amazon workers. She wrote: “Don’t give in, because what Jeff Bezos doesn’t understand is that the people hold the power, not the company. There is strength in numbers… the workers don’t need Amazon; Amazon needs its workers.”

She pointed to “a small problem” in the current strikes—that they were too short and isolated to “make a dent” in such a giant corporation. But, she continued, “If they lasted longer and there were even delivery drivers and pilots refusing to work a few days…now that would be something.”

Michelle reflected on the common interests of different sections of the working class—for example, Amazon workers and autoworkers, where “the employees are struggling and sacrificing so much while the company is making so much profit off of their suffering.”

Beyond the initial steps taken to protest on Prime Day, Amazon workers must develop their struggle on the basis of their international strength. Company leaders boasted that isolated, short-term strikes in a few scattered hubs would barely impact the massive profits made during the online frenzy, but this must only stir workers to counter the global strategy of Amazon to maximize the exploitation of workers with a globally coordinated strategy for workers to fight back and assert their interests in opposition to the profit drive of the company. …

A number of unions issued statements of support for the striking workers. “Amazon workers are sending a powerful message to Jeff Bezos this Prime Day: It’s time to stop putting profits ahead of people,” United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone said in a statement. “With the recent move to one-day Prime shipping, Amazon workers are being forced to meet impossible demands at increasingly unsafe speeds”, he added. …

Workers need to establish rank-and-file committees to link up every tech center and fulfillment center and develop a program of demands that bases itself on the workers’ interests, not what the company says it can afford: for decent and safe full-time jobs, adequate break time, steep increases to wages and benefits, workers’ control over line speed and production, among other demands.

Such committees established at Amazon facilities around the world will make possible an internationally coordinated struggle to unite the workers against the transnational company and link up with the struggles of other logistics workers, autoworkers, service workers, nurses, teachers and other sections of the international working class.

This video from Minnesota, USA says about itself:

Fulfillment Workers Strike On ‘Prime Day’

Here in the Twin Cities, labor leaders are using Prime Day to call attention to conditions in the Amazon warehouses, Kate Raddatz reports. WCCO 4 News At 6 – July 15, 2019.

Amazon workers at a Minnesota warehouse plan strike action

From daily News Line in Britain, 16 July 2019:

WORKERS at the online retail giant Amazon warehouse in Minnesota were out on a six hours-long strike yesterday called to coincide with the company’s largest sales event of the year in the first major US strike the company has faced.

July 15 was the start of a two-day Amazon ‘Prime Day’ where consumers are offered large discounts – discounts that workers in their warehouses pay for through a brutal regime of exploitation.

This regime includes the constant monitoring of workers by electronic devices that measure to the second their work rate, toilet and meal breaks.

The speed demanded by Amazon from its workers in fulfilling orders pushes them to the absolute limit with workers complaining that they are forced to work a 10 hour day with only two half-hour breaks and having to walk up to 10 miles a day through the vast warehouse picking and packaging goods.

Failure to meet these productivity quotas results in automatic dismissal, last year 300 workers were fired by Amazon at its Baltimore warehouse for not meeting ‘efficiency standards’.

Compounding the already punishing work conditions at what Amazon calls ‘fulfilment centres’ is the recent decision by the company to offer one-day delivery to its Prime customers, a massive increase on the unrealistic pressure it already applies.

The significance of this Minnesota strike is that it is the first organised stoppage in the US during Amazon’s major promotional event, and it is being taken by workers who are denied union recognition, it reflects the rapidly growing campaign to organise Amazon workers across the US.

In Europe more than 2,000 workers at seven Amazon sites across Germany, the second-biggest market for the company after the US, have gone on strike over pay under the slogan ‘No more discount on our incomes’. In a statement the Verdi union said: ‘While Amazon fuels bargain hunting on Prime Day with hefty discounts, employees are being deprived of a living wage.’ Unions in Germany have been battling Amazon over better pay and conditions for workers since 2013.

In the UK yesterday, the GMB union (which is not recognised by the company) demonstrated outside Amazon warehouses around the demand ‘bosses treat your workers with respect’.

The ‘respect’ Amazon treats its workers with can be seen in the ‘brutal’ working conditions the GMB revealed earlier this year at the warehouse in Rugely in the Midlands where they discovered that ambulances were called 115 times, including three for women due to pregnancy/maternity and three for major trauma. While workers across the US and Europe are taking and demanding action, the call for Amazon to treat them with ‘respect’ is an insult.

Amazon bases its huge profits not on, as it likes to boast, great technological innovations but on the capitalist formula of exploiting its workers mercilessly, making them work till they drop and then sacking and replacing them with another stream of young workers desperate for a job.

The technology they have embraced is the technology designed to screw every last drop of blood from the working class for the lowest possible wages.

Amazon are not alone in this, and indeed are set to join up in the US with gig economy delivery service Deliveroo in a move to introduce new machinery that can pack boxes four to five times as fast as human workers.

Instead of treating workers with respect and stopping treating them as robots, Amazon is stating if you can’t work like a robot then you will be replaced by machines that can, and you can starve for all we care.

Under capitalism the vast scientific and technological developments are not used to advance the living standard of workers but as a cudgel to beat them in the pursuit of even greater profit.

The response of workers in the US and Europe to this is to rise up against this exploitation – as can be seen in the strikes against Amazon – led by a new generation of young workers internationally who are determined to fight.

They are rapidly reaching the conclusion that the fight against exploitation and for their rights as workers must be won though a struggle to remove capitalism through socialist revolution.

This is the only way forward.

JEWISH LEADER DENOUNCES PRO-NAZI GOODS ON AMAZON Germany’s largest umbrella organization for Jews is criticizing Amazon for allowing third-party vendors to sell pro-Nazi products on its site.   [HuffPost]

9 thoughts on “Amazon workers’ worldwide Prime Day strikes

  1. Amazon offers an awesome service, but unfortunately their workers are treated very badly. Let’s support them! let’s fight for better treatment of the workers!


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