Amazon workers and activists in 30 countries marked the traditional start of the holiday shopping season with a series of walkouts and protests demanding better wages and working conditions.
In Manhattan, activists, unions and Amazon workers marched past company founder Jeff Bezos’ penthouse in the Tony Flatiron neighborhood.
Outside St. Louis, a few dozen workers left the massive STL8 facility on Friday afternoon. This is the second wildcat strike at the 900,000 square foot distribution center, where workers also picketed in September to protest over wages and working conditions. Workers at the location are demanding a $10 per hour raise and improving working conditions, they say, is causing too many workers to get injured on the job.
The groups involved in the campaign are promoting it on Twitter under the hashtag #MakeAmazonPay. They have a range of demands. Many are calling for a pay rise, an end to worker surveillance and a work pace conducive to an above-average rate of workplace accidents.
Industrial action is also planned at Whole Foods stores, which Amazon owns, and other locations in Bessemer, Alabama; Columbia, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan; Durham, North Carolina; Garner, North Carolina; Joliet, Ill.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; and Washington, D.C.
In Germany, workers demonstrated at nine of Amazon’s 20 warehouses in the country, the company told Reuters, although it said the “vast majority” of employees said they were working as usual.
In Coventry, England, workers gathered in the evening outside an Amazon factory saying “We are not robots”.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, activists gathered outside the National Congress building holding signs reading “Make Amazon Pay”.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the shares.
“On Black Friday, in what has already been dubbed #MakeAmazonPay day, unions, civil society and progressive elected officials will stand side by side in a massive global day of action to expose the despicable campaigns of millions of dollars from Amazon to kill the efforts of worker-led unions,” Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, a group leading the protests, said in a statement. “It’s time for the tech giant to immediately stop its horrific and dangerous practices, uphold the law, and bargain with workers who want to do their jobs better.”
Among the countries where Amazon is facing strikes and protests, according to UNI: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey and United Kingdom
Monika di Silvestre, head of Ver.di, a German labor group that helps organize the #MakeAmazonPay campaign, told Bloomberg that workers are particularly concerned about Amazon’s use of computers to monitor their productivity.
“Workers are under a lot of pressure with these algorithms,” she said. “It doesn’t discriminate between workers whether they’re elderly or disabled. Workers stay up at night thinking only about their productivity stats.”
Nearly half of all injuries recorded in US warehouses in 2021 happened on Amazonaccording to the Center for Strategic Organizing, a coalition of trade unions.
“Amazon employed one-third of all warehouse workers in the United States, but it was responsible for nearly half (49%) of all injuries in the warehouse industry,” according to the SOC report.
Amazon has previously defended its safety record and denied that injury rates are higher at the company’s warehouses.
The company has faced growing pressure in the United States from workers seeking to unionize. Earlier this year, a warehouse on Staten Island in New York became the first Amazon fulfillment center to organize, and other facilities have also filed demands for collective bargaining rights. More recently, workers at an Amazon warehouse in upstate New York voted against unionization.
Last week, a federal judge ordered Amazon to stop retaliating against employees participating in workplace activism. The decision came in a legal case brought by the National Labor Relations Board, which sued Amazon in March for the reinstatement of a terminated employee who was involved in organizing the company’s Staten Island warehouse.
—Irina Ivanova of CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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