Jeff Bezos briefly becomes richest person ever as Amazon workers strike for better conditions
Amazon’s Prime Day 2018 was full of ups and downs for the online retail giant.
As the day began, shares of the company climbed, making CEO Jeff Bezos the richest person in history even with inflation — with a net worth of over $151 billion, according to Forbes.
Bill Gates previously held the record, when his net worth exceeded $100 billion in 1999, equivalent to $151.2 billion in today’s dollars.
Then, as the website’s Prime Day got started at 3 p.m. ET, the website was hit with a technical glitch. In afternoon trading, shares were down.
Forbes reported that Bezos’ net worth was down to $149.7 billion.
Prime Day allows members to get deals on various items for 36 hours. It’s been running for four years, and the company says it’s its busiest day of the year.
That’s why workers chose to strike on this particular day.
Workers in Spain are out on a three-day strike, meanwhile, while in Poland they are staging a work to rule, a spokesperson from the Verdi services union told Reuters.
Workers in Germany plan to walk out in a one-day strike on Tuesday morning, demanding better working condition.
“The message is clear: while the online giant gets rich, it is saving money on the health of its workers,” said Stefanie Nutzenberger, Verdi’s top official responsible for the retail sector.
Amazon officials said fulfillment center jobs offered competitive pay and comprehensive benefits from the first day of employment. Permanent staff earn 12.22 euros ($14.31) an hour or more after two years.
“We believe Amazon’s Fulfillment Center jobs are excellent jobs providing a great place to learn skills to start and further develop a career,” the company said in comments emailed to Reuters.
In a press release, Verdi officials said German workers have been struggling with health problems for years, because of “severe physical and mental stress.”
In the U.K., an undercover reporter for the Mirror found said the company imposes strict quotas per hour, timed toilet breaks and exhausting “intolerable” conditions.
In the U.S., workers have complained of grueling work conditions as well.
Seth King, who worked at an Amazon warehouse in Virginia, spoke out Monday night at a town hall hosted by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders called CEOsvsWorkers.
“They provided benefits and a 401K, and pretty quickly, right off the bat, realized that it’s a luxury to offer things like that when they burn people out so quickly that nobody really gets a chance to use it,” King said.
WATCH ABOVE: Former Amazon warehouse employee calls work environment ‘very isolating, very depressing’
“Their model is a revolving door that they’re pretty much just throwing bodies at the floor.
“I would start a day, come into work, do our stretches, then it was 10 hours, four days straight, walking, you’re not allow to sit down, you’re not allowed to talk to people on the same aisles — if I was caught just conversing with people throughout the day as I was working … you’d get written up.”
“The environment is very isolating, very depressing,” he said, saying there were no windows in the warehouse.
King said he worked a second job to make ends meet for him and his two kids, and lived paycheque-to-paycheque while he was working at the warehouse.
Calls for boycott
Because of the strikes, some are calling for boycotts of Prime Day.
“Workers are calling for a #PrimeDay2018 boycott through July 16th.#AmazonStrike workers experience exhaustion, dehydration & workplace injuries,” Bonnie Castillo, of a U.S. nurses union, wrote on Twitter.
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