As Amazon kicks off 48 hours of Prime Day sales on Monday, Amazon workers on both sides of the Atlantic are striking over wages and working conditions.
Prime Day is one of Amazon’s biggest days of the year, when members of Amazon Prime get exclusive deals.
That’s why Amazon workers in both the U.S. and Germany organized strikes for Monday, with workers at a Minnesota warehouse rallying Monday afternoon.
According to a Facebook event, Amazon workers in Minnesota assembled for a strike in the late afternoon outside their warehouse.
The afternoon walk-out is part of their efforts to persuade Amazon to “provide safe and reliable jobs, show respect for workers and their right to organize for better working conditions, open up opportunities for advancement for the predominantly East African workforce, and take concrete action to address pressing issues like climate change.”
“We are the people doing the job,” Amazon worker Safiyo Mohamed told Global News. The 24-year-old has worked at the Shapokee, Minn. site for two and a half years. She says around 200 people from both the day and night shifts went on strike Monday for four hours.
“We want a safe workplace,” Mohamed said of their demands.
“They have been hiring a lot of temporary workers so we wanted permanent workers. The most important thing is write-ups. Unfair write-ups.”
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The warehouse workers were joined by several tech workers from Amazon headquarters in Seattle, who are part of a group called the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice. In a post online, the group said that supporting their coworkers in Minnesota “is a natural part of our climate justice priorities” and that they intend on walking the picket line with them.
The strike in Minnesota is led by the Awood Center, a group advocating for East African workers. The word Awood means “power” in Somali.
This is not the first time Amazon workers in Minnesota have agitated for change. Last year, workers at the e-commerce giant’s non-union sites in Minnesota spoke out publicly about disagreeable working conditions, higher workloads and limited opportunities to move up.
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Management, they said, has failed to address their concerns, leading to the six-hour stoppage called for Prime Day.
Organizer and Amazon worker Guled Mohamad told the Associated Press last week that wages are still too low and pressure to produce is still too high.
“We need change,” Mohamad said. “We need something.”
Amazon responded to organizers’ allegations last week, telling the Associated Press that they were baseless.
“The fact is Amazon offers already what this outside organization is asking for,” spokesperson Brenda Alfred said in a statement. “We provide great employment opportunities with excellent pay — ranging from $16.25-$20.80 an hour, and comprehensive benefits including health care, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more.”
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Performance is measured and evaluated over a long period because the company understands “a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour,” Alfred said. Workers who do not meet expectations are given coaching.
In a statement to Reuters on Monday, an Amazon spokesman said Prime Day has “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 of $15 per hour, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees.”
The walkouts in Germany — Amazon’s second-biggest market after the U.S. — involved more than 2,000 workers at seven Amazon sites who have gone on strike over pay for at least two days, labor union Verdi told Reuters on Monday. Amazon has long battled with German unions over better pay and conditions for logistics workers, who have frequently gone on strike since 2013.
“While Amazon fuels bargain hunting on Prime Day with hefty discounts, employees are being deprived of a living wage,” Verdi retail specialist Orhan Akman said in a statement to Reuters.
Verdi said the strikes hit Amazon’s sites in Werne, Rheinberg, Leipzig, Graben, Koblenz, as well as at Amazon’s two sites in Bad Hersfeld.
An Amazon spokesman told Reuters the company was fair and responsible even without a collective agreement in place, adding: “In our fulfillment centers, our wages are at the upper end of what is paid in comparable jobs.”
Amazon runs 12 warehouses — which it calls “fulfillment centers” — in Germany. Earlier on Sunday, Amazon said it plans to open a new warehouse in Germany this year and create more than 2,800 jobs with permanent contracts.
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press