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Amazon Workers Strike on Black Friday in 40 Countries

Thousands of Amazon warehouse workers are planning to protest and walk out on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The workers, who are based in around 40 countries, are demanding better working conditions and pay.

November 24, 2022
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Thousands of Amazon warehouse workers are planning to protest and walk out on Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The workers, who are based in around 40 countries, are demanding better working conditions and pay.

Employees in the US, UK, India, Japan, Australia, South Africa and across Europe are demanding better wages and working conditions as the cost-of-living crisis deepens. The campaign, dubbed "Make Amazon Pay," is being coordinated by an international coalition of trade unions, with the support of environmental and civil society groups.

"It's time for the tech giant to stop their unsafe practices immediately, respect the law and negotiate with the workers who want to improve their jobs," said Christy Hoffman, general secretary for UNI Global Union, one of the organizers.

Tension between workers and management has been a long-running issue at the e-commerce giant, which has faced complaints of unfair labor practices as well as employee activism and union drives at some facilities. In what was seen as a watershed moment, workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted earlier this year to join an upstart union.

"We are constantly striving to improve in all areas, and if you look at our track record objectively, you'll see that we take our role and our impact very seriously," Amazon spokesman David Nieberg said.

He mentioned the company's goal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, and said that it is "continuing to offer competitive wages and great benefits, and inventing new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy."

Unions in France and Germany are leading the latest round of coordinated strikes at 18 major warehouses in an effort to disrupt shipments across key European markets. The CGT and Ver.di unions are spearheading the action in an effort to improve working conditions and pay for their members.

In the UK, workers associated with the GMB union have planned protests outside several warehouses, including Coventry. The workers are protesting against the poor working conditions and pay at the warehouses.

"Amazon workers in Coventry are demanding a wage increase from £10.50 an hour to £15," said Amanda Gearing, a senior GMB organizer. "They are overworked and underpaid, and they've had enough."

If workers walk out during their shift, they could miss out on the second half of a £500 bonus that Amazon announced for UK warehouse workers last month. The final payment is contingent on staff taking “no unauthorized absence” between Nov. 22 and Dec. 24. The GMB has said that linking payments to attendance could be interpreted as an unlawful inducement not to strike.

Protests and rallies are planned in multiple cities across the United States, India, and Japan to protest Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the company's business practices. In the US, rallies are planned in more than 10 cities, including outside an apartment block on 5th Avenue in New York where Bezos has a condo. In India, multiple rallies are planned in different cities, while in Japan, members of a recently created union will protest in front of the company's national headquarters in Tokyo. In Bangladesh, garment workers in Amazon's supply chain will march in Dhaka and Chittagong.

Some demonstrations will focus on Amazon's environmental and social footprint. For example, in Ireland, people will gather outside the company's Dublin offices to push back against two new planned data centers in the city. In South Africa, protesters will gather near Amazon's new offices in Cape Town, which is being developed on land that indigenous people consider to be sacred.

Some unions have expressed concern about the current economic climate, amid a warning from Amazon that its peak Christmas season might not be as busy as usual. The company's decision to lay off 10,000 staff will also make wage negotiations more challenging.

Laurent Cretin, a delegate for the CFE-CGC union in France, said that the company will have 880 workers in a warehouse in Chalon-sur-Saône this Christmas season. This is down from 1,000 before Covid. He attributes this to tightening consumer spending and the transfer of activity to robotized warehouses. He said that the projections are not great and that they are not sure that they will do as well as last year when there was a post-Covid surge.

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