Around 100 Amazon fulfillment center workers from Minnesota and another 2,000 workers from seven different locations in Germany walked out of their jobs to protest low pay and poor working conditions.
As Amazon Prime Day shopping frenzy began on Monday, the unsatisfied workers in two countries left their job posts and hit the streets to demand better treatment by their employer.
While German workers have organized protests on Prime Day before, Minnesota fulfillment center employees did so for the first time yesterday.
Amazon employees from Shakopee, Minnesota rallied at 3 p.m. ET for a six-hour protest during which they demanded that the company ease productivity quotas, convert more temporary workers to Amazon employees, and do more to address on-the-job injuries.
The Minnesota warehouse workers’ strike is a reaction to Amazon’s decision to offer one-day shipping to Prime customers, as this is bound to raise the already unrealistically high productivity quotas and contribute to the stressful work environment.
“These should be jobs that are safe, reliable, and that people can depend on,” William Stolz, a striking worker, told Vox. Stolz, who has been working as a picker at the Shakopee warehouse facility, describes his work as grueling. “It’s very mentally and physically stressful. Basically, we just want them to treat us with respect as human beings and not treat us like machines,” he said.
With Amazon running more than a hundred warehouses across the U.S., Minnesota strikers are unlikely to succeed in influencing changes to shipping times promised to customers by the retail giant.
Amazon’s response to the employees gathering in protest was that it already offers industry-leading pay of $15 per hour, benefits, and a safe workplace.
Two presidential candidates expressed their support of the Prime Day protests on Twitter yesterday. Senator Bernie Sanders weighed in by saying that higher wages are just one way of honoring workers’ rights, referring to last year’s increase to a $15 minimum wage. He added that Amazon workers deserve safe working conditions, fair scheduling, and reasonable production demands. Senator Elizabeth Warren also expressed her full support of the workers who fight to hold big corporations accountable.
Across Germany, workers rallied on Sunday night at Amazon sites in Werne, Rheinberg, Leipzig, Graben, Koblenz, and two locations in Bad Hersfeld and continued their strike on the first day of Amazon’s biggest shopping day of the year.
Approximately 2,000 German workers headed by the labor union Verdi protested under the motto “No more discount on our incomes”.
“While Amazon throws huge discounts to its customers on Prime Day, employees lack a living wage,” said Verdi retail specialist Orhan Akman.
In addition to higher salaries, German workers ask for collective bargaining agreements to be recognized across the retail sector. “The company must finally recognize the collective wage agreements for the retail and mail order sectors,” Akman told Reuters. “Wages and salaries at Amazon must no longer be determined in the style of a lord of the manor.”
Amazon spokesperson responded that the wages of German warehouse workers are “at the upper end of what is paid in comparable jobs”.