‘We Are Fighting Back’: Global Black Friday Strikes and Protests Seek to #MakeAmazonPay

Yves here. Unfortunately these protests will be overshadowed by Omicron coverage. But the flip side is labor battles are not won with David-like single shots at Goliaths. They are protracted exercises in guerrilla warfare.

By Kenny Stancil. Originally published at CommonDreams

On Black Friday, more than 70 labor unions and progressive advocacy groups shut down workplaces and hit the streets in cities around the globe to demand—on Amazon’s most profitable day of the year—that the sprawling tech and logistics corporation pay a living wage to its employees and a fair share of taxes to compensate the societies in which it operates.

“From oil refineries, to factories, to warehouses, to data centers, to corporate offices in countries across the world, workers and activists are rising up in strikes, protests, and actions to Make Amazon Pay,” reads the campaign’s website. While the international coalition held its first Black Friday day of action 12 months ago, opposition to Amazon’s abuses has only grown since then, and work stoppages and rallies targeting the e-commerce giant were expected in at least 20 countries on every inhabited continent this year.

According to the Make Amazon Pay coalition, planned actions include:

  • In Kathmandu, Nepal, organizers from the UNICOME Nepal and UNI Nepal Liaison Council will protest in defense of Amazon suppliers and their rights to decent conditions;
  • In Berlin, Germany, warehouse workers will march on the site of Amazon’s HQ to launch the Amazon Workers Against Surveillance;
  • In Toronto, Canada, postal workers and the Warehouse Worker Resource Center will march on the Brampton Amazon facility to demand better wages;
  • In Buenos Aires, Argentina, activists will take action at the Axion oil refinery against Amazon’s services to fossil fuel corporations like BP; and
  • In Warsaw, Poland, a broad coalition of unions and environmentalists will take to the streets to protest Amazon’s worker repression and arbitrary firings at its warehouses.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said Friday that people worldwide are demonstrating “to end corporate impunity, to end the scandal of [Amazon’s] monopoly power.”

“They pay little or no tax, yet their obscene wealth is actually untrammeled,” Burrow continued. She emphasized the need to “stan[d] with Amazon workers every day” and thanked unions for their solidarity.

Amazon is headquartered in the United States, but its reach is global—with a massive workforce of roughly 1.3 million people, excluding countless others employed by the company’s subcontractors, and a carbon footprint larger than two-thirds of the world’s countries. Resistance to one of the most powerful corporate empires in history—founded by Jeff Bezos, currently the second-richest person on the planet—is also transnational.

“Amazon is everywhere, involved in almost every step of the global economy, but we are too,” explains the coalition, which includes Progressive International, UNI Global Union, Amazon Workers International, and dozens of other trade unions and civil society organizations working to stamp out inequality, tax evasion, and climate injustice.

“At every link in this chain of abuse, we are fighting back,” the coalition says. “We are workers and activists divided by geography and our role in the global economy but united in our commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes, and for its impact on the planet.”

Campaigners from the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Bangladesh, Germany, Cambodia, and Poland described how “Amazon just doesn’t give a shit”—exploiting workers and consumers, despoiling the environment, dodging taxes, and using its ill-gotten gains to wield enormous, anti-democratic influence over lawmakers.

The Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, “has exposed how Amazon places profits ahead of workers, society, and our planet,” the Make Amazon Pay coalition notes on its website.

Last year, for instance, Amazon became a trillion-dollar corporation. According to a video on the coalition’s website, “Amazon’s wealth has increased so much during the pandemic that its owners could pay all 1.3 million of its employees a $690,000 Covid bonus and still be as rich as they were in 2020.”

“Amazon’s wealth has increased so much during the pandemic that its owners could pay all 1.3 million of its employees a $690,000 Covid bonus and still be as rich as they were in 2020.”

Bezos—who paid a 1.1% true tax rate between 2006 and 2018, according toa June report from ProPublica—also became the first individual to amass a personal fortune of more than $200 billion. He surpassed that figure in August 2020, just a few months after he eliminated the short-lived hazard pay of Amazon employees, who have continued toiling at great risk to their own health.

In addition, Amazon’s union-busting tactics were on full display earlier this year in Bessemer, Alabama during a drive organized by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Union organizers at the Bessemer warehouse came up short in the April election, but an official at the National Labor Relations Board has recommended invalidating those results and mandating a new vote after RWDSU filed nearly two dozen complaints alleging that Amazon illegally threatened employees with loss of pay and benefits, installed and surveilled an unlawful ballot collection box, and expelled pro-union workers from so-called “captive audience” meetings during which management argued against unionization.

In addition to ruthlessly squashing unionization efforts, Amazon denies governments revenue “through its world-beating efforts at tax dodging,” says the Make Amazon Pay Coalition.

“Like all major corporations, Amazon’s success would be impossible without the public institutions that citizens built together over generations,” the coalition stresses. “But instead of giving back to the societies that helped it grow,” the e-commerce giant “paid just 1.2% tax in the U.S.” in 2019, “up from 0% the two previous years.”

As far as pollution goes, the coalition points out, “Amazon’s growing delivery and cloud computer businesses are accelerating global climate breakdown.”

Bezos, meanwhile, said in July—immediately following his first suborbital flight, which he admitted was paid for by Amazon workers—that he thinks it would be a good idea to relocate industrial production to outer space, threatening, however unrealistically, to push capitalism’s detrimental impacts beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Mea culpa, like most people on the site, I must confess to taking advantage of mainly the convenience (not price) of online retailers.
    I don’t think the way to make online retailers pay their fair share is not income taxation, as they hire the best brains on the planet to wiggle around them, but to impose a 30% Transaction Infrastructure Maintenance Fee.
    The argument needs to be reframed to Joe Public from theoretical tax issues to ongoing wealth redistribution and sunk cost issues.
    What would be results if you took a poll and asked, “In order to keep getting cheap prices and easy delivery of items from online retailers, and in order to allow online retailers to increase their already obscene wealth, would you and your children be willing to keep paying higher and higher taxes to:
    Fund the government social benefits – medical, income top-up, food programs – that their underpaid workers claim, for which you have paid and continue to pay?
    Build and maintain the roads that you and your ancestors have paid for but which the online retailers get to use virtually for free?
    The electricity grid that you and your ancestors have paid to build and continue to pay for.
    Ditto, the telecommunication grid?
    Defense forces of the countries that protect the shipping lanes from piracy, forces that took your ancestors centuries to build and which you pay to maintain, a protection that online retailers take as their God-given right?
    Ditto the legal protection of the court systems around the world that allow online retailers to litigate at will?
    Let us know if you fervently agree that you are willing to pay more and more of your in taxes and fees so that the online retailers can pay less and less,

  2. nycTerrierist

    Jeff Bezos: enemy of the people — and planet earth

    what will it take to stop this super-predator?

      1. tegnost

        I like to go on about bezos, but truthfully he was probably chosen by some group of financiers and was chosen for his innate qualities that were in accord with this group of people. He did his thing, and his backers also did their thing and prospered mightily, sort of the culmination of the war on labor.

  3. LowellHighlander

    I think that this would be an Excellent opportunity to step back and ask ourselves a fundamental question in terms of economics: What makes it possible for one person (Bezos) to acquire so much wealth, and power?

    Isn’t the answer obvious? It’s capitalism.

    How do we get out of this predicament permanently? We have to replicate Mondragon-style companies, as shown in the documentary “Shift Change”. [Organizations such as the US Federation of Worker Co-operatives are striving along these very lines. See: https://www.usworker.coop/home/ ]

    In the end, this isn’t about one “evil” person; it’s about the dire need to change a system that allows any person – and on this planet, there are hundreds of thousands of such people – to exploit other people and the planet for their private benefit. Now that climate change is here, this argument (cf. Amazon’s carbon footprint) is settled.

  4. cnchal

    > . . . that the sprawling tech and logistics corporation pay a living wage to its employees . . .

    FFS, not even the galley slaves get it.

    It isn’t possible to pay a living wage when you have a broken body due to the inhumane working conditions. Even were the work pace halved, it would still not be a long term survivable jawb.

    At it’s core, Amazon is a criminal enterprise, supported by all levels of government directly and indirectly subsidizing Bezos’ hellhole.

    By now, every shopper ought to know that warehouse working conditions are extremely abusive, yet crack the whip from their couch, because the abuse benefits them.

    Amazon shopper = whip cracking sadist

  5. Susan the other

    So just to carry this thought (which I like): If Amazon shuts down and oil shuts down; if retail manufacturing shuts down and if shipping shuts down; if non-essential travel shuts down; if everything shuts down except the grocery store and the drug store and they are only open intermittently, then we will be back to square-one when it comes to the use of money. We will be back to cooperating. Because our economy needs a minimum critical mass to keep from imploding. The only way our economy is able to stay alive is to grow – probably because of population inflation; various obsolescences; time itself, and blablablah. Contrary to recent fetishes, it cannot operate on just-in-time revenue. Never has. So what economy does operate without mass consumption expanding at an accelerated rate? Amazon is a dinosaur; no wonder Bezos is going to the moon.

  6. Anthony Stegman

    Amazon is an outcome of our capitalist society. Capitalism relies on as well as thrives on exploitation – of labor, natural resources, laws, lawmaking process, the judiciary. The only way to change Amazon (and perhaps kill it) is to end capitalism. Tweaks here and there will accomplish little as the capitalist imperative will be to continue to find loopholes and workarounds to any and all tweaks devised.

    1. jim truti

      We do not have a capitalist society in the US.
      We currently live in a post capitalist area yet to be defined

  7. Joe Well

    Thank you. Because of this post I didn’t see any Prime Video on Friday and had the strength to keep from looking at Amazon’s Black Friday deals.

    My first thought was, “how is anyone going to find out about this campaign?” And then I realized of course the answer was independent media like Naked Capitalism.

Comments are closed.