On Black Friday, Amazon Workers in 40+ Countries Strike and Protest ‘Despicable’ Treatment

By Jake Johnson. Originally published at Common Dreams

Thousands of Amazon workers in more than 40 countries are planning to mark Black Friday by walking off the job and protesting the corporate behemoth’s abuse of employees and the climate, as well as its chronic avoidance of taxes while raking in huge profits.

Make Amazon Pay” actions are expected to include marches and rallies for union recognition in Bangladesh, strikes at nearly 20 warehouses in France and Germany, walkouts in a dozen cities in the United States, and a protest by newly unionized workers in Japan.

“Today, unions, civil society, and progressive elected officials will stand shoulder to shoulder in a massive global day of action to denounce Amazon’s despicable multimillion-dollar campaigns to kill worker-led union efforts,” Christy Hoffman, president of UNI Global Union, said in a statement. “It’s time for the tech giant to cease their awful, unsafe practices immediately, respect the law, and negotiate with the workers who want to make their jobs better.”

Amazon spent around $4.3 million on anti-union consultants in the U.S. last year as it worked to crush historic labor organizing efforts in Alabama and New York. Workers ultimately voted earlier this year to unionize at a Staten Island warehouse, the first-ever organized location in the United States.

Meanwhile, Amazon avoided $5 billion in federal corporate income taxes in the U.S. last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, as the company continued to shortchange and exploit its employees, who are on the job as they race to meet the company’s punishing productivity metrics.

Across the globe, the workers who make Amazon’s vast logistics network and numerous businesses possible say they’re often subjected to inhumane treatment and forced to labor under grueling conditions to earn a meager paycheck as company executives grow richer each year. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy received $213 million in total compensation in 2021.

“Garment workers, like those I represent, toil to swell Amazon’s coffers often without any recognition that we are even Amazon workers,” said Nazma Akhter, president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation in Bangladesh. “Amazon is the third-largest direct employer in the world, but when you take us in the supply chain into account, it is even larger. At work we can face sexual harassment from management and victimization when we try to organize in a trade union against that violence and for better pay and conditions.”

“In Bangladesh, we are on the frontline of climate breakdown, so we know climate justice and social justice cannot be separated,” Akhter continued. “We have to make Amazon pay all its workers a decent wage in dignified workplaces and for its environmental damage.”

Amazon disclosed earlier this year that it emitted the equivalent of 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021—likely a significant undercount given how the company calculates its footprint.

“We all know that the price of everything is going up, as is the temperature of our planet,” said Daniel Kopp, Progressive International’s Make Amazon Pay coordinator. “Instead of paying its workers fairly, its taxes in full, and for its damage to our environment, Amazon is squeezing every last drop it can from workers, communities, and the planet.”

In an op-ed for Jacobin on Friday, Hoffman and Akhter noted that as costs of living soar worldwide, Amazon’s “hard-line stances against improving workplace conditions and recognizing unions… remain unchanged.”

“In the U.K., it offered workers a ridiculous 35p raise per hour in August—in other words, a massive real-term pay cut,” the pair wrote. “In France and Germany, workers also rejected having their pay cut in real terms. Amazon made $33.3 billion in profit in 2021, but it won’t pay its workers a fair share.”

“To make Amazon pay, we can clearly not rely on goodwill. Instead, Amazon workers and their trade unions, environmentalists, tax watchdogs, and regulators need to get together and fight back. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now,” Hoffman and Akhter added. “That’s why workers and organizers are uniting on November 25 in a campaign to Make Amazon Pay. From the United States to Bangladesh, from Germany to South Africa, Amazon will face coordinated strikes and protests demanding that Amazon raises wages above inflation for all its workers, stops its union-busting, decarbonizes its whole supply chain, and pays its fair shares of taxes.”

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  1. earthling

    History will not be kind to Mr. Bezos. Fourth richest man in the world, who doesn’t think he can afford to let employees work at a human pace in safe environments suitable for human beings. What a greedy monster. And the 125% turnover rate practically guarantees that union organizing will be an uphill battle forever, unless something changes. Either the regulators or the customers are going to have to step up, ideally both.

    History also is not going to look too kindly on the corrupt regulators, nor the sweet grandmas and busy soccer moms who blindly support his every move with as much of their cash as possible.

    1. david

      be serious – the consumer wants lower prices and more…stuff – the workers are on demand and go away anytime they want – so what is the problem?

      the systems, prices and reliability are what sells not the specific product nor the workers participation – they are transitory commodity.

      Bezos made a system better than retail circa 1985 – why beat him up – just quit!

      1. timbers

        Make Jeff Bezos pay the same tax I pay on my income, roads, infrastructure and give me the same $!Trillons!$ he gets in USA taxpayer funded Welfare Queen subsidies…and maybe just maybe I will almost agree with you….NOT.

      2. cnchal

        > . . . so what is the problem?

        Inhumane working conditions. Were they humane Amazon would be wildly unprofitable.

        Amazon shopper = whip cracking sadist

      3. Linda Elkins

        It is not Jeff Bezos’s fault, not entirely. We, as a society hold a whole lot of the blame ourselves. We have become addicted to cheap things. We have become beholden to more stuff. And this has been by design. The “Powers that Be” decided about 50 years ago that they could pull the wool over our eyes by stealing us blind with so called supply side economics and reward us with cheap goods. Everyone would suffer except those “Powers that Be” and that’s the way it has been ever since. We were led like sheep to the slaughter and now we’re finally waking up to the fact that we’ve been taken. Hopefully it’s not too late. Shoulder some of the blame as you click off on the sales today on your computer. It’s all part of the plan and until we face our role in all of it and change it, nothing will change. Definitely not the “Powers that Be”. It’s up to us.

  2. Michael

    Amazon made $33.3 billion in profit in 2021.
    Amazon stock peaked at $186/share in late 2021 and fell 54% to a low of $86 about 2 weeks ago.

    Amazon disclosed earlier this year that it emitted the equivalent of 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021.

    The Cost of Wars Project found that US military pollution had accounted for 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which amount to 257 million passenger cars annually.

    Yet some can’t stop supporting either.

  3. Harold

    Michael, Please observe National Buy Nothing Month in support of these workers.

    Stop the commercialization of Christmas, exploitation of workers, support your neighbors who might need to sell used items of use to you, sell your own unwanted items, or just give them away, and take advantage of the huge discounts after New Years to buy next years gift items.

    Every dollar is a vote. The faster the economy goes into the inevitable recession, the sooner the war in Ukraine will not be funded and the parasites in Washington can be flushed.

    1. Timh

      Buy Nothing Month is passive non-action, and doesn’t cut it.

      How about help somebody, grow something, repair something, cook something month?

      1. thousand points of green

        Or buy something from a white-hat good-guy brick-and-mortar business which makes and/or sells something useful and does not abuse its workers in the process? A genuine decent business which deserves support in the face of Amazon’s attempt to destroy it?

        Or from a genuine artisan producer or artisan producers’ collective/co-operative?

        Merely buying nothing to induce a recession will simply enable Big Bezos to buy up still more of the economic wreckage as he emerges as one of the great survivors and victors from a “Buy Nothing” recession. Just as he did from the covid pandemic so far.

        Whereas money spent on legitimate business instead of on Amazon would make legitimate business a little stronger and Amazon a little weaker.

        What if something could magically cancel and delete Amazon and bring back all the businesses Bezos destroyed on his way up? And rehire all the laid-off workers at those magically revived businesses? Would their jobs and pay be worse and less than at Amazon? Or would they be better and more?

        Lead the money around by the nose.

  4. Carla French

    With it people are already doing all those things. The beauty of passive is that it gives them more time to do those things with no additional effort.

  5. Paul Whittaker

    Made a trip to the local waste disposal site today, always makes me sad to see stuff thrown into landfill due to some fairly small damage. In the UK they have “men’s Sheds” where local retires fix stuff for local people, at minimal charge or free in some cases. here in Canada there were two full patio doors which appeared to be all there and not damaged, likely replaced with “garden doors” being 99% glass they are land fill since glass is not recyclable. Living in cottage country, power goes down several times each year, sometimes for several days, so a generator is a must standby. I dragged home a Subaru 7500 which had been hit by a tree in a wind storm. About 200$ later and some work, welding, paint, breakers etc it is now our main generator being a electric start, which my wife can fire up if I am not home.

    1. c_heale

      I don’t believe 99% of glass is not recyclable. It’s more likely the cost to recycle it is too high, or they have no facilities for doing so.

  6. kareninca

    I was just sent a gift of three marzipan tubes (the ingredient) via Amazon. The big plastic envelope arrived, but it hadn’t been sealed at all, and there was nothing in it. The purchase cost was refunded to the buyer when they contacted Amazon (a replacement was not available).

    It seems that there are ways for an employee to resist without striking.

  7. Paula

    Ok, I will admit I have not read this, but I’ve read about the EU and the massive protests and seems like they followed the simple and very working person advice that if you spit on your own, you will be ineffective, but if you spit together, “you can drown the bastards,” US workers need to realize their strength, and I think they are beginning with Starbuck and Amazon just yesterday and one should not ignore the strength of the railroad workers in the USA. We need more; we need to get behind them. They are what we need to change our country from corporate ruled, to government controlled. We already see where the money goes; not to our paychecks. Unions can make “rulers” pay attention. People can see what unions do and who to elect, if they do not marginalize what’s left of the middle class who always wanted to rentier class. If working class can join the shrinking middle class, together they can keep corporatists from buying our elections and vote in politicians who truly are for the people and the people’s own best interest. If this is called socialism, so be it. Right now we do not have a democracy and most on this site know it. The 99% need to wrest from the corporatists, the means of governance, and who controls. I’ve always supported a general tax boycott since so much is run on our backs and so little on the wealthiest few these days.
    Who, then, would fund the government, the military, even the Supreme Court, if not the people and their taxes. When middle class finds themselves more and more removed from what they thought they could have been, rentier class domination, without real production–maybe they too will give up such unequal dreams and settle for less that doesn’t make the rest of the world paupers or homeless or worse.

    Will now read and see if I have further comment. Just a pauper with an education.

    1. Lambert Strether

      > Who, then, would fund the government, the military, even the Supreme Court, if not the people and their taxes

      MMTers please correct, but:

      The people (“the working class'”) empower the government through their creation of real, material resources. But Federal taxes do not fund Federal spending. Taxation forces people to work, so that they can pay their taxes in the currency issued by the Federal government. And taxation removes money from circulation, a useful function.

  8. Kurt

    Just more wish fulfillment nonsense from Jake Johnson and Common Dreams. This ” alternative ” news site along with Jacobin and Labor Notes are merely cattle hands steering workers, and the readers of these obfuscations, into the chutes of capitalist and Democratic Party reformism. Johnson and his ilk continue to champion the union apparatuses at the expense of the workers who have been forced into a race to the bottom while the union bureaucrats sit in the laps of their corporate owners licking their hands and doing tricks for dollars.

    I ask the people who comment on this article, where is Common Dreams, Labor Notes, Jacobin, and others coverage (bar one ) on Will Lehman running as a real socialists for UAW President to abolish the union apparatus and bring all the negotiating to the shop floors where the workers, the only creators of global wealth, determine the means of production and distribution based on social need not the profit motive? Where are their articles about what the UAW apparatus is doing to undermine the vote? This is the first time in UAW history that an election for President is open to all members and not decided at some inclusive Convention by a bunch of lap dog delegates. The reason this is happening is because the past two Presidents and a few of their lackeys have been imprisoned on corruption charges for stealing the rank and files dues. As is usual for the UAW apparatus, they’re corrupting this election by refusing to inform any of the rank and file about the election and failing to send them ballots. The deadline for receiving ballots is November 28th and at this point only 10% of the 1.3 million members of the UAW have voted. Over 900,000 have not voted. Will Lehman brought a lawsuit against the UAW and the court appointed Monitor to over see the election that the vote be extended for another month and that the rank and file get their ballots. The Judge who appointed the Monitor was the same one to rule on this lawsuit and it’s no surprise that he ruled in favor of the UAW.

    But all these alternative news sites ( bar one ) will continue to shill for the union bureaucracies, who only negotiate for corporate interests and against the interests of workers, because they stand firmly behind President Biden, who calls himself the most pro union President in history, while he uses the Presidential Emergency Board to subjugate railroaders further, champions every union bureaucracy crushing the rights of the rank and file, and assures the corporations that nothing will fundamentally change.

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