On Friday 25 November 2022, the "Make Amazon Pay" collective has called on the e-commerce giant's employees to take mobilisation and strike action across the world. The day was not chosen at random, as it is Black Friday - a major sales day and one of the multinational's peak shopping days.
The 'Make Amazon Pay' coalition includes over 80 trade unions, civil society organisations, environmentalists and tax watchdogs, including UNI Global Union, Greenpeace, Tax Justice Network and Amazon Workers International. The collective demands that Amazon pay its workers fairly, pay its fair share of taxes, commit to real environmental sustainability, and respect workers' right to unionise. As a 2015 IRIS research note reminds us, union presence improves working conditions for all categories of employees.
As regards working conditions, the demands focused on long working hours, low wages, the performance evaluation system and job insecurity. Indeed, Amazon's warehouses have a very poor reputation for health and safety at work - with an injury rate twice as high as other similar companies. Another survey by Syndex shows that 74% of employees experience work-related physical pain, and 70% report work-related stress.
The actions were planned in more than 30 countries, including Germany, France and the USA. In France and Germany, eighteen logistics centres were to be affected by the strike. While nine of the twenty German centres were indeed impacted, an Amazon spokesperson said that there was no sign of disruption in France. Union officials said the lack of participation was mainly due to the rising cost of living pushing employees to work overtime. "What is important for us is the global reach of the mobilisation," said Alain Jault, CGT union delegate at Amazon France Logistique.
This is the first time that Amazon has been confronted with an international mobilisation. "It is very important, because you cannot oppose a big multinational like Amazon only at the local, regional or national level," said Monika Di Silvestre, representative of the Verdi union at Amazon. "We unions, at the global level, will organise to try to advance workers' rights," said Alain Jault.
UNI Global Union General Secretary Christy Hoffman said: "Today, trade unions, civil society and progressive elected officials will stand side by side in a massive global day of action to denounce Amazon's despicable, multi-million dollar campaigns to kill the efforts of worker-led unions. Indeed, in 2020, more than two dozen leaked internal reports revealed Amazon's obsessive surveillance of unions and social and environmental movements. A year later, the US giant was nailed for its anti-union ads on the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch. "It's time for the tech giant to immediately stop its ugly and dangerous practices, obey the law and negotiate with workers who want to improve their jobs," adds Christy Hoffman.
According to campaign coordinator Daniel Kopp, "Amazon is squeezing every last drop it can out of workers, communities and the planet. For its part, Amazon says it offers "excellent wages, benefits and development opportunities, all in an attractive and safe working environment".