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Striking Amazon workers mean Prime Day shopping is crossing a virtual picket line

Striking Amazon workers mean Prime Day shopping is crossing a virtual picket line
[Photo: Flickr user Tony Webster]

As you’re perusing Amazon for Prime Day deals, keep in mind that warehouse workers in Germany and Minnesota are striking today to protest their working conditions.

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In Germany, the protests started at seven Amazon sites across the country on Sunday night when, according to Reuters, who spoke to a labor union, around 2,000 people walked out, with more expected to join today. The workers want better pay and conditions, marching with the motto “No more discount on our incomes.” Per Reuters, Germany is Amazon’s biggest market after the United States.

While the incident in Germany is not the first time that Amazon worker unions in Europe have staged strikes on Prime Day, the walkout in Minnesota is reportedly the first of its kind in the United States timed to coincide with Prime Day. Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota, are walking out for a six-hour period timed to overlap with both morning and evening warehouse shifts.

The employees are striking to draw attention to their demands that more temporary workers be allowed to transition into full-time employees and that Amazon ease up on its high-pressure productivity quota system. Last year, according to The Verge, an attorney said that hundreds of employees at one Baltimore facility were allegedly terminated over a period of 12 months for failing to meet productivity rates. When the Minnesota workers walk out, they will be supported by Amazon employees reportedly flying in from company headquarters in Seattle, as well as by Amazon workers around the world, according to a statement from the activist group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.

Meanwhile, another group of activists that includes former Amazon workers will deliver petitions to company CEO Jeff Bezos to protest conditions in the company’s warehouses and its working relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the Daily Beast. 

For its part, Amazon has worked to improve labor relations with its employees, including offering a $15-an-hour minimum wage, albeit after significant pressure. Last week, the company promised to embark on a massive employee retraining program, investing $700 million in technical training for employees over the next six years.

When reached for comment, Amazon sent this statement:

“Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues. These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause — industry leading pay of $15 per hour, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees. We can only conclude that the people who plan to attend the event on Monday are simply not informed. If these groups — unions and the politicians they rally to their cause — really want to help the American worker, we encourage them to focus their energy on passing legislation for an increase in the federal minimum wage, because $7.25 is too low.”

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