As workers at Amazon’s Shakopee, Minnesota, warehouse participate in a six-hour strike on Prime Day to call attention to reportedly harsh working conditions, residents in at least eight cities across the U.S. are holding protests in solidarity (listed here). But they’re also protesting another Amazon policy: the company’s business dealings with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
“People in communities across this country, including Amazon workers in Minnesota, are concerned about Amazon’s power: the unhealthy, underpaid jobs they create for astronomical amounts of public dollars, their collaboration with ICE and other law enforcement authorities that make our communities less safe,” said Danny Cendejas, organizer with La ColectiVA, a neighborhood organization in Northern Virginia and a leader in the Prime Day protests, in a statement.
ICE is the government agency responsible for enforcing immigration policy and detaining undocumented people in the U.S. As reports emerged last summer that the Trump administration was ordering the separation of immigrant parents and children at the U.S. border, several tech companies came under fire for equipping ICE with the software to target undocumented immigrants and deport them. Last year, tech workers and other activists descended on Salesforce’s headquarters to protest the company’s contract with ICE. Microsoft employees have asked the company to stop working with the agency. The data mining company Palantir supplies ICE with its Investigative Case Management system, through which the agency can compile and analyze data on immigrant families. According to The Intercept, all of the data and algorithms in Palantir’s ICM are now hosted on Amazon Web Services, and Amazon receives payments for it. Officers at ICE also reportedly met with Amazon last summer to discuss how they might use Amazon’s facial recognition technology, Rekognition, to help fuel more raids and arrests of immigrants. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. (Update: Amazon sent a statement touting its employment record, calling people who attend these events “misinformed,” calling on lawmakers to raise the federal minimum wage, and noting that it’s introduced a legislative framework for the government to better regulate the use of AI.)
So as Amazon gears up for its biggest event of the year—it brought in $4 billion on Prime Day lastyear—activists are working to call attention to what Prime Day purchases may be funding.
In Shakopee, southwest of downtown Minneapolis, residents will gather at the Amazon warehouse to protest Amazon’s ICE connections and to show solidarity with the workers on strike. The workers at the factory, many of whom are of Muslim and Somali descent, say that they are not given enough time to pray or take a bathroom break during their shifts and that they’ve experienced retaliation from management after voicing concerns about their working conditions. “The truth about Prime Day is that this ‘parade of epic deals’ couldn’t happen without the labor of warehouse workers like our clients who are forced to choose between praying or a bathroom break,” said Nimra Azmi, staff attorney for Muslim Advocates, a civil rights organization that’s supporting the workers, in a statement.
Rallies are taking place in other U.S. cities as well: Seattle (Amazon’s headquarters), Portland, San Francisco, New York, Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Collectively, over 270,000 people have signed petitions asking Amazon to stop equipping ICE with its software and to cut ties with the agency. Activists in New York are delivering the petitions to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s Manhattan home on Monday. For those not in any of the cities holding protests, movement leaders suggest that people can get involved by not making purchases from Amazon during the event. “It’s time for change,” says Ana María Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, a grassroots organizing network that’s supporting the protests. “[It’s time] for the corporation to cut ties with ICE, for Bezos to recognize workers’ rights on the job, and for lawmakers to start offering real solutions.”