Amazon employees and their supporters have rallied in dozens of countries to protest the retail giant’s labor policies, activists say.
From Germany and France to the United States, from India to Japan and the United Kingdom, Amazon workers lowered their tools or joined marches on Friday demanding better working conditions and fair wages.
The actions coincided with one of the busiest shopping days of the year, Black Friday, when deep discounts boost sales, causing additional stress for retail and warehouse workers.
The Make Amazon Pay coalition, which called the strikes, said industrial actions and protests had taken place in more than 30 countries.
In Germany, protests have taken place at nine of Amazon’s 20 warehouses in the country, although on Friday morning the company said the vast majority of its employees in the country were working as normal.
The Verdi union, which called the strike in Germany, demanded that the company recognize collective agreements in the retail and mail order sector.
He also called for a new collective bargaining agreement on worker welfare, with a spokesperson noting that warehouse workers can walk 15 to 20 kilometers (9.3 to 12.4 miles) a day to work.
— Progressive International (@ProgIntl) November 24, 2022
A spokesperson for Amazon in Germany said the company “offers good salaries, benefits and development opportunities – all in an attractive working environment”.
Among other things, the spokesperson pointed to a pay rise for Amazon’s German logistics employees from September, with a starting salary now at 13 euros per hour or more, including bonuses.
But with inflation at its highest rate in decades at over 10% in Germany, a spokesman for Verdi in Koblenz called the recent pay rise “a drop in the bucket”.
“With the little money or salary you earn, you cannot live in this time,” said Bastian Zafi, an Amazon worker in Germany. “I have three children and we both work and we have a huge problem. Because the costs have gone up so much that you can’t live on what you earn.
In France, where the SUD and CGT union groups have called strikes at all eight warehouses across the country, activists said 60 people were protesting outside Amazon’s Brétigny-sur-Orge site near Paris on Friday morning, with 50 others staying at home, out of a total of 5,000 full-time and temporary employees at this location.
Amazon France said there had been no signs of disruption to operations so far.
SUD claimed a Black Friday bonus of 1,000 euros, double the compensation offered by Amazon, as well as a bonus of 150 euros per weekend worked in the fourth quarter.
In the US, workers at an Amazon factory in St Peters, Missouri quit their jobs, while unions representing retail workers in New York staged protests outside the building of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos.
🚨🚨IT’S HAPPEN NOW🚨🚨
Workers at the Amazon STL8 factory walk off the job on BLACK FRIDAY to demand higher wages, safer working conditions, respect, and the right to form a union without reprisal. #MakeAmazonPay #AmazonHurts #UnionsForAll pic.twitter.com/nMBkruDVVy
— Missouri Workers Center (@moworkerscenter) November 25, 2022
Protesters are outside Jeff Bezos’ Manhattan penthouse right now, demanding that Amazon pay its taxes, pay its employees, and pay for the damage it is causing to the planet.
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) November 25, 2022
There was no immediate comment from Amazon US.
Demonstrations and rallies also took place in several other countries and territories, including Argentina, Ireland, South Africa, Palestine, Bangladesh and Australia.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in the United States, said Amazon is denying workers their humanity.
“Amazon workers everywhere, regardless of the country in which they live and work, experience the same dehumanizing mistreatment at the hands of Amazon. The working conditions for Amazon are so bad that there is a turnover rate of 150% per year,” he told Al Jazeera.
“The rising cost of living only makes it worse,” he said.
“Amazon’s business model is to treat people like robots. They’re run by an algorithm, they’re fired by texting their phones, people are afraid to go to the bathroom because they risk losing their jobs if they don’t meet their productivity quota.
— 東京ユニオン (@toukyouyunion) November 25, 2022
Amazon, which employs more than 1.5 million people worldwide, most of whom are hourly workers, has refused to recognize the unions.
He has previously defended its labor policies, saying the company offers a “competitive salary” and “full benefits”.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that the company planned to lay off up to 10,000 workers.