Amazon workers and activists in 30 countries marked the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season with a series of strikes and protests to demand better wages and working conditions.
In Manhattan, activists, unions and Amazon workers marched outside the penthouse of company founder Jeff Bezos in the tony Flatiron district.
Outside St. Louis, several dozen workers walked out of the massive STL8 facility on Friday afternoon. It is the second wildcat strike at the 900,000-square-foot fulfillment center, where workers also marched in September to protest wages and working conditions. Workers at the site are asking for a $10 an hour wage increase and the improvement in working conditions, they say, is leading to too many workers being injured on the job.
The groups involved in the campaign promote it on Twitter under the hashtag #MakeAmazonPay. They have a range of requirements. Many are calling for higher wages, an end to worker oversight, and a pace of work conducive to an above-average workplace accident rate.
Labor actions are also planned at Amazon-owned Whole Foods stores and other locations in Bessemer, Alabama; Columbia, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan; Durham, North Carolina; Garner, North Carolina; Joliet, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; and Washington, DC
In Germany, workers demonstrated in nine of Amazon’s 20 warehouses in the country, the company told Reuters, though it said the “vast majority” of workers reported working normally.
In Coventry, England, workers gathered outside an Amazon factory at night and said, “We’re not robots.”
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, some activists gathered in front of the National Congress building holding signs reading “Make Amazon Pay.”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the actions.
“On Black Friday, in what has already been dubbed #MakeAmazonPay Day, 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 trade union efforts of workers.” Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, a group leading the protests, said in a statement. “It is time for the tech giant to immediately stop their horrible, unsafe practices, respect the law and negotiate with the employees who want to improve their jobs.”
Among the countries where Amazon is facing strikes and protests, according to UNI: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey and the UK
Monika di Silvestre, an official at Ver.di, a German labor union that helps organize the #MakeAmazonPay campaign, told Bloomberg that workers are particularly concerned about Amazon’s use of computers to monitor their productivity.
“The workers are under a lot of pressure with these algorithms,” she said. “It doesn’t differentiate between employees, whether they are old or have limited mobility. Employees stay up at night thinking only about their productivity metrics.”
Nearly half of all recorded injuries in US warehouses by 2021said the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of unions.
“Amazon employed one-third of all warehouse workers in the US, but was responsible for nearly half (49%) of all injuries in the warehouse industry,” the SOC report said.
Amazon has previously defended its safety record and denied that injury rates are higher in the company’s warehouses.
The company has faced increasing pressure in the US from workers seeking to join a union. Earlier this year a warehouse on New York City’s Staten Island, and other facilities have also applied for collective bargaining rights. Most recently were workers at an Amazon warehouse in upstate New York .
A federal judge last week ordered Amazon to stop retaliating against employees who participate in workplace activism. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the National Labor Relations Board, which sued Amazon in March over the reassignment of a laid-off employee involved in organizing the company’s Staten Island warehouse.
—Irina Ivanova of CBS News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.