On the start of Amazon’s biggest sales event of the year, Amazon workers and activists are taking to the streets today in protest of the retail giant. Protests are planned for San Francisco, Minnesota, New York, Seattle and other locations across Europe.
The biggest employee-led demonstration is happening in Shakopee, Minn., where Amazon warehouse workers are protesting the working conditions, pay, benefits and general culture.
“These workers, primarily Muslim, East African immigrants, want humane working targets to reduce injuries, full-time instead of temporary working status, and fair opportunities for promotions,” a group of Amazon employees advocating for climate justice wrote on Medium a couple of days ago. “These FC workers reached out to us, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), asking for support.”
This is not the first time warehouse workers in Minnesota have organized. In March, workers went on strike for three hours to call for better working conditions. Last year, those same workers demanded more time for prayer and smaller workloads while fasting during Ramadan.
“Amazon workers are sending a powerful message to Jeff Bezos this Prime Day: It’s time to stop putting profits ahead of people,” United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone said in a statement today. “With the recent move to one-day Prime shipping, Amazon workers are being forced to meet impossible demands at increasingly unsafe speeds.”
Amazon, however, says its critics are “conjuring misinformation to work in their favor,” an Amazon spokesperson said. Amazon says it already offers the things unions are asking for. Last October, Amazon raised the minimum wage for all warehouse workers to $15 an hour for its U.S.-based workers, but many said that was not enough.
“We can only conclude that the people who plan to attend events today are simply not informed,” the spokesperson said. “As a company, we work hard to provide a safe, quality working environment for the 250,000 hourly employees across Amazon’s U.S. facilities.”
The spokesperson went on to describe how its associates are core to its operation and how they regularly encourage friends and family to apply for roles.
“We encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other major employers across the country,” the spokesperson said.
In San Francisco, organizers from Bay Resistance, San Francisco Rising and Jobs with Justice protested outside one of Amazon’s offices in the city to demand Amazon end its relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The group is also urging Amazon to stop promoting its facial recognition technology, Rekognition, to law enforcement agencies and ICE.
The aim was to protest and deliver a petition with 270,000 signatures on it demanding that Amazon cut its ties with ICE, which has been conducting raids across the country. While some gathered for the protest, the organizers said they were unable to deliver the petition because Amazon would not let them into its office.
“As we’ve said many times and continue to believe strongly, companies and government organizations need to use existing and new technology responsibly and lawfully,” the Amazon spokesperson said. “There is clearly a need for more clarity from governments on what is acceptable use of AI and ramifications for its misuse, and we’ve provided a proposed legislative framework for this. We remain eager for the government to provide this additional clarity and legislation, and will continue to offer our ideas and specific suggestions.”
To stand in solidarity with Amazon workers, some activists are asking the masses to boycott Amazon, which means no Amazon.com, Amazon Prime Video, Whole Foods, Kindle, Audible, Book Depository, Twitch, IMDb, AWS, Goodreads and Comixology.
*This story has been updated with reporting from the protest in San Francisco.