Amazon’s European workforce is fed up, so it’s taking action during the site’s biggest week of the year.
Spanish employees at the e-commerce giant launched a general strike on Tuesday that is expected to last through Prime Day next week. Workers in Italy, France, Germany, Poland and England are also taking part.
The strike is calling for “health and decent jobs,” along with benefits for all Amazon employees. They claim their “struggles against the abuses” of Amazon have gone ignored for too long.
Each nation has a particular grievance against Jeff Bezos’ behemoth.
- Polish workers say an anti-strike law has made it impossible to negotiate better salaries.
- German employees have been fighting for a collective bargaining agreement for two years.
- In Italy, Amazon routinely hires contract workers who aren’t required to have benefits.
- Amazon’s Spanish leaders unilaterally imposed working conditions when a previous collective bargaining agreement expired.
- England and France have imposed demanding measures on time and efficiency, meaning workers have to process 300 items an hour and pee in bottles. Workers were also penalized for taking sick days and time off during pregnancies.
“In the rest of the world, Amazon is making history but hardly distributes its millions in profits,” the disgruntled workers write. “Only if we struggle together will we gain recognition for our demands. Only with a joint action at a European level will workers organize in those places where there is no union representation yet.”
”We don’t recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings,” an Amazon spokesperson told Observer.
Employees in Amazon’s Madrid fulfillment center organized a smaller strike in March, but with Prime Day on the horizon, they decided to increase the scale to the whole continent.
The workers are also pressuring customers to boycott Amazon until after Prime Day, to eat into the company’s bottom line.
“The idea is that if no concessions to the workers are made, that day will not take place,” the employees write.
It’s highly unlikely that will happen, since Prime Day is now bigger than Black Friday.
Last year Amazon customers ordered 34 million items on Prime Day—that’s 398 items per second, 18 percent higher than Amazon’s Black Friday average.
The striking workers won’t be able to cut into all that profit. But thanks to advocates on social media, they are making their voices heard.
There’s no indication that Amazon’s American workers are taking part in this effort, but they have plenty of complaints of their own.
A 2015 New York Times investigation found that employees were forced to work 80 hours a week and stay online constantly. Bosses often emailed workers past midnight, and then texted them if they didn’t get a response right away.
Since the initial report, an increasing number of Amazon employees have come forward about unfair treatment.
For example, last year a transgender woman sued the company, claiming she experienced repeated discrimination and harassment while she worked there. She was allegedly called “he/she” and “chick with a dick,” among other insults.
And Muslim workers recently protested an increased workload during Ramadan, reporting their bosses forced them to lift heavy boxes and work in hot conditions even though they were fasting.
Prime Day seems like a perfect time to air these grievances. Time will tell if Amazon’s angry American workers join their European counterparts.