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Friday, November 25, 2022

On Black Friday, Amazon Workers in 40+ Countries Strike and Protest 'Despicable' Treatment

Workers' protest puts spotlight on Amazon's dark side

JAKE JOHNSON For Common Dreams

Garment workers in Bangladesh take part in a "Make Amazon Pay" demonstration on November 25, 2022. (Photo: UNI Global Union/Twitter)

Thousands of Amazon workers in more than 40 countries are planning to mark Black Friday by walking off the job and protesting the corporate behemoth's abuse of employees and the climate, as well as its chronic avoidance of taxes while raking in huge profits.

"Make Amazon Pay" actions are expected to include marches and rallies for union recognition in Bangladesh, strikes at nearly 20 warehouses in France and Germany, walkouts in a dozen cities in the United States, and a protest by newly unionized workers in Japan.

"Today, 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 kill worker-led union efforts," Christy Hoffman, president of UNI Global Union, said in a statement. "It's time for the tech giant to cease their awful, unsafe practices immediately, respect the law, and negotiate with the workers who want to make their jobs better."

Amazon spent around $4.3 million on anti-union consultants in the U.S. last year as it worked to crush historic labor organizing efforts in Alabama and New York. Workers ultimately voted earlier this year to unionize at a Staten Island warehouse, the first-ever organized location in the United States.

Meanwhile, Amazon avoided $5 billion in federal corporate income taxes in the U.S. last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, as the company continued to shortchange and exploit its employees, who are frequently injured on the job as they race to meet the company's punishing productivity metrics.

Across the globe, the workers who make Amazon's vast logistics network and numerous businesses possible say they're often subjected to inhumane treatment and forced to labor under grueling conditions to earn a meager paycheck as company executives grow richer each year. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy received $213 million in total compensation in 2021.

"Garment workers, like those I represent, toil to swell Amazon's coffers often without any recognition that we are even Amazon workers," said Nazma Akhter, president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation in Bangladesh. 

"Amazon is the third-largest direct employer in the world, but when you take us in the supply chain into account, it is even larger. At work we can face sexual harassment from management and victimization when we try to organize in a trade union against that violence and for better pay and conditions."

"In Bangladesh, we are on the frontline of climate breakdown, so we know climate justice and social justice cannot be separated," Akhter continued. "We have to make Amazon pay all its workers a decent wage in dignified workplaces and for its environmental damage."

Amazon disclosed earlier this year that it emitted the equivalent of 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021—likely a significant undercount given how the company calculates its footprint.

"We all know that the price of everything is going up, as is the temperature of our planet," said Daniel Kopp, Progressive International's Make Amazon Pay coordinator. "Instead of paying its workers fairly, its taxes in full, and for its damage to our environment, Amazon is squeezing every last drop it can from workers, communities, and the planet."

In an op-ed for Jacobin on Friday, Hoffman and Akhter noted that as costs of living soar worldwide, Amazon's "hard-line stances against improving workplace conditions and recognizing unions... remain unchanged."

"In the U.K., it offered workers a ridiculous 35p raise per hour in August—in other words, a massive real-term pay cut," the pair wrote. "In France and Germany, workers also rejected having their pay cut in real terms. Amazon made $33.3 billion in profit in 2021, but it won't pay its workers a fair share."

"To make Amazon pay, we can clearly not rely on goodwill. Instead, Amazon workers and their trade unions, environmentalists, tax watchdogs, and regulators need to get together and fight back. And that's exactly what we're seeing right now," Hoffman and Akhter added. 

"That's why workers and organizers are uniting on November 25 in a campaign to Make Amazon Pay. From the United States to Bangladesh, from Germany to South Africa, Amazon will face coordinated strikes and protests demanding that Amazon raises wages above inflation for all its workers, stops its union-busting, decarbonizes its whole supply chain, and pays its fair shares of taxes."