According to the Verdi union, more than 2,000 workers participated in a Black Friday strike across various Amazon sites in Germany. These walkouts are part of the global “Make Amazon Pay” campaign, which organizers state encompasses strikes and demonstrations in over 30 countries, including the United States.
The campaign coincides with the Black Friday shopping event, an originally US custom for retailers to lower prices following the American Thanksgiving holiday and usher in the holiday sales season. But this practice has also taken root in Europe and other parts of the world with the rise of Amazon and similar online-based multinational retailers.
“Amazon employees have made Black Friday into a ‘Make Amazon Pay’ day,'” said one of the leaders of the German Verdi union, Silke Zimmer.
Parallel to the strikes, Amazon faced a protest by the German Peng! collective, which included a demonstration outside the “Amazon Tower” building in Berlin, an online petition, a satirical Amazon-themed “circus” and an “Amazon Leaks” page for the employees to report abuse.
Why is Verdi protesting Amazon?
According to the Verdi union, the strike affected six Amazon fulfillment centers in Germany. In turn, an Amazon spokesperson said work continued “normally,” and only a small number of workers were on strike. The company said Black Friday orders will be delivered reliably and on time.
Verdi and Amazon have been clashing over pay and working conditions for over a decade. The company insists it has been offering “fair wages and good benefits” to its employees.
What happened outside of Germany?
In the UK, over 200 employees were on strike at the Amazon warehouse in Coventry. The workers demand to be paid 15 pounds ($18.69, €17.29) an hour. A spokesperson for Amazon UK said the company’s minimum starting pay was between 11.80 and 13 pounds, depending on the location, and was scheduled to rise to 12.30 to 13 pounds from next spring. For reference, the UK minimum wage is also set to reach 11.44 pounds in April 2024.
Reports of strikes and protests also came from worker organizations in Spain, Italy, and France.
Who is behind the strikes?
The “Make Amazon Pay” campaign is coordinated by the UNI Global Union, a Swiss-based organization claiming to represent over 20 million workers from over 150 countries in the skills and services sector.
The organization, along with scores of other groups taking part in the initiative, accuses Amazon of “squeezing workers, communities and the planet” by exploiting its personnel, avoiding taxes, and not meeting its environmental pledges.