Amazon workers and activism groups are staging Black Friday protests around the world, while the company tries to placate workers with $300 holiday bonuses

Advertisement
Amazon workers and activism groups are staging Black Friday protests around the world, while the company tries to placate workers with $300 holiday bonuses
Garment workers in Bangladesh join the "Make Amazon Pay" protests on Black Friday, 2020.Sommilito Garment Sramik Federation
  • A coalition of Amazon workers, unions, and activism groups protested Amazon on Black Friday.
  • The "Make Amazon Pay" group gave the company a list of demands that included raising workers' pay, putting an end to union-busting, and taking climate action.
  • Amazon workers in Germany went on strike, and garment workers in Bangladesh protested outside a supplier. In the UK, a trade union called for a parliamentary inquiry into "dehumanising" working conditions.
  • Amazon on Thursday said it would offer workers holiday bonuses of $150 to $300 this year. But Christy Hoffman, the chief of UNI Global Union, told Business Insider that this doesn't go far enough.

As Amazon gears up for one of its biggest shopping days of the year, thousands of people around the world are protesting its facilities.

A coalition of unions, human-rights organizations, and environmentalist groups on Friday launched a global protest of the e-commerce giant called "Make Amazon Pay."

The organizations behind the coalition — including UNI Global Union, Progressive International, Oxfam, and Greenpeace — gave a list of wide-ranging demands including raising warehouse workers' pay and benefits, ending union-busting tactics, and committing to ending Amazon's contracts with fossil-fuel industries.

Advertisement

"During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion dollar corporation, with Bezos becoming the first person in history to amass $200 billion in personal wealth," their demands statement said. "Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and only briefly received an increase in pay." Amazon workers received a $2-per-hour wage increase in March that was then cut in the summer.

Amazon's online sales have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, and its revenue is projected to soar even higher with the holiday season.

In a statement sent to Business Insider, Make Amazon Pay said there were actions planned for 15 countries: Brazil, Mexico, the US, the UK, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Poland, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Australia.

Advertisement

In Germany, Amazon workers in seven warehouses went on strike, while in Bangladesh garment workers protested outside an Amazon supplier facility in Dhaka.

In the UK, the GMB workers' union projected the words "Make Amazon Pay" on the side of Amazon's London headquarters. It also called for a parliamentary investigation into "dehumanising" working conditions in the company's warehouses.

Amazon workers and activism groups are staging Black Friday protests around the world, while the company tries to placate workers with $300 holiday bonuses
The GMB Union projected this onto the side of Amazon's London HQ early on Friday.GMB Union

On Thursday, Amazon announced it was giving a total of $500 million in holiday bonuses to its frontline workers, translating to $300 for full-time employees and $150 for part-time employees.

Advertisement

Christy Hoffman, the general secretary of UNI Global Union, told Business Insider that the bonuses did not represent a meaningful change.

"It is great that workers are getting more this holiday season. It is not enough. To show it values its workforce, Amazon should collectively bargain wages and conditions with workers throughout its operations rather than make one-time unilateral gestures of appreciation," Hoffman said.

Read more: Amazon is going deeper into the prescription drug business. Here are the 7 ways the tech giant is taking on healthcare, and why two analysts think doctors visits are next.

Advertisement

A UK-based Amazon worker who spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity also said the holiday bonus doesn't go far enough.

"Since the unfortunate closure of many High Street stores, Amazon has profited greatly. That and the fact all their staff are working extra hard during this pandemic, putting themselves at risk," the worker said. "Surely Amazon can do way better than this."

In response to the protests, an Amazon representative told Business Insider: "This is a series of misleading assertions by misinformed or self-interested groups who are using Amazon's profile to further their individual causes."

Advertisement

It added: "Amazon has a strong track record of supporting our employees, our customers, and our communities, including providing safe working conditions, competitive wages and great benefits, leading on climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, and paying billions pounds in taxes globally."

{{}}