As Amazon shoppers seize on more than a million Prime Day deals, many of the e-commerce giant’s employees are staging walk outs to protest poor working conditions, inadequate pay and the company’s links to ICE.
The company’s fifth annual spendaholic Superbowl kicked off on Monday and will run for two days, but the deals aren’t the only thing grabbing attention.
Employees are demanding that Amazon improve working environments, do more to combat climate change and cut its ties with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In New York, a coalition of labor groups planned to deliver a petition with 250,000 signatures to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Manhattan home.
Protesters marched by the billionaire’s home carrying boxes with the Amazon logo turned into a frowny face and signs that said things like: ‘Amazon + ICE = Detention’ and ‘Stop hunting our kids.’
Amazon’s Prime Day bonanza kicked off on Monday as many of the e-commerce giant’s employees staged walk outs to protest poor working conditions, inadequate pay and the company’s links to ICE. Protesters are seen preparing to march by founder Jeff Bezos’ building in New York City with signs decrying the use of Amazon technology for ICE surveillance
Protesters carried boxes with eyes drawn over Amazon’s arrow logo to make a frowny face. They were said to be delivering a workers’ rights petition with 250,000 signatures
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reportedly been using Amazon’s Echo smart speaker technology to keep tabs on undocumented immigrants in their homes
A woman is seen carrying a sign declaring that Amazon should not be assisting ICE officials
Other protesters are seen with a sign that says: ‘Stop hunting our kids’ on a street in Manhattan
Workers at a warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, came up with the plan to use Prime Day to raise awareness for workers’ conditions, and the strike quickly gained traction at other locations across the world.
A group of tech workers at the company’s headquarters in Seattle, called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, is supporting the strike.
More than 2,000 workers at seven warehouses in Germany have also gone on strike.
Workers at a warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, came up with the plan to use Prime Day to call attention to workers’ conditions, and the strike quickly gained traction at other locations
Amazon’s link to ICE is one of many issues at the center of Monday’s protests
A group of demonstrators are seen gathered in in front of an Amazon store in New York City
A sign accuses Amazon of helping ICE put migrant children in cages at the US-Mexico border
There were also calls on social media for a blanket boycott of Prime Day.
Massachusetts Sen Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen Bernie Sanders, both 2020 presidential hopefuls, voiced their support for workers on Twitter.
‘I fully support Amazon workers’ Prime Day strike. Their fight for safe and reliable jobs is another reminder that we must come together to hold big corporations accountable,’ Warren tweeted.
‘Giant corporations like Amazon have too much power—in fact, nearly half of all e-commerce goes through Amazon. My administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition—including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google. #BreakUpBigTech.’
Sanders tweeted: ‘I stand in solidarity with the courageous Amazon workers engaging in a work stoppage against unconscionable working conditions in their warehouses.
‘It is not too much to ask that a company owned by the wealthiest person in the world treat its workers with dignity and respect.’
Vermont Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders tweeted his support for the workers
Massachusetts Sen Elizabeth Warren also expressed her support on Twitter
Warren shared a video of herself decrying the excessive power of tech companies like Amazon
Amazon responded to the planned strikes by saying it is already offering what the workers are demanding.
‘We provide great employment opportunities with excellent pay – ranging from $16.25-$20.80 an hour, and comprehensive benefits including health care, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more,’ spokeswoman Brenda Alfred said.
Another Amazon spokesperson told Reuters on Monday: ‘Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues.
‘These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause – industry leading pay of $15 per hour, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees.’
Amazon has said it is already offering the pay and benefits workers are demanding
Police are seen putting up barricades outside an Amazon store on 34th Street in Manhattan
Experts say the protests are unlikely to have an effect on sales.
‘I don’t think it will have an impact, Americans liking discounts will trump worrying about higher wages for two days,’ San Diego State University Marketing Professor Steven Osinski told the Associated Press.
Prime Day was invented as an effort to try to drum up sales during sluggish summer months and sign up more users for its Prime loyalty program.
This year’s event was preceded by a star-studded concert headlined by Taylor Swift in New York City last Wednesday.
More than 100 million people are subscribed to Amazon Prime, which costs $119 a year and provides free two-day shipping, free streaming movies, TV shows, and music and other benefits.
In the years since the launch of Prime Day, other retailers have introduced their own promotions to compete with Amazon.
Walmart is running a ‘summer savings event’ through Wednesday, and Best Buy, EBay, Target and others are also offering discounts.
‘It’s something that shows you the power of Amazon that almost every other retailer is trying to capitalize on the traffic we’re seeing online today with promotions by just about everybody,’ said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy.
He said the event has changed consumer psychology as customers are inclined to delay purchases until Prime Day or do their back-to-school shopping weeks in advance.