Prime Day is the single largest shopping day and Amazon has in the past raked in billions of dollars’ worth of sales from it. However, this year’s Prime Day was full of controversy as thousands of Amazon workers were striking and protesting. The strike was protesting poor working conditions and low pay, and mostly affected the US and Germany but thousands of workers in three other European countries staged major protests in solidarity with their US and German counterparts.
Workers in an Amazon warehouse in Minnesota confirmed last week that they would strike for about six hours on July 15th on Prime Day. As soon as the announcement went public, it seemed to encourage other employees to also take action. Strikes were expected in Germany during the same day while major protests on Amazon facilities took place in Spain, the UK, and Poland. Prime Day is a busy shopping period for Amazon and the retail giant had raised its ambitions for this year’s event. The company promised one-day delivery and said that it would extend the discounting period to two days.
As a result, Prime ran from July 15th to July 16th. This is the first time Amazon has decided to offer two continuous days for Prime and this means that workers will have to work more. As a matter of fact, a statement issued by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Union noted that, by doubling Prime Day’s duration and halving delivery times, Amazon will literally be testing the physical limits of its workers. The union made it clear this is not feasible and if Amazon still wants to go through with its ambitious plan, it would have to at least hire temporary workers to help the current workforce.
The union accused Amazon of turning a blind eye on what is clearly a serious issue. Amazon workers in Germany said that they would protest for two days in seven warehouses. The union representing the German workers said that the move is necessary, arguing that Amazon has “deprived its employees of a living wage.” As of Monday morning, there were already a total of 2,000 workers on strike and the number grew even more.
In countries like Spain, protests were scheduled for two full days. Workers in the UK, on the other hand, were expected to hold protest for four days. They started on July 15th and finished on the 19th at the Rugeley warehouse where they were joined by Spanish workers. The Rugeley warehouse couldn’t be more symbolic. Undercover journalist James Bloodworth at one point reported that the working culture in the Amazon facility resembled that of a “prison.” As for workers in Poland, their protest started on July 15th. There is already an existing tussle there between the workers and Amazon’s management. The disagreement on working conditions started in May this year. The workers have vowed not to return to work until a collective agreement is reached.