Why Employee Strikes Won’t Stop Amazon From Making Billions on Prime Day

Preceded by an abundance of fanfare and astronomical forecasts, Amazon Prime Day has arrived.

The two-day shopping event — which puts more than one million deals up for grabs on Amazon — is expected to be the e-commerce giant’s biggest yet and blow past last year’s estimated $4.2 billion in sales to hit $5.8 billion, per CoreSight Research data. (Last year’s Prime Day went for 36 hours. This time around, the holiday will last a record 48 hours.)

But, there is another set of events happening concurrently — with Amazon also at the center — however, with much less pomp and circumstance.

Employees at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn. as well as a reported 2,000 workers at its Germany facilities have commenced a strike over the labor conditions — some of which are said to make it possible for the e-commerce giant to offer free one-day shipping to its more than 100 million Prime members.

Workers in Europe have protested during Amazon Prime Day in years past, meanwhile, the same group organizing this week’s protest in Minnesota also led a rally in December calling for more diverse leadership, a dedicated prayer room and reduced workloads during Ramadan, when a large number of the fulfillment center’s 1,500 employees is fasting from dawn until sunset.

Amazon — which is no stranger to criticism and boycott threats, some of which have been led by President Donald Trump — has denied any suggestion that it does not pay workers adequately or that its working conditions are substandard, touting “comprehensive benefits including health care, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more,” in a statement.

And so far, any widespread consumer backlash has seemed fairly muted. Part of the reason, according to Neal Hughes, brand strategist at Sol Marketing, might actually be the e-giant’s long history of being a boycott target — which could desensitize consumers to negative headlines about the company.

“Amazon will be fine,” Hughes said. “Prime Day has been boycotted since its existence. At this point, Amazon is constantly under a boycott [threat]. But it’s such a juggernaut. It’s no longer a brand but more of a governing body.”

Nevertheless, a plethora of research shows that consumers these days — particularly socially-conscious consumers like Gen Z and millennials — are generally concerned about corporate social responsibility and ethical issues such as workers’ rights and equal pay. However, Hughes pointed out that the threshold for consumers to take action — engaging in brand boycotts or criticizing a firm publicly — can be quite high, especially if the company plays an integral role in their daily lives.

“I think people really do care about these [internal staffing issues] but taking action on these things [tends to require] that an organization has multiple egregious offenses,” he added. “It takes a lot for [people to walk away from] brands that are so closely threaded through our society. Amazon is, at this point, an irreplaceable brand. If we woke up tomorrow and Amazon was taken away, it would impact the way we live our lives.”

Mega brands like Apple, Nike and Google — which have persistently faced criticism and boycott threats over the years — have also enjoyed a similar level of supposed immunity to long-term negative impact.

Nike, for example, shouldered headlines last year suggesting it had a toxic “boys club” culture but walked away largely unscathed.

For many consumers — unless they’re personally impacted by something that’s taking place inside the walls of a company — boycotting or scaling down our use of such brands can be far too much of an inconvenience.

“As consumers, we can be selfish,” Hughes noted. “Often, if we’re not personally impacted [by something], we can look past it.”

 

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