As Amazon readies for the 48-hour shopping extravaganza that is Prime Day, a group of its workers are planning a walkout.
Employees at a fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn. are preparing to strike for six hours on July 15, the first day of the sales event, according to a report from Bloomberg. The group is protesting the labor conditions that make it possible for the e-commerce giant to offer free one-day shipping to its more than 100 million Prime members, each of whom pays $119 per year for the service, along with a suite of other benefits.
While CEO Jeff Bezos announced in October that Amazon would raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour — well ahead of the $11 per hour offered by Walmart, the nation’s largest private-sector employer — the company has long faced criticism for the reported grueling pace, strict hourly quotas and strenuous physical labor that some say distribution center workers are expected to keep up with or risk losing their jobs. The wage hike came a month after Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders introduced a bill called the Stop BEZOS Act, which would force companies like Amazon and Walmart to pay for the cost of social services like Medicare and food stamps.
The group organizing Monday’s walkout is the Awood Center, an advocacy organization focused on advancing the rights of the East African worker community in Minnesota. The organization also led a rally in December calling for more diverse leadership, a dedicated prayer room and reduced workloads during Ramadan, when a large share of the fulfillment center’s 1,500 employees is fasting from dawn until sunset.
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In a statement provided to FN, an Amazon spokesperson said, “The fact is Amazon offers already what this outside organization is asking for. 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. We encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other retailers and major employers in the Shakopee community and across the country – and we invite anyone to see for themselves by taking a tour of the facility.” (Amazon offers tours at more than 20 of its fulfillment centers around the country, which can be booked through its corporate website.)
While Amazon has resisted unionization efforts in the U.S., labor organizers in Europe have ramped up demonstrations against the company. Last Black Friday, thousands of Amazon workers across Spain, France, the U.K., Germany and Italy went on strike to protest working conditions in its warehouses, following similar (though smaller) walkouts on Prime Day.
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