For online shoppers, Amazon Prime Day is one of the most anticipated sales events of the year. However, not everyone has been looking forward to it. For the 2019 event, some Amazon workers have gone on strike. So, why are Amazon workers striking on Prime Day? They're fighting for better working conditions, and here's why.
Amazon Prime Day kicked off on Monday, July 15 and goes through Tuesday, July 16. This two-day online sale event features some of Amazon's most coveted products at massively reduced prices. However, on July 15, Amazon warehouse workers in Shakopee, Minnesota staged a strike to speak out against Amazon's working conditions on Amazon Prime Day. The workers planned to walk out for a six-hour period overlapping the warehouse's morning and evening shifts. According to The Hill, the workers claim that Amazon has failed to meet their demands, which include converting temporary employee positions into full-time opportunities, as well as easing productivity expectations in order to make the job safer. Amazon has disputed their claims, saying in a July 15 statement to Elite Daily that the company already provided the things the workers demanded, including a $15 wage, benefits, and a safe workplace. "These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor," an Amazon spokesperson wrote. "If these groups — unions and the politicians they rally to their cause — really want to help the American worker, we encourage them to focus their energy on passing legislation for an increase in the federal minimum wage, because $7.25 is too low."
In response to the Minnesota strike, The Hill reported that Amazon tech workers in Seattle (where the company's headquarters are based) plan to travel to Minnesota to join the strike. This represents the first major Amazon walk-out ever to occur in the United States.
Amazon has long faced allegations of terrible work conditions, particularly for workers employed in the warehouses from which packages are shipped, per Business Insider. Workers have alleged long hours of intense physical labor, quotas so tight that they are not able to take bathroom breaks and end up urinating in bottles, being pressured into working while injured, and mandatory overtime, including on holidays like Thanksgiving. In separate statements to Newsweek in September 2018, Amazon said that "any serious incident is one too many" and the company was always working to improve conditions, and that the company "investigate[s] any allegation we are made aware of and fix[es] things that are wrong." In a July 15 statement to Elite Daily, Amazon called the allegations that employees were not able to take bathroom breaks "simply not true." Amazon employs more than half a million people worldwide.
Following news of the Amazon workers' strike, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts spoke in support of the workers via a July 15 tweet. In March, Warren introduced a plan as part of her 2020 presidential run that would break up big-tech companies, including Amazon, Google, and Facebook, by implementing new rules on companies that bring in $25 million or more in annual revenue. The rules would force the companies to give up their control over online commerce and limit mergers with other companies. Warren's tweet read,
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.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a fellow 2020 presidential candidate, also took to Twitter on July 15 to express his support for the Amazon workers strike. Sanders has been an outspoken critic of Amazon and its alleged treatment of employees, demanding that the company raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour (which it did in November 2018) and improve working conditions for employees. Sanders' tweet read,
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.
Amazon Prime Day is arguably the company's busiest two days of the year. The 48-hour sale features serious deals on products ranging from kitchen appliances to in-home entertainment setups. So, for thrifty shoppers, this online shopping event is definitely an exciting time.
Amazon Prime Day can definitely have an impact on your wallet. But while you're shopping, it's good to keep in mind how this sale can affect the employees who work to ship those items right to your door.