Amazon sees scattered Black Friday protests

Amazon sees scattered Black Friday protests

For many, Black Friday marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

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Amazon experienced some disruption at scattered facilities on Black Friday in the middle of the busiest shopping period of the year. Activists called for better pay and improvements in the workplace, and for the company to be more proactive on issues such as climate crisis.

On Friday, the environmental group Extinction Rebellion blocked the entrances to 13 Amazon distribution centers in the UK (including the largest in the Scottish city of Dunfermline) and one each in Germany and the Netherlands, the BBC and Reuters reported. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck 17 in Tilbury, cities located east of London.

Separately, Make Amazon Pay, a coalition of workers and labor organizations, had called for a strike by Amazon employees across the company’s operations, such as data centers, factories and department stores. The aim was to halt Black Friday in 20 countries, including India, Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United States. Amazon’s British department store is not unionized, the BBC noted, so workers there can not strike legally.

“The pandemic has revealed how Amazon puts profit in front of workers, society and our planet,” the coalition said in its statement of claim. “Amazon takes too much and gives too little back. It’s time to make Amazon Pay.”

The group’s demands are divided into five categories: improvements in the workplace, job security, respect for workers’ rights, sustainable operation and repaying society. Improvements in the workplace include increasing wages, adding hazardous wages, providing adequate break time, extending paid sick leave and revealing covid-19 protocols.

For job security, the group wants an end to forms of casual employment and contractors while reinstatement of employees who were fired for organizing protests. Respecting employees’ rights focuses primarily on letting employees form a union and that Amazon should not implement union-crushing tactics. The group also calls on the retail giant to acknowledge climate change, reduce emissions to zero and pay taxes.

Amazon says they have already made progress with these requirements.

“These groups represent a number of interests, and although we are not perfect in any area, if you look objectively at what Amazon is doing in each of these areas, you will see that we take our role and our impact very seriously,” Amazon spokesman Kelly Nantel said in a statement Wednesday.

It was a similar call to one workers’ strike on Black Friday last year, after Amazon sales rose sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against forming a trade union at that facility.

Extinction Rebellion did not respond to a request for comment.

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