On one of the busiest shopping days of the year, workers at the world's biggest shopping company are walking out. As Black Friday starts in various time zones across the globe, large groups of Amazon employees in warehouses, packing centres, shipping and distribution centres, and other parts of the e-commerce giant's huge supply chain network will be striking or protesting.
This year's protests continue a tradition of Black Friday demands that date back to before the pandemic and focus on the low pay, notoriously poor working conditions, and repressive employment practices in Amazon facilities. The strikes are organised by Make Amazon Pay, a coalition of unions, grassroots movements, social movements, civil society movements, and even several research institutes from around the world. Make Amazon Pay was formed in 2020 as the pandemic took a particularly severe toll on Amazon warehouse workers.
According to the coalition, the strikes and protests will take place in at least 20 countries, mostly in North America and Europe. A number of coalition members - including several massive international union federations - have representation in Australia and Asia, and some are based out of India.
The protests have five sets of common demands: to improve the working conditions of Amazon's front-line workers, provide workers with proper job security, respect workers' rights, operate sustainably, and behave as a good corporate citizen. The majority of these demands - for better working conditions and sustainable operations, for instance - have been made repeatedly over the last few years, and several times ended up in regulatory investigations and court cases.
Will the protests and strikes have the desired effect, though? It's hard to say; employee action has only had limited effect across Amazon's massive operations so far. It took the pandemic-driven labour shortages of the last year or so combined with the huge demand for Amazon's services just to get the tech giant to raise its frontline workers' pay, and CEO Andy Jassy only just admitted this year that Amazon's treatment of its workforce needs to be improved.