Labor unions back strikes, boycotts targeting Amazon ‘Prime Day’

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Major U.S. labor unions called on consumers to boycott Amazon during its annual “Prime Day” sale Monday and expressed solidarity with striking workers at a suburban Minnesota warehouse for the online retailer.

Labor leaders and activists urged online shoppers not to buy from Amazon or its affiliates as the company offers discounts of up to 70 percent on thousands of products to members of its Prime services on Monday and Tuesday. 

The The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) have asked would-be Amazon customers to stand with warehouse workers and delivery drivers in calling for safer working conditions.{mosads}

“Before you rush out and start shopping and filling that cart, I hope you’ll take a minute to think about the working people who are working behind the scenes to make those deliveries happen,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler in a Monday video“Show Amazon that Prime Day is not just for shopping. It’s for respecting the rights of working people.”

As Amazon expands its dominance of U.S. retail and web services, the company is facing lawsuits alleging excessive management pressure and unsafe conditions at its warehouses and distribution centers. 

Employees of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn., are conducting a six-hour work stoppage Monday organized by a local chapter of the Service Employees International Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Shakopee fulfillment center employees, many of whom are East African immigrants, claim Amazon has refused to convert more temporary positions to full-time employment and permanently ease productivity quotas that workers say make their jobs unsafe.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a 2020 presidential candidate, voiced support for the striking workers in a Monday tweet.

“Their fight for safe and reliable jobs is another reminder that we must come together to hold big corporations accountable,” said Warren, who has proposed a plan to dismantle Amazon and other big tech companies. 

UFCW President Marc Perrone said in a Monday statement that “Amazon workers are sending a powerful message to Jeff Bezos this Prime Day: It’s time to stop putting profits ahead of people. With the recent move to one-day Prime shipping, Amazon workers are being forced to meet impossible demands at increasingly unsafe speeds.”

CWA also expressed support for the striking Shakopee workers, tweeting Monday“It’s a #PrimeDay for solidarity. @Amazon is one of the largest companies on the planet, but many Amazon workers work full-time and still can’t afford basic necessities. We stand with workers.”

Amazon spokeswoman Brenda Alfred denied the allegations made by the striking workers in a statement to USA Today.

“The fact is Amazon offers already what this outside organization is asking for,” Alfred said in a statement to the paper. “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.”

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