Watch CBS News

Amazon workers in 30 other countries protest on Black Friday

Unions rise again: Labor collectives vs. Amazon
Unions rise again: Labor collectives vs. Amazon 04:58

Amazon workers and activists in 30 countries marked the traditional start of holiday shopping season with a series of walkouts and protests to demand better pay and working conditions.

In Manhattan, activists, labor unions and Amazon workers marched outside company founder Jeff Bezos' penthouse in the tony Flatiron district.

Outside St. Louis, a few dozen workers walked out of the massive STL8 facility on Friday afternoon. It's the second wildcat strike at the 900,000-square-foot fulfillment center, where workers also picketed in September to protest pay and working conditions. Workers at the location are calling for a raise of $10 an hour and the improvement of working conditions they say lead to too many workers being injured on the job.

The groups involved with the campaign are promoting it on Twitter under the hashtag #MakeAmazonPay. They have a range of demands. Many are asking for increased pay, an end to worker surveillance and a pace of work conducive to an above-average rate of workplace injuries.

Labor actions are also planned at Whole Foods stores, which Amazon owns, and at other locations in Bessemer, Alabama; Columbia, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan; Durham, North Carolina; Garner, North Carolina; Joliet, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; and Washington, D.C.

In Germany, workers demonstrated at nine out of 20 warehouses Amazon has in the country, the company told Reuters, although it said the "vast majority" of employees reported to work as usual.

In Coventry, England, workers rallied in the evening outside an Amazon facility, saying "We are not robots."

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, some activists rallied in front of the National Congress building holding signs reading, "Make Amazon Pay."

"On Black Friday, in what has already been named #MakeAmazonPay day, unions, civil society and progressive elected officials will stand shoulder to shoulder in a massive global day of action to denounce Amazon's despicable multimillion dollar campaigns to kill worker-lead union efforts," Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, a group spearheading the protests, said in a statement. "It's time for the tech giant to cease their awful, unsafe practices immediately, respect the law and negotiate with the workers who want to make their jobs better."

Asked for comment on the protests, Amazon sent CBS MoneyWatch a statement on Monday that defended its record while offering few specifics.

"A coalition of organizations are continuing to encourage protests at Amazon. These groups represent a variety of interests, and while we are not perfect in any area, if you objectively look at what Amazon is doing on these important matters you'll see that we do take our role and our impact very seriously. We are inventing and investing significantly in all these areas, playing a significant role in addressing climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, continuing to offer competitive wages and great benefits, and inventing new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy in our operations network, to name just a few," the statement said.

Global protest

Among the countries where Amazon is facing strikes and protests, according to UNI: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey and the U.K. 

Monika di Silvestre, an official with Ver.di, a German labor group helping to organize the #MakeAmazonPay campaign, told Bloomberg that workers are particularly concerned with Amazon's use of computers to monitor their productivity. 

"The workers are under a lot of pressure with these algorithms," she said. "It doesn't differentiate between workers, whether they are old or have limited mobility. Workers stay awake at night thinking only of their productivity stats."

Nearly half of all injuries recorded in U.S. warehouses in 2021 occurred at Amazon, according to the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of unions. 

"Amazon employed one-third of all warehouse workers in the U.S., but it was responsible for nearly one-half (49%) of all injuries in the warehouse industry," according to the report by the SOC.

Amazon has previously defended its safety record and denied that injury rates are higher at the company's warehouses.

Unions vs. Amazon: A David and Goliath story 05:00

The company has faced mounting pressure in the U.S. from workers seeking to unionize. Earlier this year, a warehouse on Staten Island in New York City became the first Amazon fulfillment center to organize, and other facilities have also filed for collective bargaining rights. Most recently, workers at an Amazon warehouse in upstate New York voted against unionizing.

A federal judge last week ordered Amazon to stop retaliating against employees participating in workplace activism. The ruling came in a court case brought by the National Labor Relations Board, which sued Amazon in March seeking the reinstatement of a fired employee who was involved in organizing the company's Staten Island warehouse.

— CBS News' Irina Ivanova and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.