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Amazon Prime Day comes with protests by warehouse workers, pilots and engineers

Prime Day protests for Amazon workers

With Amazon's Prime Day sales event underway, Amazon.com workers as well as labor groups and other activists are calling out the e-commerce giant on issues including work conditions, climate change and its ties to U.S. government moves to deport immigrants.

Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center outside Minneapolis have been advocating for workplace changes for more than a year, claiming the retailer's productivity quotas makes their jobs unsafe and needlessly stressful. They also want Amazon to curb its use of temporary workers. 

Some workers at the warehouse planned to walk off the job for three hours at the end of the day shift and three hours at the beginning of the night shift on Monday, the first day of much touted annual sales event designed to draw and retain Amazon Prime subscribers who fork over a yearly fee for free shipping and other benefits. Workers also planned to demonstrate outside the facility in Shakopee, Minnesota, joined by several Amazon tech workers who flew to the state to join the demonstrators and to demand the company take action to combat climate change.

Part of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the group in April published an open letter signed by nearly 8,000 workers calling out the company for actions including donating "to 68 members of Congress in 2018 who voted against climate legislation 100% of the time." 

The AFL-CIO issued a statement in support of the warehouse workers, saying the walkout "underscores why we need to strengthen protections for workers and unions across the country." The union urged support for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a bill introduced in May by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, which it said would make it easier to form a union and protect workers like those protesting in Minnesota.

Pilots at Atlas Air, Southern Air and ABX Air also voiced support for the Amazon warehouse workers, with the union representing them saying it sent a representative to join the demonstration. 

"Pilots who fly for Amazon Air at Atlas Air, Southern Air and ABX Air stand in solidarity with the warehouse workers in Shakopee planning to strike on Prime Day," Daniel Wells, an Atlas Air pilot and president of Teamsters Local 1224, said in an emailed statement. "As we know firsthand, Amazon's business model too often neglects the well-being of the workers who make the e-commerce giant so incredibly successful." 

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Teamsters Local 1224

The pilots who transport Amazon cargo also weighed in with a digital ad campaign on social medial to call attention to how those in the cockpit are "being overworked, underpaid and disrespected by their carriers."

In addition, protesters reportedly planned to deliver to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' home in Manhattan petitions calling on Amazon Web Services to no longer host databases that let the Department of Homeland Security track and take into custody immigrants. The company is also said to be in discussions to host DHS biometric databases that house identifying data such as eye color and tattoos. 

Amazon Web Services hosts Department of Homeland Security databases that allow the department and its agencies to track and apprehend immigrants.The company is also in talks to expand a partnership to host new DHS biometric databases that store more extensive data, including eye color, tattoos and other identifiers.

A new American majority: Amazon Prime members

"Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause," Amazon said in an emailed statement. 

The company said it already pays workers at least $15 an hour and ensures they work in a safe conditions. 

"We can only conclude that the people who plan to attend the event on Monday are simply not informed," the statement continued. "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."

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