Amazon Workers Launch Black Friday Strikes, Protests in Europe

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By Jaclyn Diaz

As shoppers in the U.S. hit the stores for Black Friday deals, thousands of Amazon, Inc. workers across Europe hit the streets over working conditions at several of the e-commerce chain’s logistics centers.

Workers in Germany, Spain, and France walked off the job at fulfillment centers—or warehouses—on Black Friday, which is also one of the busiest online shopping days of the holiday season. In Italy and the U.K., workers held protests and solidarity actions at several facilities.

U.S.-based facilities weren’t similarly affected, an Amazon representative said.

Amazon said in a statement to Bloomberg Law that its European Fulfillment Network “was fully operational today as our associates focused on delivering for our customers. Any reports to the contrary are simply wrong. We respect the rights of groups and individuals to have their voice, but for us it was business as usual inside our Fulfillment Centres.”

The striking workers want better pay and workplace safety conditions. European workers for Amazon are largely part of a union. However, UNI Global Union, a global labor union that’s part of the Black Friday protests, said the company refuses to collectively bargain with them.

Amazon said those jobs are safe and well-paying. The company has “created over 75,00 permanent jobs across Europe since 2010,” the company said in a statement. “These are good jobs with highly competitive pay, full benefits, and innovative training programs.”

Amazon said in its statement that it encouraged anyone to take a tour of the fulfillment centers to see for themselves how safe the facilities are.

Signs of Labor Unrest in U.S.

But evidence of labor unrest remains, including in the U.S. where there are no unions currently representing Amazon workers.

The protests in Europe are part of wider criticism over the e-commerce giant’s workplace conditions by workers, labor unions, and politicians. Despite the unrest, attempts to unionize at Amazon have often come to naught.

A group of Somali workers at Amazon’s Shakopee, Minn., fulfillment center plan to protest Dec. 14 following issues over workplace conditions and religious accommodations. Workers at Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, have recently begun talks of organizing across multiple stores, but there has yet to be a vote.

More than 600 German workers at the company’s Bad Hersfeld facility walked off the job at 8:30 a.m. In Spain, workers at Amazon’s Madrid-area San Fernando de Henares facility intend to lead a two-day strike on Nov. 23 and 24. That facility employs 1,800 workers and was last on strike during Amazon Prime Day in May, according to UNI Global Union. Prime Day is another huge sales promotion event for the company.

An Amazon representative said reports that strike participation in Madrid was nearly 90 percent were incorrect.

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