Image from Yahoo News
The strike began on Friday morning and ended the morning after, affecting Amazon’s ability to meet the demand of e-commerce sales on Black Friday. While Thanksgiving celebration remains a U.S. cultural holiday, Black Friday, which marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the U.S., has become a European tradition. For Amazon, a multinational, mass profits are generated during this time that begins on Black Friday and ends on what has been called “Cyber Monday” — a time of unbridled consumerism. This year, workers in Europe threw a wrench into this profit-generating machine.
In Germany, the spokesman of Ver.Di, a German trade union based in Berlin, told the press that around 2,500 employees went on strike in the distribution centers in Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Werne, Graben and Coblenz.
Image from La Voce Delle Lotte
Amazon “wants to make record of sales on this day but workers have to make record performance every day for everything to work as Amazon wants” said Stefanie Nutzenberger, member of the board of Ver.Di.
Since 2013, Ver.Di has struggled for better salaries and working conditions for the approximately 12,000 employees in Germany. According to the union, Amazon’s workers receive lower salaries than those of similar companies. Amazon maintains that it is a “fair and responsible” employer and that it offers “attractive jobs”. Amazon has enjoyed enormous growth, but workers don’t see any of those profits. This is true around the world– not only in Germany and Italy, but in the United States as well (see chart below).
There were solidarity actions held by about 400 people in Berlin and in Leipzig, both organized by the “Make Amazon Pay” alliance. Amazon workers from Poland also attended the action to highlight that they too are struggling for better salaries and working conditions. In Germany, however, the labor movements were the most consequential. Strikers blocked the distribution centers and managed to prevent the dispatch of products for a brief period of time
In Italy, the strike was supported by the several unions ( CGIL, CISL, UIL, UGL etc), and affected a distribution center in the northern part of the country. There, Amazon workers have to literally run around the worksite to keep up with the work rhythm imposed by the company.
The SiCobas union, active in the logistics district of Piacenza, organized a picket to block the movement of the goods so that the company’s operations be really affected. Around 300 workers participated in the blockade. Despite union opposition, around 130 workers from other nearby warehouses joined the picket.
The simultaneous strikes organized by German and Italian Amazon workers interrupted Amazon’s global operations. While the outcomes of these protests are still difficult to foresee, the momentum of these local events may impact the conditions of workers around the world.
This article was originally published on La Izquierda Diario . It was translated by Nicolas Tesla.