(Bloomberg) – Amazon.com Inc. Minnesota warehouse workers are planning to strike during the online retailer's summer sales event, a sign that the workforce is continuing even after the company is committed to paying all employees at least $ 1
Workers in a Shakopee, Minnesota Compliance Center are planning a six-hour stopover on July 15, the first day of Prime Day. Amazon started the event five years ago using deep discounts on television, toys and clothing to attract and retain Prime members who pay subscription fees in exchange for free shipping and other perks.
"Amazon is going to tell a story about itself that they can send a Kindle to your house in a day is not that wonderful," said William Stolz, one of the Shakopee employees who organizes the strike. "We will take this opportunity to talk about what it takes to get this job done and put pressure on Amazon to protect us and secure and secure jobs."
Amazon, through a spokeswoman, refused to comment on the planned strike.
In Europe, where trade unions are stronger, Amazon workers routinely hit major shopping events such as Prime Day and Black Friday. So far, the Amazon American workers have not gone away from work during the most important sales days. About 250 volunteer pilots running packages to Amazon and the DHL Worldwide Express took a short strike in the Thanksgiving leadership in 2016 before a federal judge ordered them back to work, eliminating any disruptions to the peak holiday shopping season.
As one of the world's most valuable companies – led by Jeff Bezos, the world's richest person – Amazon has become a symbol of income inequality. Critics say it benefits from tax breaks to build warehouses, but pays workers so little that some are forced to seek state aid for basic needs such as food and health care. The race to pay $ 15 per hour did not happen until the company had weathered attacks by politicians like the president's hopeful Bernie Sanders, who suggested a "Stop BEZOS" act that would have imposed a tax on companies like Amazon to compensate for the cost of State benefits like Medicaid for their employees.
Too late, stores in the Minnesota Twin Cities region have become an epicenter of working activism led by East African Muslim immigrants, as organizers say, composing most of the five facilities. Last year, the workers worked in a transit center that chanted "Yes we can" in Somali and English, and presented the management with demands as reduced workloads while fasting to Ramadan. They also circulated flyers at a nearby fulfillment center, which encouraged colleagues to wear blue shirts and hijabs to support the same cause.
The organizers say the actions led to talks between employees and the management in the fall and encouraged some modest changes. These include relaxing pressures on workers to meet allowances during Ramadan and the appointment of a conference room as a prayer room.
But they say the company has not met the worker's demands, such as converting more temps to Amazon employees and permanently facilitating productivity quotas they claim to make the jobs uncertain and uncertain. In a letter last year to the National Labor Relations Board, reported by The Verge, a lawyer for Amazon said hundreds of employees in a Baltimore facility were terminated within about a year for failing to meet productivity rates. In March, employees at the Shakopee plant have planned for three hours at the end of the day shift and for approx. three hours at night. In the afternoon, the workers are also planning to rally outside the facility, which is about 25 km from Minneapolis.
In an effort to show solidarity, a handful of Amazon white collar engineers intend to fly to Minnesota to participate in the demonstration, where activists will require the company to take action against climate change, as well as light quotas, and recruit more temps. "We are both fighting for a living future," said Seattle software engineer Weston Fribley, one of several employees of the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group, who will make the trip.
It is the latest example of technical staff with very different jobs trying to create a common cause in the hope that their bosses find their claims more difficult to ignore.
"We see that our struggles are stronger together," said Abdirahman Muse, CEO of Awood Center, working law spearheading Minnesota activism whose backers include the Service Employees International Union, Teamsters, and the Minnesota chapter in the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Muse said he expects more than 100 workers to beat.
Workers are also pushing their case to the federal government and claiming their activism earlier this year was punished illegally. The workers filed a few complaints last week with the Danish Working Environment Authority. A complaint filed against Amazon's staff member Integrity Staffing Solutions claims that it is illegally retaliated against a worker the organizers say had mobilized employees to the March strike and was terminated when he was leaving the job to attend. Integrity did not comment in response to Bloomberg's inquiry.
The second complaint filed against Amazon itself claims that it reiterated against other workers who struck in March by deducting hours from their unpaid term of office. The hours they spent striking were counted against the 20 hours workers can miss every quarter without being fired, according to the organizers. Such actions could relax workplace activism and run of federal law, even though they did not lead to any real cancellations, said Professor Charlotte Garden of Seattle University.
"It is a violation of labor law when an employer punishes workers for striking, and a way to punish workers is to take some of their vacation away," she said.
Work related board has received about 50 complaints about Amazon, most of which have been withdrawn or dismissed. The Shakopee worker's complaint stands out as it claims collective abuse of more than a dozen employees.
The Amazon spokeswoman said the company had not yet seen the complaint about alleged unfair practices.
Logistically, the strike is likely to amount to a little more than a hiccup to Amazon, because other facilities and people can easily pick up any slack. Nevertheless, the action shows that Amazon workers raised by a tight labor market and employee activism elsewhere have matured to demand better treatment. Political pressure will not go away either. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, another leading presidential candidate, have both called Amazon beyond allegations that it interfered with Whole Foods workers' right to organize.
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