On Friday, Amazon workers in at least 20 countries will stage strikes and protests as part of a day of action coordinated through the global Make Amazon Pay coalition. “Black Friday,” the day after the US holiday Thanksgiving, is the biggest sales event of the year for the trillion-dollar online retailer, alongside Cyber Monday three days later. The workers’ demands include: improved workplace conditions, job security, respect for the right to unionize, and more environmentally sustainable operations.
The international day of action highlights the outsized role that Amazon plays in the global economy, with similar challenges facing the corporation’s 1.3 million workers spread out on nearly every continent.
The period between Black Friday and Christmas not only brings peak shopping revenue to the company but also a massive increase in workplace injuries for Amazon employees. The volume and pace of work comes with higher quotas and longer work days for shipping and logistics workers. The workers’ coalition says the company also ignores basic safety protocols to minimize costs and maximize profits.
“Amazon may be everywhere, but we are too.”
“This year’s actions are set to be much larger with strikes and protests planned in multiple cities in at least 20 countries across every inhabited continent on earth,” the Make Amazon Pay coalition said in a press release. “The global day of action will bring together activists from different struggles — labor, environment, tax, data, privacy, anti-monopoly — as trade unionists, civil society activists and environmentalists hold joint actions.”
On Friday, unionized garment workers in Bangladesh will protest in two cities. In Cambodia, garment workers at a factory that closed in March 2020 will rally to demand $3.6 million in severance pay.
In Italy, up to 15,000 delivery workers will strike for 24-hours, demanding reduced workloads and weekly working hours, performance bonuses, and privacy measures on surveillance and data collection. In September, unionized warehouse workers in Italy reached their first-ever direct agreement with Amazon after staging a 24-hour strike.
In Cape Town, South Africa, a community organization will protest at the construction site of what will be Amazon’s African headquarters.
Warehouse, tech and delivery workers in the UK will protest across the country to demand union recognition from Amazon. Although workers there have the legal right to freely associate with unions, Amazon has refused to negotiate with any, including the 600,000-member GMB general trade union.
Black Friday actions are also being organized in the US, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Austria, Luxembourg, Spain, Ireland, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, and India.
“Amazon may be everywhere, but we are too,” said Casper Gelderblom, Make Amazon Pay coordinator at the Progressive International. “At every link in this chain of abuse, we are fighting back to Make Amazon Pay. On Black Friday 26 November 2021, around the world, workers and activists will rise up in strikes, protests and actions to Make Amazon Pay.”
Made up of over 70 unions, environmentalist groups, non-profit watchdogs and grassroots organizations, the Make Amazon Pay coalition launched last year on Black Friday. It is led by UNI Global Union, with 150 affiliates representing 20 million workers worldwide, and the Progressive International, which brings together activist organizations and movements of the left.
Monica Cruz is a reporter with US-based media outlet Breakthrough News.