Amazon faces worker strikes, boycotts as Prime Day kicks off

The retail giant is facing a wave of organized scrutiny regarding the treatment of its low level warehouse employees.

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Amazon markets its Prime Day event as a celebration of its consumer-centric legacy and low-cost merchandise. But this year the company is facing a wave of organized scrutiny regarding the treatment of its employees, including calls for worker strikes and shopper boycotts to cripple what is usually the company's most profitable sales day of the year. 

Workers in some Amazon fulfillment centers are using the company's Prime Day midsummer deal extravaganza to draw attention to poor warehouse working conditions and low pay. According to multiple reports, employees at Amazon's Shakopee, Minnesota warehouse are planning a six-hour strike on Monday and also intend to rally outside the warehouse. 

The workers are demanding that Amazon permanently reduce quotas that they describe as being unsafe and insecure. There are also calls to convert more temporary jobs -- which typically do not include benefits -- into full-time positions.

Meanwhile, labor unions including the AFL-CIO, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union are calling on consumers to avoid Prime Day shopping out of worker solidarity.  

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"Amazon workers are sending a powerful message to Jeff Bezos this Prime Day: It's time to stop putting profits ahead of people," FCW President Marc Perrone said in a statement. "With the recent move to one-day Prime shipping, Amazon workers are being forced to meet impossible demands at increasingly unsafe speeds. We are proud to stand with these brave Amazon workers on Prime Day as they fight for what's right."

Amazon has come under fire in recent years for its treatment of low-level warehouse workers, with some describing long hours, low wages and a heavier workload stemming from Amazon's push to one-day shipping. 

To its credit, Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour in October in response to calls for improved worker pay, and also recently announced plans to invest $700 million to upskill 100,000 employees over six years. 

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In a statement, a company spokesperson said Amazon does not expect any disruptions in its operations or customer shipments if warehouse strikes occur, noting that it has "a well-developed fulfillment network across the country."

"Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues," Amazon said in a statement. "These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause -- industry-leading pay of $15 per hour, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees."

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