Amazon employees plan to strike during Prime Day

Photo (c) Andrei Stanescu - Getty Images

Company workers in Minnesota are seeking less demanding labor conditions, among other things

Employees at an Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota are reportedly planning to stop working for six hours on July 15, the first day of the company’s 48-hour Prime Day sales event. 

In recent months, Amazon has promoted its speedier delivery times and pushed back against claims that its staff may struggle to keep up with the new pace. Now, Amazon workers say they are planning to strike as Prime Day 2019 kicks off to draw attention to several issues. 

Those participating in the strike will be seeking the conversion of more temporary workers to full-time Amazon employees, as well as less stringent productivity quotas. They allege that the quotas make the jobs unsafe and unreliable. 

Employees at the Shakopee fulfillment center plan to strike for about three hours at the end of the day shift and for about three hours at the beginning of the night shift, Bloomberg reported. Several Amazon engineers are also planning to fly to Minnesota to take part in the strike. 

“We’re both fighting for a livable future,” an Amazon software engineer from Seattle who is making the trip to Minnesota, told Bloomberg.

Last year, Amazon workers in Europe went on strike during Prime Day while demanding better working conditions. The company’s European workers sought to highlight issues including the elimination of bonuses, the lack of health benefits, and the increase in working hours. 

Criticism over working conditions

Amazon has hiked its minimum wage for all U.S. employees, but the company has continued to face criticism over the way it treats its warehouse workers. 

In April, after Amazon announced its plan to make free one-day shipping the default plan for Prime members, the head of a major labor union published a statement expressing his opposition to the plan. 

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, contended that speeding up deliveries may not be feasible for fulfillment center workers who are already processing several hundred orders per hour during long shifts.

“With two-day Prime shipping, Amazon fulfillment workers currently face speeds of 200-300 orders per hour in 12-hour shifts. They struggle already to maintain that pace,” Appelbaum said in a statement in April. “If Amazon plans to effectively double the speed, it must also address existing workforce needs and ensure its workers are safe. Increasing fulfillment speeds means they need to hire more workers, under more sustainable speeds that don’t put workers' lives in jeopardy.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has also criticized Amazon’s pay and working conditions. 

“Amazon has been less than forthcoming with information about their employment practices,” Sanders said in a statement last August. “What we do know is that Amazon’s median employee pay is only $28,446 — 9 percent less than the industry average and well below what constitutes a living wage in the United States. Further, we believe that many of Amazon’s workers are employed by temporary staffing agencies and contractors and make even less than the median Amazon employee.”

In response to the accusations, Amazon has said its workers receive “highly competitive wages and a climate controlled, safe workplace.” Additionally, Amazon says it provides employees with a “comprehensive benefit package including health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans, and company stock.” 

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