Amazon workers strike as brazen Bezos soaks up an award
Amazon workers in Germany and Italy walked off the job Tuesday to demand dignity, a living wage, and recognition for their union on the same day that CEO Jeff Bezos received an award recognising innovation and “social responsibility.”
Thousands of protesters including strikers from all over Germany and Italy as well as worker delegations from Poland, Spain and France, gathered in Berlin in front of the headquarters of Axel Springer, who is awarding Bezos.
"It's amazing that Jeff Bezos was honoured in Berlin today. The Axel Springer Award honours outstanding people who are innovative while still recognising their social responsibility. That's a joke. About 80 percent of Amazon employees are threatened by poverty. For us, social responsibility means that the employees are paid an income that is good enough for now and in the future," explained Thomas Gürlebeck, ver.di strike leader.
Amazon is currently one-sidedly dictating wages, overseeing workers and exposing them to harmful performance pressures. Shockingly, employees complain of not being able to take toilet breaks, with some having to use plastic bottles to relieve themselves instead of going to the toilet.
"The fight for living wage agreements at Amazon is not only fundamentally important to employees at Amazon itself, but to the entire retail industry. If multinational corporations gain competitive advantages on the backs of employees, it fuels the ruinous cutthroat competition in retail even further,” says Hubert Thiermeyer, head of ver.di for trade in Bavaria.
This sentiment was echoed by the Italian labour movement.
Alessandro Rocchi, General Secretary Filt-Cgil of (Transport Workers’ Federation of Cgil) said, “We deeply believe that this demonstration has a special symbolic meaning, coinciding with the award ceremony with Jeff Bezos: it is an important opportunity to raise public awareness on Amazon workers’ situation and to make the voice of Amazon workers heard.
“We all are engaged in reporting and fighting against poor working conditions, precarious employment, exploitation of workers without social protection in Amazon all over the world.”
Claudio Treves, General Secretary of NidiL Cgil, said, “In Italy, too we face all the problems in the Amazon plants on strike: excessive workloads, low levels of health and safety, low wages, excessive numbers of fixed term employment relations, little transparency even in the open ended contracts, and the habit of management to talk but never sign agreements with the trade union representatives.”
UNI also showed solidarity.
“UNI Europa are outraged by the undignified treatment of Amazon employees around Europe. Their most basic needs are forfeited whilst Bezos rolls in the big bucks,” stated Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa. “The most important step towards the better treatment of workers is the recognition of collective agreements.”
Christy Hoffman, Deputy General Secretary of UNI, said, “Today’s actions are only a taste of what is to come because Amazon workers will not stop until they have dignity on the job, fair pay, and union recognition. UNI is proud of our role in fostering international solidarity at this giant, and it will take a multinational coalition of worker activists to raise the company’s standards.”