An international group of climate activists and Amazon warehouse workers have launched an online campaign called “Make Amazon Pay,” calling on the tech giant to provide better working conditions for its employees and to reduce its expanding carbon footprint. The protests come just as the New York Times reports that the Seattle-based company has been on a hiring spree this year, expanding its global workforce.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion dollar corporation, with CEO Jeff Bezos becoming the first person in history to amass $200 billion in personal wealth,” the campaign states on its website. “Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and faced threats and intimidation if they spoke out for their rights to a fair wage.”
Launched on Black Friday, the campaign provides a list of demands for Amazon, which include raising pay for workers in Amazon’s warehouses, extending paid sick leave, and allowing workers to organize in unions. The campaign also tasks Amazon with “committing to zero emissions by 2030” and paying back society by “ending partnerships with police forces and immigration authorities that are institutionally racist” and “paying taxes in full, in the countries where the real economic activity takes place.”
The campaign lists a wide variety of international partners, including Progressive International, Amazon Workers International, 350.org, Greenpeace, and more. And the organization has planned a number of demonstrations in countries around the world. “Today there’s a global day of action with strikes, protests, and stunts across five continents,” James Schneider, the communications director for Progressive International, tells The Verge.
The first demonstration got underway with a strike in Sydney, Australia, he says. Stunts — some in person and some online — are planned to take place in the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Germany, Poland, Spain, Luxembourg, France, Greece, the United Kingdom, the United States, and more. Organizers have projected the “Make Amazon Pay” slogan on Amazon buildings in London, Berlin, and Hyderabad. A hashtag of #MakeAmazonPay is listed on the campaign’s website, and those who support the initiative can sign a petition on the site to “tell Jeff Bezos directly.”
“We’re asking people to add their name to those common demands and to donate to the strike funds for Amazon workers,” Schneider says. “So, today is just the start of the campaign. We aim to build the strike fund to enable further strikes and protests following this day of action.”
At the onset of the pandemic, Amazon workers staged protests in an attempt to get the company to take COVID-19 seriously. In October, Amazon revealed that 19,816 of its front-line workers have contracted the virus. On Thanksgiving, Amazon said it would provide holiday bonuses for its employees, with full-time workers receiving $300 and part-time workers receiving $150.
Amazon responded to the activist campaign by reiterating its COVID-19 response, its 2040 climate pledge, and its base pay and employee benefits. “We encourage anyone interested in the facts to compare our overall pay and benefits, as well as our speed in managing this crisis, to other retailers and major employers across the country,” Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski wrote in an emailed statement to The Verge.
The Make Amazon pay campaign comes at the end of a dynamic year for Amazon. The pandemic created an increased demand for Amazon’s online shopping services, pushing the company to greatly expand its workforce in 2020. Amazon now employees more than 1.2 million employees around the world, after adding 427,300 workers between January and October, according to the New York Times.
“The pandemic has exposed how Amazon places profits ahead of workers, society, and our planet,” the coalition says on its website. “Amazon takes too much and gives back too little. It is time to Make Amazon Pay.”