Once upon a time, the internet was supposed to change the world for the better. We’d be connected to people all over the world; our liberation from “meatspace” would foment new social structures; the future would hum with a sense of purpose as it unwound possibilities for progress, equality, and meaning. Instead, the internet ushered in a new age of hypercapitalism, and the ability to be anywhere online quickly became overshadowed by the ability to buy anything online. In the past two decades, Amazon has catalyzed nearly every cultural and commercial shift in the book business, from “killing” the independent bookstore by undercutting prices online to launching an array of its own imprints (under the umbrella of Amazon Publishing) that has sent revenues for non-Amazon publishers plummeting. And what economists call the “Amazon Effect” played a significant role in the demise of the entire brick-and-mortar industry, contributing to the closing of retailers like JCPenney, Sears, and Kohls.
Amazon’s evolution over the past 20 years has put a spotlight on the human cost of rampant capitalism; and in the past few years, there’s been a steady flow of investigative reports, breaking news, and horror stories regarding the labor conditions in the fulfillment centers, warehouses, and other Amazon facilities that comprise the company’s mind-boggling global footprint. Amazon’s two-day sale bonanza, Prime Day, is exactly the right time to draw attention to the company’s labor abuses. Workers in North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, and Spain began striking, demonstrating, and staging walkouts yesterday, and will continue today. Here’s everything you need to know.
1. Amazon warehouse workers around the world are striking for Prime Day. [Quartz]
2. The walkouts at the company’s Shakopee, Minnesota, facility were the first protests timed to coincide with Prime Day in the United States. [CNBC, Fast Company]
3. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have both voiced their support for striking Amazon workers. [Yahoo! Finance]
4. Prime Day is grueling for Amazon workers. One employee described it as “two months of hell.” [NBC News]
5. Earlier this month, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver aired a 20-minute segment on the grueling real-life conditions Amazon warehouse workers endure—and the cheery facade the company attempts to maintain. [Deadline]
6. In a November 2018 episode of New York Times podcast The Daily, employees of logistics companies that contract with Amazon shared harrowing stories of injury, pregnancy discrimination, and even death. [The New York Times]
7. In 2018, the U.K. workers-rights group Organise released a report that, among other findings, revealed that nearly three-quarters of Amazon warehouse workers didn’t take bathroom breaks for fear that they would imperil their jobs. [Organise]
8. That same year, a 45-minute video was leaked detailing Amazon’s aggressive anti-union tactics. [Gizmodo]
9. Unsurprisingly, Amazon now claims that Prime Day is being unfairly exploited by unions. [Vice]
WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW
- According to major U.S. labor unions: Boycott Amazon on Prime Day. [The Hill]
- Purchase books from independent bookstores and other independent retailers (like the Bitch Media BitchMart). [The New York Times] [Bitch Media]
- Cancel your Amazon Prime membership. [Yahoo!]
- Stop supporting Amazon subsidiaries, including Goodreads, Whole Foods, Zappos, and Twitch. [BuzzFeed News]