Amazon warehouse workers in Minnesota are striking during one of the company’s biggest sales days of the year: Prime Day. They’re demanding that the company ease productivity quotas, convert more temporary workers to Amazon employees, and do more to address on-the-job injuries.
Workers in Shakopee, Minnesota, which is about 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis, are striking for six hours and holding an afternoon rally outside Amazon’s warehouse on Monday, the first day of Amazon’s two-day Prime discount extravaganza. The strike, which Bloomberg reported last week, probably won’t have much of an impact on Amazon’s business — it has more than 100 warehouses in the United States — but it’s yet another example of both corporate and lower-level tech workers’ increased willingness to speak out against their employers. It also indicates that Amazon’s promise last year to pay a $15 minimum wage is not enough to keep its workforce happy forever.
“These should be jobs that are safe, reliable, and that people can depend on,” William Stolz, a striking worker at Amazon’s Shakopee warehouse, told Recode. Stolz, 24, is a picker at the facility and has worked there for two years. “It’s very mentally stressful; it’s very physically stressful,” he said of the work.
As Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell noted last week, warehouse workers, who “have long complained about punishing work conditions at Amazon’s fulfillment centers, are upset about the company’s recent decision to offer one-day shipping to Prime customers,” because it’s bound to increase the pressure and speed of their work.
Organizers estimated more than 100 workers would strike, but actual turnout numbers are unclear. The striking warehouse workers are being joined by a handful of Amazon engineers who are flying out for the walkout from Seattle. Among them is Weston Fribley, a software engineer who was one of the organizers of an employee push for Amazon to implement a climate-change plan. The initiative failed a shareholder vote in May.
“We see these issues as very deeply connected. At the root is Amazon employees not having a say in the decisions that affect their lives and their work,” Fribley told Recode. “I think both the workers here in Minnesota and us, working for climate justice — I think we understand that just seeing any of these improvements happening at Amazon, it’s going to take all of us working together.”
The Awood Center, a community organization for workers in Minnesota with East African heritage, is spearheading Monday’s strike. The group has helped Amazon workers engage in activism before — last year, they got Amazon to reduce workloads while Muslim workers were fasting for Ramadan and convinced the company to create a designated prayer space for employees. The Minnesota workers were the first ones to actually sit down and talk about working conditions with Amazon management, and they’re still pushing the company to be better.