Prime Day is back, and so are the protests.
The Congress of Essential Workers, an activist group led by current and former Amazon warehouse employees, is planning a march against the e-commerce giant on Sunday outside CEO Jeff Bezos‘ mansion in Beverly Hills, California. The demonstration was scheduled just ahead of Prime Day, which kicks off on Oct. 13. The group is bringing together organizations representing both climate and labor issues, including Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion, to raise concerns about Amazon’s business practices and warehouse working conditions.
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“Employees are not going to be treated fairly and going to have mandatory overtime and have no breaks for the next two months into December,” Jordan Flowers, an outspoken Amazon worker from its Staten Island warehouse who is a leader of the worker group, said in an interview Friday.
Among a long list of demands, the group is calling for a new federal wealth tax to support urban communities, a $30 minimum wage and hazard pay for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. Amazon’s current minimum wage is $15, above the federal minimum of $7.25, and it often talks up its benefits package, which includes health insurance, retirement savings and up to 20 weeks paid parental leave.
The group also called for the right for workers to unionize “without fear of retaliation,” a reference to Amazon’s anti-union reputation. No US Amazon workers are unionized.
Amazon didn’t comment for this story. For anyone planning to attend the 2 p.m. PT event, masks will be mandatory.
While Prime Day has become an opportunity for Amazon to show off its membership perks and sell millions of products, the sale has also become a platform for activism against the company. Anti-Amazon demonstrations are also held regularly during the holiday season. Last year, Prime Day demonstrations were held in Minnesota, New York, Seattle, San Francisco and across Europe, with groups speaking out on issues ranging from climate change to Amazon’s working conditions to the company’s ties to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Cancel your Prime memberships, order less on Prime Day week and give us time to be prepared because peak season is hectic,” Flowers said in a plea to Amazon customers, referencing the holiday shopping season. “We’re doing 50 or 60 hours a week with one or two days off.”
He said he is still an active employee at the company, though he hasn’t come to his warehouse since February and is on unpaid leave because he has lupus, an autoimmune disease that makes him more susceptible to serious health problems if he were to contract the novel coronavirus. Flowers added that Amazon has shown no concern for his health issues and he is currently on state unemployment.
Flowers’ group is is also led by Christian Smalls, an Amazon worker who gained prominence after he was fired for organizing a protest in March to call out coronavirus health concerns at the Staten Island warehouse. Amazon said Smalls was terminated for violating a company-mandated quarantine order.
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The march on Sunday outside of Bezos’ mansion is clearly meant to highlight the wealth disparity between warehouse employees and their boss — the world’s richest person, who’s net worth during the coronavirus has ballooned to $185 billion. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that Bezos bought his 9-acre Beverly Hills residence from media mogul David Geffen for $165 million, a new record for the Los Angeles area.
The protest comes just days after Amazon disclosed nearly 20,000 of its employees contracted coronavirus this year. The company has instituted a bevy of safety protocols to protect its warehouse workers, including testing, temperature checks and regular cleanings.