Next Monday, July 15, marks the beginning of Amazon's 24-hour online shopping spree known as Prime Day and this year it will also be ground zero for a six-hour walkout strike for some of the company's key employees.
Workers at the retail conglomerate's warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota—a key order fulfillment hub—will stage the temporary strike to draw attention to poor labor conditions at the company.
William Stolz, one of the workers organizing the action, told Bloomberg News, which broke the news, that the intention of the strike is to draw a contrast between the carefully cultivated image Amazon presents to consumers and the reality for the company's workers.
"Amazon is going to be telling one story about itself, which is they can ship a Kindle to your house in one day, isn't that wonderful," Stolz told Bloomberg. "We want to take the opportunity to talk about what it takes to make that work happen and put pressure on Amazon to protect us and provide safe, reliable jobs."
Engineers from the company's Seattle hub who are members of the Amazon Employees For Climate Justice group will fly to Minnesota to show support and to continue asking that the company take action on the climate crisis.
"We're both fighting for a livable future," said engineer Weston Fribley.
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Striking is a unique decision for American Amazon workers, as Vox pointed out, though not the first time the company has dealt with labor strife during shopping events:
The planned strike is a bold move for US warehouse workers, who—unlike their colleagues in Europe—have never organized a work stoppage during a major shopping event. In November, on Black Friday, workers at Amazon warehouses in Spain, Germany, and France organized strikes, and protests were held in Italy and the United Kingdom. (The company’s warehouse employees in Europe are largely unionized.) A strike in the US, where Amazon workers are not yet unionized, shows just how frustrated and desperate some employees have become.
Minnesota's fulfillment centers, as the warehouses are known, are staffed primarily by East African Muslim immigrants, who have had some success in organizing for better conditions and reduced quotas during the fasting holiday of Ramadan.
Nationally, employee unrest led to Amazon raising its entry pay, a point that the company's spokesperson made to Bloomberg in a statement alleging that the strike was part of a third party ploy to disrupt the company's operations:
"The fact is Amazon offers already what this outside organization is asking for," the company said in an emailed statement. Amazon provides competitive hourly rates ranging from $16.25 to $20.80, with benefits, "and we invite anyone to see for themselves by taking a tour of the facility" in Shakopee, the company added.
Thus far, the Minnesota action is the only strike planned.