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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 October 3 - 9  > Workers exploited under Amazon's glory (Part 7)
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2018 October 3 - 9 [LABOR]

Workers exploited under Amazon's glory (Part 7)

August 18, 2018
Search for "world's worst bosses" on the Internet, you will see the name of a specific person coming up at the top of the list of webpages. The person is Jeff Bezos, CEO of the online shopping giant Amazon.com, Inc.

Bezos was chosen as the world's worst boss in a global questionnaire survey conducted in May 2014.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) with 180 million workers organized worldwide carried out this poll. More than 20,000 votes were cast for nine CEOs for their abuses of workers' rights, and Bezos gained 22.7% of vote, topping the other eight nominees.

Amazon's 'inhumanity' revealed

Announcing the winner, the ITUC presenter emphasized that Amazon has been in the forefront of tax avoidance tactics and is infamous for its cruel working conditions.

"Amazon warehouse staff have to walk as much as 24 kilometers a day. Ambulances regularly wait outside facilities to collect workers," said Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary.

Burrow denounced Amazon's "inhumanity" by saying, "Workers at Amazon distribution centers are required to wear digital arm mounted terminals that monitor their every move. There are no agreed protocols about breaks and speed, and a culture of bullying and harassment is rife. Staff are reprimanded just for speaking to one another or even pausing to catch their breath." She also said, "Amazon operating in Germany treats its workers like robots," adding, "Bezos epitomizes the inhumanity of employers promoting the American business model."

In Europe, a number of workers and citizens have been fighting against Amazon. What they have been calling for is improvement of working conditions and fair share in taxes.

The United Services Trade Union (ver.di), a German trade union, has been pressing Amazon to conclude a collective agreement. The union has carried out strikes against Amazon several times, demanding that the company stop using its workers as disposable labor and set rules to protect workers' health and safety. Concerned citizens have established the organization, "Make Amazon Pay", and have been working together with the ver.di union to have Amazon pay decent wages and its fair share in taxes.

In July, Spanish labor unions went on a three-day strike over low wages and the lack of paid sick leave. This action was carried out on the occasion of what Amazon calls "Prime Day" bargains. Workers in other European countries took actions in solidarity with Spanish workers. In Germany, ver.di organized strikes at six Amazon logistics centers. In Poland, workers staged a work-to-rule job action in which they do no more than the minimum required by the rules of their workplaces.

Report on harsh working conditions

Journalists are courageously investigating and reporting on working conditions at Amazon. A reporter of the U.K. newspaper Mirror carried out an undercover investigation at a distribution center in Sussex in the U.K. According to the reporter, while working at the facility, his movement was kept under constant camera surveillance. Required to handle 300 items an hour, the undercover worker worked so hard that he felt dizzy. Still, he was told by the boss to increase productivity. The reporter heard many co-workers complaining about Amazon, saying:

"Why are we not allowed to sit when it is quiet and not busy? We are human beings, not slaves and animals." "At my induction someone was asking why the staff turnover was so high here. It's because they're killing people. All my friends think I'm dead. I'm exhausted."

ITUC General Secretary Burrow explained why the union conducted the poll on the worst CEOs from the perspective of workers. She said, "Corporate power is out of control, it is cowering governments with threats of capital flight. The greed of the 1% is of more interest to our governments than the 99 %". She went on to say, "We decided we would start exposing some of the elements of the worst boss phenomena - undermining democracy, undermining workers' rights, supporting slavery".

Amazon is now one of the most influential multinationals in the world. Workers' struggle against the inhumane nature of the company is also an objection against global capitalism which is controlled by the greed of the richest 1%.


Past related articles:
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 5) [August 2, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 4) [August 1, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 3) [July 31, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 2) [July 30, 2018]
> Workers exploited under Amazon’s glory (Part 1) [ July 29, 2018]
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