Amazon Prime Day is here, finally, after being postponed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, hundreds of thousands of Amazon warehouse workers and delivery drivers will be pushed to work under grueling conditions and surveillance to deliver packages to your doorstep very quickly. Prime Day has become a bleak capitalistic holiday during which millions of orders are processed and, in order to meet Amazon's 48-hour delivery timelines on $18.99 Amazon Echos, $114.99 AirPods, and $1,500, 55-gallon drums of lube, thousands of workers around the country work long, difficult hours in the company's warehouses and "fulfillment centers."
During the pandemic, Amazon's workers have been retaliated against over and over again when they've tried to organize for safer working conditions. In a statement addressing Amazon Prime customers today, Amnesty International wrote that the non-profit organization is "alarmed by the growing evidence in recent months that Amazon is interfering with workers’ rights to organize, and investing significant resources in monitoring workers and the perceived ‘threat’ of potential trade union activity."
Below we outlined some reasons why Prime Day and every day is a bad day to shop on Amazon.
Pregnant Amazon employees at a facility in Oklahoma City, known as OKC1, recently described the systemic failure on the part of the company to quickly accommodate pregnancy restrictions, forcing pregnant women to choose between risking miscarriages and sacrificing their income.
"I'm on a leave of absence but my bills aren't stopping," one pregnant warehouse worker, Michelle Posey, told Motherboard in September. "I’ve lost my house twice since I became pregnant. I couldn't make rent. Because of Amazon's lagging and the accommodations team's failure to do their job, it’s fallen back on me."
At the start of the pandemic, Whole Foods (an Amazon subsidiary) CEO John Mackey sent out an email to employees suggesting that they “donate” their paid time off to their coworkers facing medical emergencies during the pandemic.
Amazon's contracted delivery drivers told Motherboard that their workloads have dramatically increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, in some cases more than doubling, forcing drivers to pee in cups in their vans in order to finish their quotas on time.
“[Our contractor] told us our workload would be decreasing because of Coronavirus, but it got way worse. I ached everywhere. It killed me,” an Amazon delivery driver told Motherboard. “At the end of my shifts, I was coming into the delivery station with my eyes closing on the freeway. It’s a system that is designed to make you fail.”
In March, Whole Foods employees staged a national strike to protest the lack of protections offered to workers during the coronavirus pandemic. For weeks, Whole Foods prohibited workers from wearing face masks.
In April, hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers at 50 facilities across the country pledged to call out of work to protest Amazon’s handling of the coronavirus—the largest mass action against the company since the start of the pandemic.
Last month, Amazon posted two job listings for analysts that could keep tabs on sensitive and confidential topics "including labor organizing threats against the company." Amazon has since removed the job posting, calling it "an error."
If that doesn't make Amazon's anti-labor sentiments clear enough, in September, Motherboard revealed that Amazon uses a sophisticated, secret program to surveil dozens of private Facebook groups set up by Amazon Flex drivers for "planning for any strike or protest against Amazon." Since Motherboard published the article, Amazon promised to dismantle the program.
Amazon confirmed that it monitors internal listservs run by its employees including black-employee-network@, transgender@, indigenous@, arabs@, persians@, latinos@, colombianos@, and dozens of others.
We don't know why Amazon is watching these listservs, but an Amazon Web Services employee warned workers the program exists to monitor labor organizing.