What the Amazon workers’ strike means for retailers
Prime Day is the equivalent of Black Friday for Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer. The pressure of fulfilling delivery orders at the current pace has convinced some Amazon warehouse workers to walk out in protest throughout the two days the annual event takes place.
Immediate shipping comes with a hidden cost
Although Amazon offers their workers full benefits and a $15 per hour salary in all of their US locations, they have faced heavy criticism for the working conditions in which their staff is expected to work in their fulfilment centres.
“We’re humans, not robots,” William Stolz, an Amazon warehouse told CNN Business. “They’re treating us like machines.”
Former employees have stated that working in one of Amazon’s warehouses entailed walking over 15 miles per shift, having short bathroom breaks, and running for hours between halls to fetch products.
Labor problems can spread faster
Thousands of Amazon workers are striking in the US and Germany, while also holding protests in the UK, Spain, and Poland. The strike has also extended to other Amazon-owned services, such as Twitch, a live-streaming site in which several top users decided to blackout their channels in solidarity.
In addition, democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have publicly declared their support in favor of the strike.
“A higher wage is only one component of the fight for workers’ rights. Amazon workers deserve safe working conditions, fair scheduling, and reasonable production demands.” tweeted Sanders.
Automation still has a long way to go
Amazon is currently moving towards fully automating their warehouses, but they estimate it will take at least 10 years more to complete. Although this would expose less workers to strenuous working conditions, it would also lead to job cuts that might affect the local economies of the towns where the warehouses are located. Last year, the number of Amazon warehouse hires plateaued for the first time ever, despite the retailer’s growing sales.
According to Coresight Research, 2019 Prime Day could earn Amazon as much as $5.8 billion USD. This sale is also the first event the company is holding after offering Prime members one-day shipping on certain products. Therefore, the pressure faced by Amazon workers might grow before automation can take over the gruelling pace of shipping products.