As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth topped $150 billion last week, making him the richest man in modern history, thousands of Amazon workers across Europe went on strike.
The work stoppage, which lasted three days at some facilities, was one of the largest labor actions against Amazon to date, and the first to receive widespread coverage in the US media. But the strikes and protests in Spain, Germany and Poland were just the latest in an escalating series of actions against Amazon in Europe, where workers belonging to both conventional unions and militant workers’ organizations are forging a transnational movement against the internet juggernaut.
In Germany, which is Amazon’s second-biggest market after the United States, workers at the company’s fulfillment centers waged the first-ever strike against Amazon in 2013. “In the beginning, it was purely about wages, about being able to pay for the cost of living,” says Lena Widmann, a federal secretary and spokesperson for the German services union Verdi. “Now it’s also about respect, and about being heard.”
After the first strikes, Amazon began to give German workers regular raises. It also made improvements to ventilation and lighting in some of its warehouses, and, in response to worker complaints about the physical and psychological toll of on-the-job requirements, added a “fruit day” with company-furnished fruit baskets.
But Amazon has refused to codify even these modest changes through a collective bargaining agreement. The union estimates that approximately 2,400 workers at six of the company’s fulfillment centers in Germany participated in last week’s three-day strike, out of about 16,000 that Amazon employs in Germany. Organizers will continue pushing to incorporate more workers in shop-floor organization, to contact new facilities that Amazon has opened in the past year, and, ultimately, to win a union contract.
“We’re talking about a long fight ahead—it’s not going to be solved by…