Protestors have blocked the entrance to Amazon’s largest UK warehouse as the company braces for a wave of protests across multiple countries.
Environmental action group Extinction Rebellion is targeting at least ten other sites in Britain, primarily to disrupt the company’s delivery services. Other protest groups and trade unions are protesting globally under the banner of a broad coalition called ‘Make Amazon Pay’.
Few people can resist a good Black Friday deal and millions will still be shopping, but reflecting on the excessive – and often ugly – nature of consumerism at this time of year is one way to guarantee you’ll make smart purchases, especially if you’re looking for business products that could be key to your company’s success.
What’s Happening in Britain?
At 4 am this morning, activists representing Extinction Rebellion started congregating near Amazon’s largest warehouse in the country, based in the Scottish city of Dunfermline.
Sky News reports that the group also has action of some kind planned for sites in some of the UK’s biggest cities including Manchester, Bristol, and Newcastle, and are also hitting Amazon buildings in Doncaster, Rugeley, Dartford, Peterborough, Derby, Coventry, Tilbury, and Milton Keynes.
Activists have been blocking the passage of trucks with placards and “lock-ons” – chaining themselves to Amazon’s gates.
“The action is intended to draw attention to Amazon's exploitative and environmentally destructive business practices, disregard for workers' rights in the name of company profits, as well as the wastefulness of Black Friday” – Extinction Rebellion Spokesperson.
The spokesperson went on to confirm that “the blockade is part of an international action by XR targeting 15 Amazon fulfillment centers in the UK, US, Germany, and the Netherlands, aimed at highlighting Amazon's ‘crimes'.
Amazon employees in Britain themselves can’t legally strike because no Amazon warehouses in the country are unionized, and thousands are naturally expecting to work on Black Friday.
Although not part of the broader Make Amazon Pay coalition, Extinction Rebellion’s spokesperson said they were “standing in solidarity” with the group, which also has mass Amazon protests planned across the world. Both groups broadly support one another's aims.
A huge consortium of small retailers in the UK – 85% of ‘small sellers’, which is a record figure for a protest of this kind – are also rallying against huge sites like Amazon by refusing to participate in Black Friday sale slashing.
Making Amazon Pay
Alongside groups like Extinction Rebellion, Make Amazon Pay will be staging protests across at least 20 countries, Business Insider reports.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion-dollar corporation, with Bezos becoming the first person in history to amass $200 billion in personal wealth. Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and only briefly received an increase in pay” – Make Amazon Pay.
The coalition is made up of over 70 organizations including Greenpeace, Oxfam, and Amazon Workers International. The group focuses on pressuring Amazon into improving workers’ pay and conditions, providing job security, respecting their rights, and operating sustainably through various forms of action, including protests, strikes, boycotts and unionizing.
Make Amazon Pay Estimates that every one of Amazon’s 1.3 million workers could be given a $690,000 Covid bonus, and the company would be just as rich as it was in the year 2020.
In a document explaining the coalition’s common demands, Make Amazon Pay says Amazon has starved the societies that helped it grow “through its world-beating efforts at tax dodging”, and highlights the fact that Amazon paid just 1.2% income tax in 2019, up from 0% the year prior.
Protests Planned Elsewhere
A string of strikes connected to the Make Amazon Pay coalition is planned to take place the world over. Labor union Verdi, for instance, has called on Amazon workers to strike on Black Friday. In a similar fashion, CGT – one of France’s largest unions, this week urged workers to coordinate a Black Friday strike.
Elsewhere in Europe, another trade union, FNV – which is based in the Netherlands – plans to stage a protest at the Alblasserdam shipyard in the municipality of South Holland, where Jeff Bezos’ mega-yacht is currently being built.
Polish workers will also be joining the strike at an Amazon warehouse in Poznan, and there are reports of environmental groups in Spain protesting in Barcelona.
In Asia, reports say Cambodian workers are scheduled to take place outside of their Amazon factory facility in Phnom Penh, demanding $3.6 million in severance payments, and in India, a trade union is organizing protests in multiple cities.
Additional protests are planned in Colombia, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Slovakia, Austria, Brazil and Turkey.
Black Friday: Be Smart About it
Regardless of your views on Amazon as a company, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Black Friday can encourage excessive, unnecessary spending, as well as huge volumes of waste.
Every year, many of us watch on in horror as viral videos showing people shouting, physically fighting and trampling all over each other pour out of the US and UK.
But the people joining the mad rushes (peacefully, of course) for deals cannot be blamed – and shouldn’t be criticized – for taking advantage of the few days of the year when certain products suddenly become affordable to them.
Similarly, if you own a small business and are looking to upgrade aspects of the software or services you’re using, Black Friday represents a chance to do this on the cheap in a difficult, post-pandemic economic climate.
This means, for individuals, families, and business people alike, that the best way to approach Black Friday ensure you’re only purchasing products that will make a lasting impact all year round, ones that will have a lasting, positive impact on your company or home.
Take advantage of the best Black Friday deals by all means, but make sure you’re buying with the future firmly at the forefront of your mind, rather than the tantalizing price reductions.