Amazon workers in Europe are disrupting one of its busiest shopping days

Spanish labor union flags at an Amazon facility near Madrid.
Spanish labor union flags at an Amazon facility near Madrid.
Image: Reuters/Susana Vera
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The American tradition of Black Friday sales becomes more prominent in Europe with each passing year, a growing boon for online retailers like Amazon.

But this year, labor unions across Europe are trying to impinge on the online retail giant’s sales with strikes. On Nov. 23, Amazon workers in Spain, Germany, Britain, and Italy walked off the job to protest what they see as poor labor conditions, low wages, and an unsafe working environment.

“These are days when we can hurt more and make ourselves be heard because the company has not listened to us and does not want to reach any agreement,” Eduardo Hernandez, a 38-year-old Spanish employee, told the AP.

GMB, the union for Amazon workers in the UK, is conducting protests at five warehouses across the country. An investigation by the union in May found that ambulances were called to 14 Amazon warehouses 600 times in the three years prior. In September, GMB called the company’s facility in the English town of Rugeley “one of the most dangerous places to work in Britain.” (Amazon has said the facility is a safe, and that most of those injuries were “not work-related,” according to the BBC.)

British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted in solidarity with strikers, using the “we are not robots” rallying cry seen on signs held by demonstrators.

In 2018, Prime Day (the Amazon-created shopping holiday on July 16) was the busiest shopping day in the company’s history. However, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two big sales after the US’s Thanksgiving holiday, have historically been similarly high-grossing days.

Given Amazon’s massive fulfillment infrastructure, any disruption is likely to remain largely symbolic, though. For example, even though 90% of 1,800 workers at the firm’s San Fernando de Henares facility, near Madrid, walked off the line on Friday, the company reportedly had 22 other depots at the ready to handle any diverted deliveries from that location.

Indeed, Amazon told the Guardian that there had been no disruption: “Our European Fulfillment Network is fully operational and we continue to focus on delivering for our customers and reports to the contrary are simply wrong.”