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Amazon warehouse workers, unions go on strike across Europe

Yahoo Finance Live anchors Rachelle Akuffo and Akiko Fujita report on European labor unions organizing strikes against Amazon as part of the "Make Amazon Pay" campaign.

Video transcript


AKIKO FUJITA: Let's keep the retail conversation rolling during today's Black Friday coverage. Amazon warehouse employees in Europe are on strike today as part of a planned action timed to match the start of the holiday season marked by Black Friday. The groups, which include unions in the UK, France, Germany, and the US, say the strike is calling for better wages and work conditions.

And, Rachelle, we're talking about the focus being in Europe, but really, it's 40 countries. I mean, that's where the walkout is happening right now. Obviously, benefits, wages certainly a big part, environmental footprint another one that we have heard some unions and some workers raise as well.

It's all part of this campaign called "Make Amazon Pay." And it certainly points to the pressure the company is increasingly facing from the organization of these workers, not necessarily labor unions per se, but just better working conditions as Amazon tries to expand their footprint.

By the way, worth noting, this Black Friday, we've been talking about how this is one of the biggest days of the year for retailers. But a new study coming out pointing that-- to the fact that in the US, at least, Walmart has outpaced Amazon in terms of searches for those seeking out deals. So, I mean, take that with a grain of salt, but certainly points to the pressure that Amazon is facing.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: It really does. And I think, obviously, one of Amazon's selling points is its speed. It's not always the best price, which is why, as people start to do a bit more price comparison, that might be why Walmart is edging up there. And then in regards to these strikes, I mean, as you mentioned, this is in 40 countries. A lot of times, we sort of focus on the US, as you mentioned there, and focus on Europe, but this is 40 countries wide.

And we did see that Amazon did try to sweeten the deal. At one point, they had a 500 pound bonus if people-- if the thousands of workers there didn't take any unauthorized absence. People clearly not taking that on. In fact, we saw from the GMB trade union, they said that linking payment to staff attendance could be akin-- could be considered to be union busting. So even though Amazon is trying a number of different strategies to keep people on, it's clearly not enough, and this movement continues to grow.

It'll be interesting to see how Amazon reacts or perhaps if it affects things like deliveries, depending on the number of people striking. But I don't think this is a situation that's going to go away. And this project has also been talking about just how much money Amazon has made, especially this year, and really wondering why some of these benefits are not trickling down to workers. So I think these calls are going to continue to grow louder, Akiko.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, and worth noting that this comes at a time when Amazon has announced some significant layoffs. They've also seen a slowdown on their e-commerce side. So things aren't necessarily humming along the way they were at the height of the pandemic.

Worth noting, some of these countries, we said 40, that includes obviously the US, the UK, India, Japan, Australia, South Africa, and then across Europe as well. There are some significant ones that are happening in the US, including reportedly outside the founder Jeff Bezos' condo in New York on Fifth Avenue. There will apparently be a protest there as well.

So these workers really trying to ramp up that pressure on the company to say, we're serious when we say we want better pay, better wages. Amazon certainly has raised them significantly over the last few years with this pressure. But it'll be interesting, to your point, to see how Amazon responds to the latest wave of protest taking effect today.