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Anti-Amazon initiative seeks to 'make a difference beyond likes and views': Gen Z organizer

Elise Joshi, Director of Strategy & Deputy Executive Director For Gen Z for Change, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the platform's campaign to get TikTok influencers to speak out against Amazon labor practices.

Video transcript

SEANA SMITH: Popular TikTokers are calling out Amazon for its labor practices. And it's all part of People over Prime, an initiative to get influencers to stand in solidarity with workers and union organizers by refusing to monetize their platforms for Amazon. So more than 90 creators have signed on to this initiative. And they have a collective following of more than 51 million.

Now, the initiative is spearheaded by Elise Joshi, Gen-Z for Changes director of strategy and deputy executive director. Elise joins us now. Elise, it's great to see you. Thanks for joining us. I guess, first, just start off with your message to Amazon and your decision to go up against such a behemoth.

ELISE JOSHI: So we have had our eyes set on Amazon ever since Chris Smalls popped that champagne bottle, celebrating the first union win of any Amazon warehouse in the company's history. First of all, the labor movement's had one of its most successful years in a really long time. And at Gen-Z for Change, we've been strategizing non-stop on how to use our platform, our digital tools, and our network to make a difference on the ground that goes beyond likes and views.

And so that's really how People for Prime came about. We know the power that we have as creators. And truthfully, Amazon knows how much power we have as creators. And People over Prime is a way to, hopefully, take that power back and insist that Amazon meets the demands of their union organizers.

DAVE BRIGGS: Elise, your creators make a ton of money from Amazon, though. Why take them on?

ELISE JOSHI: Oh, for that reason. Amazon isn't listening to the needs of their workers, but they do listen to the bottom line. And that is ultimately what they care about. Amazon knows the power that creators have. They recruited over 5,000 creators for their Prime Day. And they have been known to take weekend getaways with dozens of creators in Mexico.

We have a significant role in their marketing strategy. And hopefully, if they don't listen to the needs of their workers, they'll listen to us. And we're hoping that People over Prime is significant enough that they feel the weight of no longer having us in their marketing strategy.

SEANA SMITH: Elise, have you heard from Amazon? And what has their response been so far?

ELISE JOSHI: Oh, yes, so, as of today, we just heard from Amazon. They responded to comment for CBS and Business Insider with a boilerplate corporate response, claiming that they support workers, and they've been attending to the needs of the people that work there. But truthfully, we know that that's not the case.

Widespread Amazon-- there has been widespread claims of workplace abuse by Amazon. Just two days ago, workers in San Bernardino walked out of their warehouse, demanding a $5 per hour wage increase. We know that the Amazon is union busting and refusing to listen to their workers. And at this point, the response that they've made is truly disappointing. And we're hoping that this very boilerplate response is a signal to creators that they need to join the pledge.

DAVE BRIGGS: While you call it a boilerplate response, we do want to read it for our audience. They say they're committed to giving our employees the resources they need to be successful, creating time for regular breaks and a comfortable pace of work, and working directly with anyone who needs additional support to meet their goals.

Elise, I'd love to transition a little bit because we're always hearing story after story after story about Gen-Z, and frankly, we know nothing about it. What's the biggest misconception out there, at least in the business world, about Gen-Z and their goals?

ELISE JOSHI: Gen-Z, one of the most common misconceptions is that we don't care. And we're seeing with the labor movement that that is far from true, especially when it comes to Starbucks. We've got Gen-Z baristas across the country, unionizing hundreds of Starbucks locations, despite the amount of union busting that Starbucks has put on their workers. And as Gen-Zers who are not affiliated with Starbucks, we're watching this happen, and we're amped up and ready to join the fight.

At Gen-Z for Change, we've been supporting unions across the country. And we've noticed how involved our followers are in this movement, in movements of various issues across the country. We're ready to vote in midterms. We're ready to unionize across all sectors. And I hope that adults are starting to notice that we're organizing like never before.

SEANA SMITH: Well, Elise, more and more Gen-Zers are entering the workforce. The demands from your generation are different than, say, what millennials or previous generations have wanted from their employers. What are your tips for companies out there who are trying to attract Gen-Z workers?

ELISE JOSHI: Listen to them. And don't assume that you know what we're feeling and what we're demanding. Involve us in the conversation, and involve the working class in the conversation. And I think oftentimes, the corporate model is designed to be top-down.

And truthfully, what Gen-Z is demanding is something completely different, and to flip it upside down and have that bottom-up structure, where workers and Gen-Z workers and workers of all generations are heard. And I think that this is much more than a Gen-Z issue. This is definitely a working class issue. And I'm hoping that the Amazon and Starbucks and various locations are starting to change the perspective of other generations that this is possible.

DAVE BRIGGS: Elise Joshi from Gen-Z for Change, great having you on, and best of luck with People over Prime. By the way, Amazon, you are welcome on this program any time to respond to Elise. Thanks for coming on.