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Prime Day brings out anti-Amazon wave of protests and activism

por Carri Bligh (2019-12-13)

id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> Demonstrators went to Jeff Bezos' apartment building in New York City on Prime Day to protest Amazon's ties to ICE.

Sarah Tew/CNET While Amazon is working to push its big Prime Day summer sale this week, activists and unions are using the day to highlight their many concerns about the world's biggest online store. Their concerns vary widely, from working conditions in warehouses to climate issues to its ties to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Much of the activist attention in the US was directed at Shakopee, Minnesota, where Amazon warehouse workers protested Monday, in the middle of the Prime Day sale. They wanted to raise awareness to what they describe as poor working conditions and a lack of career advancement for the warehouse's many East African employees.

Those workers were joined by tech workers from Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, a group pushing Amazon to address climate issues, who flew in from Seattle to walk the picket line.

Other activities took place in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Europe, according to organizers. 

Now playing: Watch this: Amazon Prime Day 2019: Everything to know 1:43 The protests highlight how big tech companies like Amazon are facing considerably more pressure from public groups and their own employees over their business practices, worker treatment and partnerships. Google, for instance, has faced several employee protests for its handling of alleged sexual assault and misconduct, as well as Dragonfly, a company project to build a censored search engine for China.

Amazon similarly weathered a bevy of protesters during its May shareholder meeting in Seattle, where concerns were raised about the e-commerce giant's work on the climate as well as its facial recognition technology. The company has repeatedly defended itself against claims of worker mistreatment, saying it provides safe working conditions for its warehouse employees and offers a comprehensive package of benefits.

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Amazon workers in the US aren't unionized, resulting in many of these organizations calling for more union representation and worker protections for 안전놀이터 those employees.

An Amazon spokesperson said Monday that if unions and politicians want to help American workers, they could work on passing legislation to increase the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

"Events like Prime Day have become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues," the spokesperson said in a statement. "These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause -- industry leading pay of $15 per hour, benefits and a safe workplace for our employees."

The spokesperson said later Monday that roughly 15 Amazon workers participated in the strike. "It was obvious to the 1,500 full-time workforce that an outside organization used Prime Day to raise its own visibility," Amazon said. The Awood Center, a worker advocacy group, has helped organize several protests over the past year at Amazon's Minnesota warehouses, including the Prime Day rally.

Picket line is up....@amazon workers on strike in Minnesota! #PrimeDayStrike #PrimeDay #HearOurVoice #AmazonStrike pic.twitter.com/WyvxGlz2OZ

— AwoodCenterMPLS (@AwoodMpls) July 15, 2019 A coalition of New York activist groups and immigrant families on Monday planned to deliver a petition to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' new Manhattan home, calling for an end to the company's work with ICE, which has faced criticism over its treatment of undocumented immigrants. Protesters against Amazon working with ICE rallied outside the company's AWS Summit in New York last week, too.

According to public records, Amazon has marketed its services to ICE. But, the company hasn't publicly confirmed it works with the federal agency, saying it doesn't mention customers unless they approve the disclosure. In an Amazon Web Services statement offered Monday, the company gave its general perspective on government using tech without addressing whether it works with ICE. 

"As we've said many times and continue to believe strongly, companies and government organizations need to use existing and new technology responsibly and lawfully," an AWS spokesperson said. "There is clearly a need for more clarity from governments on what is acceptable use of AI and ramifications for its misuse, and we've provided a proposed legislative framework for this."

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