Amazon Workers in Germany Strike Again

Amazon workers in Germany walked off the job again Monday even as they tired to take their case directly to the e-commerce giant’s Seattle headquarters. The first action seemed more of a success, involving more than a thousand workers. The second only drew in about 50 people with one sign saying “We are humans not robots”. The tech companies, including Amazon are getting even richer and more powerful, but just like throughout history whenever a victory is achieved or company grows there will always be some form of backlash. This seems to be the case, as in San Francisco recently, with protesters briefly blocking a Google bus from transporting workers to its Silicon Valley campus.

Amazon’s announcement two weeks ago on “60 Minutes” that it is pursuing delivery by drones inspired not admiration but widespread mockery. Perhaps Amazon brought up the subject of drones as a form of wish fulfillment. For the retailer, the moment when machines prepare and deliver packages could not come too soon. Humans are too much trouble, Germany is Amazon’s second largest market, and the labor turmoil there is increasing dramatically. German warehouse workers have been conducting brief walkouts since last spring in what were the first strikes against the company anywhere. Amazon said that approximately 1,115 workers did not show up Monday but that Christmas packages would still be delivered on time. Germany’s Amazon ware house employees about 23,000 full time and seasonal workers.

On the surface the dispute is money, the German Labor Union wants Amazon to classify workers as retail employees. However Amazon says that the employees are logistics workers who should be paid less. Underneath it all is the bigger question of whether the warehouse workers should have any control over their workplace. The employees also known a “pickers”, assemble the orders. Amazon warehouses are a marvel of engineering and efficiency, however “picking” is still hard physical labor with constant monitoring and very little job security. Amazon in its race to stay the dominate e-commerce company, wants maximum flexibility to use its workers as it will. Negotiation would impede efficiency and innovation according to Dave Clark the companies Vice President. However “pickers” see it differently, with Mr Hoffman-Achenbach  an organizer for the Labor Union on his way to Seattle to participate in the demonstration saying.

“The workers are treated more as robots than Human. As a worldwide company Amazon should treat their workers fairly and with respect in each country. The solidarity of American unions and the united Union of Germany is a sign that social movements are not bounded by national borders and that in times of globalization the workers worldwide stand together as one.” Also traveling to Seattle is Nancy Becker, an American who has been working as an employee at the Amazon warehouse in Germany since 2001 how had this to say. “I’m coming to Seattle to dare Jeff Bezos (Chairman and CEO of Amazon) to try working as a picker for a single week. I’m sure he would not survive”.

Ralf Kleber, the top Amazon executive in Germany dismissed the strikers, saying the walkout did not slow down delivers. He also said the workers were largely unskilled and had been employed for a longtime, with the implication that they should be grateful to be employed at Amazon.

Thank you New York Times for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of New York Times.

Peter Edward

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