German Amazon workers protest at U.S. headquarters
A delegation of German Amazon workers is taking its grievances to the United States today with a protest at the retail giant’s world headquarters in Seattle.
Workers from the trade union Ver.di, which represents hundreds of thousands of retail workers in Germany, will be joined by a number of U.S. unions during the protest, which is taking place in tandem with planned strikes at Amazon sites in Germany.
The move marks an important global step in Germany’s ongoing Amazon protests. Workers have already staged a number of rolling strikes at home over wages, working conditions and the mega-corporation's refusal to negotiate with Ver.di. In America, Amazon's anti-union bias has thwarted attempts by its warehouse workers to have a voice in their workplace.
Ver.di is a member of UNI Global Union, the global trade union for the commerce sector. General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “We wholeheartedly support the efforts of our colleagues in both Germany and the United States. They are not alone. On behalf of the 20 million workers represented by UNI Global Union worldwide, we stand beside every Amazon worker who has the courage to fight for what is right.”
“Amazon must realise it cannot export its anti-union labour model to European shores. We call on the company to come to the table and sign a global agreement that guarantees the rights of workers throughout its international network.
On Monday, December 16 at 10:00 am in Seattle, Ver.di members will stand together with American unions in solidarity outside Amazon's worldwide headquarters to put the company on notice that this fight is just beginning.
- When: Monday, December 16, 10:00 am PST
- Where: Amazon Headquarters, 450 Terry Ave. North, Seattle
- Who: Members of Germany’s Ver.di Union and union members from Washington state standing in solidarity with their International brothers and sisters. (MLKCLC,CWA, Teamsters, UFCW, SEIU and more)
- Why: To demand better wages & benefits; more humane working conditions; and formal negotiations with the online retail giant.
In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos, Head of UNI Commerce Alke Boessiger vowed to continue to grow the global network of workers and unions at Amazon.
“As the global union for commerce workers, UNI will grow these networks, which will monitor conditions at Amazon workplaces throughout the world and seek formal dialogue with the company at all levels on workplace related issues," Boessiger said.
“I strongly urge you ensure that the management of Amazon Germany recognise the union and enter into formal negotiations for a collective agreement that enshrines wages at industry standard and fair and healthy working conditions.”
Germany's Amazon employees are outraged that the company refuses to hold formal negotiations with ver.di. The union wants to address the company's practice of constant monitoring of workers and the unreasonable metrics that workers find impossible to meet. Wages are another problem. In Germany, wage classifications are set according to industry standards. Amazon is refusing to pay the same rate set for other German warehouse workers and instead classify these positions as "logistic workers" because the pay is much lower.
The German Amazon workers land on U.S. shores to overwhelming support from the U.S. labour movement.
Richard Trumka, the President of the American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) stated "It’s time that Amazon make good on its obligations to its workers, not just its shareholders and executives, and we will be there in Seattle to make our voices heard.”
Ver.di's campaign has also attracted the support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Logistics for the German workers' trip to Seattle are being handled by the Martin Luther King Jr. Central Labor Council.
UFCW Executive Vice President Pat O'Neill, who is also President of UNI Commerce Global Union Federation, of which Ver.di is an active member, states "the UFCW and our members applaud the brave efforts of our dear colleagues in Amazon Germany, who are standing up for their rights and we will stand right beside them in their struggle. We have no doubt they will emerge victorious.” CWA senior director George Kohl applauded Ver.di's action stating "Ver.di recognizes the danger of allowing the US model of suppressing workers’ rights and living standards to take hold in other countries, and is standing strong against this assault on workers". The Teamsters union echoed the call of German Amazon workers by saying that workers should be treated not as workers, but as full partners.