by Tara Hebbar
This Black Friday saw several social and environmental justice activists and Amazon warehouse workers take to the streets to protest in order to demand the right for workers to participate in union activity, cease the bypassing of tax laws, increased pay and for the company to make further efforts in increasing environmental standards. Employees of 15 different countries including Luxembourg, the United States of America and Germany have been witness to these protests. This collective effort has been labelled as #MakeAmazonPay. They had chosen the particular day to cause the most harm, it being Black Friday, the day of sales and several purchases, causing the Warehouse staff to be vital to the sales of the day. The injuries and work for the warehouse staff skyrocketed during this day.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion dollar corporation, with Bezos becoming the first person in history to amass $200 billion in personal wealth. Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and only briefly received an increase in pay,” was a statement made by the movement. It continues to say, “Like all major corporations, Amazon’s success would be impossible without the public institutions that citizens built together over generations, but instead of giving back to the societies that helped it grow, the corporation starves them of tax revenue through its world beating efforts at tax dodging.” The fact that they allegedly haven’t received bonuses in a hazardous time is what has incited and ignited these protests.
The workers voiced their demands for increased pay, especially during the hazardous period of Covid-19, and for Amazon to submit to zero emission by the year 2030. Additionally, the demand includes, re-hiring those fired because of voicing health and safety concerns in the workplace. In response to this, an email representative of Amazon responds, “This is a series of misleading assertions by misinformed or self-interested groups who are using Amazon’s profile to further their individual causes. Amazon has a strong track record of supporting our people, our customers, and our communities, including providing safe working conditions, a $15 minimum wage and great benefits, leading on climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, and paying more than $5 billion in taxes in 2019.”
Additionally, Amazon has made huge profits as online commerce has been popular during the lockdown. It is reported that to cope with this surge in demand, Amazon has increased and installed rigorous safety measures and hired several new employees. The company has disclosed that 20,000 of it’s American employees have contracted the virus, a statistic used by the protesters to showcase lack of safety measures to protect them from the fast spreading virus. This is again a justified cause, but of course, we can’t make complete judgements due to lack of the opposing side of the story.
Though a protest might not be the best way, especially in times like this, I do understand and sympathize with the issue being raised.Every Amazon package that is delivered to my residence is covered in several layers of cardboard, thermocol and taped by default. All this material is terrible for our environment! Analysing the state of our earth and its environment right now, it’s absolutely devastating and companies such as Amazon which are mass distributors of goods shouldn’t be increasing the jeopardy that the environment is facing. Although I understand that the packaging has to be strong and durable, the default setting shouldn’t be set to environmentally unfriendly. There are multiple solutions to this problem without compromising on durability and quality. Though it might prove to be a more expensive alternative, there isn’t much more abuse the environment can handle. When it provides us with so many riches, I don’t think it can hurt to give it back a little, even if that means a little more expenditure from the companies pockets. Our priority should be to revive and replenish the beauty and health of our planet because as soon as it gives in to this infection we’ve given it, we will automatically succumb too.