Amazon Prime Day Protests Call for Change, Not Bargains

Groups call for employee rights and eliminating goods from hate groups

Protests for workers' rights and against merchandise sold by third party vendors were organized to coincide with Prime Day 2018.
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As Amazon employees in Europe reportedly walked off the job to protest conditions at fulfillment centers and encouraged shoppers to boycott Prime Day, additional protests are playing out across the U.S. about income disparity and Amazon’s role in spreading the ideologies of hate groups.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the protests will hurt Amazon’s bottom line—particularly as it added six additional hours of Prime Day deals this year (but it lost the bulk of the first hour to site outages)—or if they will result in policy changes.

Nonprofits the Action Center on Race and the Economy, or ACRE, and the Partnership for Working Families (PWF), along with union rights organization Jobs with Justice, held protests at three Whole Foods locations in the Washington, D.C., area Monday evening, just a few hours after Prime Day 2018 officially kicked off. Angela Peoples, campaign director at ACRE, said protestors talked to customers as they walked in and out of Whole Foods, highlighting that Amazon is not doing right by communities of color, and these protests and conversations continue in New York, San Jose and Atlanta on Tuesday at sites like Amazon bookstores and fulfillment centers.

In a statement, Amazon said it is a fair and responsible employer that believes in continuous improvement and maintains an open and direct dialogue with associates.

“Amazon has invested over 15 billion EUR and created over 65,000 permanent jobs across Europe since 2010. These are good jobs with highly competitive pay, full benefits and innovative training programs like Career Choice that pre-pays 95% of tuition for associates,” the spokesperson said. “We provide safe and positive working conditions, and encourage anyone to come see for themselves by taking a tour at one of our fulfillment centers.”

The protests follow the publication of an ACRE-PWF report that found the scope of Amazon’s businesses and what they call its weak policies enable racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic groups to generate revenue and propagate their ideas by selling merchandise on Amazon.com, as well as by publishing media. It also called for Amazon to take a stand, saying, “Amazon has an ethical and moral responsibility to stop delivering hate to the world.”

It is unclear how much comes from hate groups selling on Amazon.com, but research from multichannel software company Sellbrite found 17 percent of Amazon’s net sales, which added up to $23 billion in 2016, come from third-party sellers. (The portion from hate groups is likely small, but ACRE did not have specific figures.)

“Today’s political climate increasingly normalizes movements that aim to harm people of color, those of Muslim and Jewish faith, women and the LGBTQIA community,” ACRE said in a media advisory for Monday’s events. “People are demanding change, not just from politicians but also businesses. The goal of #PrimeDayOfAction is to raise awareness about the harmful practices of the nation’s largest online retailer and to ask: Is there anything Amazon won’t do for a dollar?”

Peoples did not have figures for the number of protest participants but said ACRE put out a petition with the report t tell Amazon to stop doing business with hate groups, which has since netted 40,000 signatures.

The groups organizing the protest encouraged participants to use the hashtag #AmazonDeliversHate. Per data from social media analytics firm Brandwatch, #AmazonDeliversHate has been used around 500 times in the past two weeks, and #PrimeDayOfAction registered more than 500 mentions, with July 17 seeing more than 400. That’s compared with 193,000 mentions for #PrimeDay, which had more than 5.8 billion impressions. (#AmazonPrimeDay adds another billion impressions.) On the other side of the coin, #AmazonStrike has accrued more than 11.9 million impressions.

Per Peoples, Amazon has not responded to ACRE, but it has responded to some journalists and removed some items. It was not clear what has been removed, but the report noted products like a hangman’s noose car decal, cross-burning onesie and Nazi figurines for children.

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