Workers plan strike during annual Amazon sales event

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images
Getty Images
A group of workers is reportedly planning a work slowdown during Amazon’s annual Prime Day sales event next week in the first such action of its kind in the United States.

The strike, which is reportedly planned for a fulfillment center in Minnesota, will last for six hours. 

The short strike, which is planned for a facility in Shakopee, MN, a suburb of Minneapolis, is unlikely to have a big effect on the company’s sales during the event, which this year has been expanded to two days. The company reportedly has as many as 75 fulfilment centers in the US. Prime is a service offered by Amazon that includes free shipping for preferred customers who pay a fee. 

 The Prime Day event is designed to attract more customers to the service by offering a free taste. On Prime Day in 2018 Amazon sold a reported $4.2 billion in goods.  The company reportedly has more than 100 million Prime members.

Big part of supplement sales universe

Amazon is becoming an increasingly prominent presence in the sale of dietary supplements.  Paul Jarrett, cofounder of supplement sampling and sales data firm BuluBox, told NutraIngredients-USA earlier this year that in his experience about 18% of all CPG sales are made online​, of those sales, about 60% were made on Amazon.  

Many companies selling supplements online have found it advantageous to have Amazon storefronts for their products.  Jarrett said that in doing research for a presentation to investors he found that there are about three to four times as many products for sale online as there are in brick and mortar outlets.

The company has been facing criticism of conditions in its fulfillment facilities for several years. Amazon has seen labor actions during Prime Day events and other high sales periods​ in the past in Europe, but this is the first such action in the United States.

Reaction from labor union

“Prime Day has been expanded to two days and earlier this year Amazon announced a new policy of one-day shipping that effectively doubles the pace of its workers. Amazon fulfillment workers were already facing speeds of 200-300 orders per hour in 12-hour shifts before the new policy,”​ said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).  

The RWDSU does not represent the Minnesota workers.  While there have been pushes in the past for Amazon workers to unionize, no Amazon facilities are as yet represented by a labor union.  Pressure from organized labor was reportedly a factor in Amazon’s decision not to locate its second headquarters in New York City​ and rather build it in near Washington, DC.

"The fact is Amazon offers already what this outside organization is asking for. We provide great employment opportunities with excellent pay – ranging from $16.25-$20.80 an hour, and comprehensive benefits including health care, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more,”​ said Amazon spokeswoman Brenda Alfred in a statement.

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