Striking Amazon workers in Germany are getting a boost Monday from their counterparts in the American labor movement at a protest outside the internet shopping giant’s Seattle headquarters.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Communication Workers of America (CWA), and Teamsters all reportedly helped to organize the public action by members of the German union Ver.di, which has engaged in strikes at Amazon warehouses in German since the middle of this year in an effort to force the company to be responsive to the people who make its massive profits possible.
German workers at Amazon warehouses face similarly brutal conditions to those depicted by multiple American investigative journalists and actual full-time workers. Amazon’s business model relies upon getting the maximum productivity out of its “pickers” — the people who scramble up and down aisles and ladders in warehouses to get items from shelves to shipping — for the minimum cost. Ver.di says that Amazon’s German operation is refusing to abide by industry-wide wage agreements for retail and mail-order jobs and instead classifying its warehouse operations as being part of the logistics industry, where wages are set lower. (Company spokespeople told multiple news outlets that its German employees are paid well compared to those lower wage norms for the logistics sector.)
As the New York Times notes, the wage question masks a deeper conflict at the core of how Amazon does business. “Underneath this [wage dispute] is a bigger question of whether the warehouse workers should have any control over their workplace,” the Times writes, or if the company should be allowed to treat its workers as disposable.
Ver.di workers are striking on Monday in at least three German cities that house Amazon warehouses, and the union hopes to bring the campaign to a fourth warehouse in the country on Tuesday.
Monday’s rally outside the company’s Seattle headquarters is Ver.di’s first action outside of Germany. The group hopes to pull in local union members to express solidarity with the strikes.