Amazon Faces Service Outages and Strikes on Prime Day

July 17, 2018

Amazon’s Prime Day has a bit of a misleading name: the e-commerce site’s annual offering of deals actually lasts 36 hours, starting yesterday afternoon and going until midnight tonight. One matter that isn’t up for debate, however, is the promotion’s ability to bring in a lot of money. Analysts expect that this year’s Prime Day will generate about $3.4 billion in sales for Amazon, which would beat 2017’s total by more than $1 billion. But despite this upcoming windfall, so far Prime Day has been far from perfect for Amazon. Parts of the company’s website suddenly shut down almost as soon as the promotion began, leading to service outages throughout the U.S.

While Amazon quickly got its servers back up and running, new reports began to emerge about thousands of the company’s warehouse employees striking across Europe. The action began Monday when nearly 1,800 Spanish workers went on strike in protest of Amazon’s proposed cuts to salaries and time off. Soon unions in Germany, Poland, Italy and other European nations announced they would also join the call for a Prime Day strike. The German trade union Verdi claims that some employees have long struggled with mental and physical health problems brought on by working conditions in Amazon’s warehouses. “Amazon has neglected this responsibility for years and denied its people the right to set rules in a collective agreement,” said Verdi spokesperson Stefanie Nutzberger. “The message is clear — while the online giant gets rich, it is saving money on the health of its workers.”

Amazon executives dispute these claims. “Amazon is a fair and responsible employer and as such we are committed to dialogue, which is an inseparable part of our culture,” said the company in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring a fair cooperation with all our employees, including positive working conditions and a caring and inclusive environment.” Still, this isn’t the first time that Amazon has been accused of unfair labor practices. One report recently surfaced about U.S. employees who rely heavily on food stamps while another story detailed how warehouse workers in the U.K. must often skip bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, analysts recently announced that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a net-worth of $150 billion, making him the richest person in modern history.

Questions:

  1. Why are unions throughout Europe striking against Amazon on Prime Day?
  2. What do you think Amazon should do to address the concerns of its striking employees?

Sources: Nitasha Tiku, “Strikes, Boycotts, and Outages Mar Amazon Prime Day,” Wired, July 16, 2018; Abha Bhattarai, “Amazon Prime Day: Worker Strikes and a Site Crash Dent the Online Shopping Bonanza,” The Washington Post, July 16, 2018; Olivia Carville and Tom Metcalf, “Jeff Bezos Becomes the Richest Man in Modern History, Topping $150 Billion,” Bloomberg, July 16, 2018. Photo by Stock Catalog.

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