On one of the busiest online shopping days of the year, Black Friday, thousands of Amazon employees decided it was also a good day to walk off the job. Warehouse workers in several distribution centers in Germany and Italy took the day off to demand higher wages and better treatment. In sharp contrast, on the same day, the net worth of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos hovered around $100 billion, easily making him the wealthiest person on the planet.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, approximately 2,500 German workers demonstrated outside Amazon facilities in the cities of Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Werne, Graben, and Koblenz. In addition to asking for a pay raise, the German union Ver.di says Amazon needs to vastly improve the “work culture” and stop pushing employees too hard.
The Italian Amazon workers that participated in the Black Friday strike said they want “dignified salaries” more in line with their jobs. They gathered outside one distribution center located in Piacenza.
“Work is not a commodity,” said Annamaria Furlan, the secretary general of the union CISL, which represents Amazon employees in Italy, as cited by a TechCrunch report. “The dignity of workers must not be trampled on.”
Even with numerous Amazon employees outside, the distribution centers in both Germany and Italy were running business as usual. An Amazon representative told TechCrunch that holiday orders will be shipped out without any notice of delay, adding that a significant number of employees did not participate in the strike and showed up for work.
The Amazon spokesperson was quick to point out that the online retailer is a “good employer” and has been instrumental in creating jobs in areas, like Italy, where the unemployment rate remains high. In addition, Amazon argues that its employees already earn significantly higher wages when compared to others in the industry. It is unclear if the retail giant is negotiating with the unions as striking employees have since gone back to work.
Currently, Germany is Amazon’s second largest market with $14.2 billion in sales, notably less than the $90 billion in sales generated by U.S. customers. By comparison, Italy is the fourth largest market, behind the UK and France.
While Amazon employees went on strike for more money, CEO Jeff Bezos enjoyed an estimated net worth of $100 billion as Black Friday sales pushed the company’s stock price up. As reported by Fortune, this 12-figure net worth makes Bezos the world’s richest person. He previously earned the prestigious title in October after passing Bill Gates.
[Featured Image by Sebastian Willnow/AP Images]