How Amazon workers coordinated strikes across Europe

Workers in Spain, Germany and Poland coordinated the largest strike and work actions to date against retail giant Amazon in mid-July during the company's Prime Day sale.

An article first published in In These Times and reprinted in Salon outlines how they were able to coordinate their efforts across borders.

German workers have led the battle for higher wages and better working conditions, having held strike actions with the help of German union Verdi since 2013.

Since then, the company has improved wages and some working conditions like lighting and ventilation,  but a Verdi organizer said that they are playing the long game in their struggle to get a contract.

“It’s not going to be solved by Christmas, and our members are very aware of this …. But more and more people are joining the movement.”

In Poland, where wages are lower and labour laws are laxer, workers organized with Inicjatywa Pracownicza, a radical Polish trade union. The union does not yet have enough members to call a strike under Polish law, so they organized a work slowdown to coincide with the German strikes, reminding workers of the dangers of speeding up work (and lack of compensation).

“People are treated like machines. But even machines fail and stand still. We are not allowed to do that,” said one Polish worker who was dismissed from the company while on sick leave.

The workers who called for Prime Day strike coordination hail from Spain. Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras said the Prime Day strike was a “complete success,” with 98 percent of the 2,000-person workforce said to have taken part.

The workers coordinated their efforts through cross border rank-and-file meetings and through the help of the labour federation UNI.  

While workers in the UK did not participate in strike actions and work stoppages, workers marched with slogans such as “We are workers, not robots,’ with the help of GMB, the union representing workers in the UK.

"Amazon is a global company and uses global tactics,” GMB official Mick Rix said in an interview. “We have to do the same."