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Amazon 'Prime Day' mega-sale targeted by walkout, protests in U.S.

By
Danielle Haynes

July 15 (UPI) -- As millions of people take advantage of sales on Amazon's Prime Day, some employees and activists will use the two-day event to complain about how the company treats workers.

Employees at an Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minn., plan to walk off the job Monday during the last 3 hours of the day shift and the first 3 hours of the night shift. They say although Amazon has raised hourly wages to $16 to $20 -- more than double the federal minimum -- the company sets unrealistic expectations and quotas.

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"They try to get someone to work as hard as you can under the threat of being fired," two-year employee Tyler Hamilton told CBS News. "As much as they can, they figure out ways to collect data and measure work."

Employees also complain of unsafe work conditions, lack of communication from supervisors and an over-reliance on temporary workers.

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"We're forced to work like machines," Hibaq Mohamed told Forbes. "I see it as abuse."

An Amazon representative said the company has addressed the protesters' concerns.

"We provide great employment opportunities with excellent pay -- ranging from $16.25-$20.80 an hour, and comprehensive benefits," the company said. "We encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits and workplace to other retailers and major employers in the Shakopee community and across the country -- and we invite anyone to see for themselves by taking a tour of the facility."

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Prime Day is an annual two-day sale during which Amazon offers widespread -- and sometimes deep -- discounts with the hopes of luring new subscribers to its Prime program. The company said last year it sold more than 100 million products and added tens of millions members during the sale period.

William Stolz, one of the organizers of the strike, told Bloomberg the attention paid to Amazon during Prime Day is a good time to draw attention to its treatment of employees.

"Amazon is going to be telling one story about itself, which is they can ship a Kindle to your house in one day, isn't that wonderful," he said. "We want to take the opportunity to talk about what it takes to make that work happen and put pressure on Amazon to protect us and provide safe, reliable jobs."

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Amazon dismissed Monday's planned walkout in Minnesota.

"We can only conclude that the people who plan to attend the event on Monday are simply not informed," the company added. "If these groups -- unions and the politicians they rally to their cause -- really want to help the American worker, we encourage them to focus their energy on passing legislation for an increase in the federal minimum wage, because $7.25 is too low."

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Working conditions aren't the only subject of unrest among Amazon employees. Some in New York City plan to demonstrate outside owner Jeff Bezos' Manhattan condominium Monday, after it was reported the company will provide facial recognition software to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Dozens protested Sunday outside an Amazon center and ICE detention facility in New Jersey and another was set for Amazon's San Francisco office Monday.

"We're coming together to say it has to stop," Jobs With Justice, San Francisco Executive Director Kung Feng told KPIX-TV. "[Amazon is] using its technology to facilitate the targeting, the detention and the deportation and separation of families."

Pilots with Amazon Air will also demonstrate Monday over pay. They sent a pilot to Minnesota Monday to support the protest there.

Amazon has more than 100 fulfillment centers throughout the United States.

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