Amazon workers' Prime Day strike begins in Minnesota

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Amazon fulfillment center workers protest in Shakopee, Minnesota Monday, July 15, 2019.

Katie Schoolov | CNBC

Shopping with Amazon on Prime Day may mean crossing a digital picket line.

Amazon workers in Minnesota and Germany are striking as Prime Day kicks off, in a stand against working conditions and wage practices. Those in Europe have staged protests during sale days in past years. But the action in Minnesota is the first major strike of workers in the United States during the company’s annual Prime Day event. It may also be a sign that the company’s increase to a $15 minimum wage last year may not be enough to satisfy workers’ needs.

The strike is part of the workers’ continued push on Amazon to “provide safe and reliable jobs, increase respect and opportunities for advancement for the predominantly East African workforce, protect the right to organize and advocate for better working conditions, and to demand concrete action from Amazon to address critical issues like climate change,” the organizers said in a statement.

The fulfillment center workers in Shakopee, Minnesota plan to start walking out at 3 p.m. ET Monday for a six-hour period that overlaps with the morning and evening shifts. The strike coincides with Amazon’s Prime Day, which could be one of the company’s biggest sales day of the year. Some Seattle tech employees will also be attending the strike in solidarity, according to a statement from the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.

“These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause — industry leading pay of $15 per hour, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees,” Amazon said in a statement. “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.”

The majority of workers at that facility are East African, and have also been frustrated because they say Amazon has not acknowledged their religious practices. The strike is being organized by the Awood Center, a group that advocates for Somali and East African workers. Workers at the facility, known as MSP1, have rallied against the company before. But the stakes could be higher since it is a major sales day for the company.

Workers striking in Germany lobbied for two days for living wages and bargaining power for employees. More than 2,000 people participated in over seven locations, the labor union that represents the workers told Reuters. In Europe, where there are stronger labor laws, Amazon workers have staged protests against the company for years.

Amazon said that the protests in Germany will not have any operational impacts or impact on deliveries. “These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favor, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause — industry leading pay, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

On Monday, shares of the company, which is valued at $991 billion, were up 33.8% since January.

Lawmakers also weighed in on social media to show their support of the workers.

Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted on Monday that she supports Amazon workers’ fight for safe and reliable jobs, which is a way of holding big corporations accountable.

Sen. Bernie Sanders also said that Amazon workers deserve higher wages, safe working conditions, fair scheduling, and reasonable production demands.

—CNBC’s Katie Schoolov contributed to this report.

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