Amazon’s Prime Day, during which members of its subscription services get deals on hundreds of thousands of products and appearances by famous artists, kicks off at 3 a.m. ET on July 15 and runs for 48 hours. New sets of deals are offered every five minutes. Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) uses the event to add people to its Prime customer base of over 100 million. Some Amazon workers, who believe they are either treated poorly or underpaid, plan to make Prime Day something less than ideal for America’s largest e-commerce company.
Prime Day is a chance for Amazon to show off its extremely successful Alexa virtual assistant to order items. Alexa, which powers Amazon consumer electronics devices, particularly Echo, allows its owners to handle a large range of functions from setting alarms to telling the weather to streaming audiobooks. Starting July 13, Prime members can get early deals, if they use Alexa to order.
Unhappy workers and some Prime members who may support them could disrupt these plans. Some who work in Amazon warehouses believe that they are overworked due to high quotas and endangered by lax safety features. For example, Hibaq Mohamed has worked at the Amazon fulfillment center since 2016 and told Forbes, “We’re forced to work like machines.” Mohamed is an immigrant from Kenya who has worked at the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee since she arrived in the United States. “I see it as abuse.” Amazon says that this claim, one of the many complaints about working at Amazon facilities, is baseless. Workers at Amazon’s center in Shakopee have planned stop work for four hours during Prime Day.
The protests against Amazon have spread to other parts of the workforce. Some pilots who fly for Amazon Air, the company’s carrier operation, will take out advertisements protesting their own pay. “As we know firsthand, Amazon’s business model too often neglects the well-being of the workers who make the e-commerce giant so incredibly successful,” said Daniel Wells, a pilot and president of Teamster Local 1224, quoted in the New York Post.
A lengthy article in The New York Times in 2015 highlighted major allegations about working conditions early on and they have grown since. Amazon repeatedly has defended itself against allegations. The broader public may have ignored much of this so far. Amazon still is one of the companies with the best reputations.
Prime Day is essential to Amazon’s continuing growth. It not only drives sales to current members but also is used as a tool to get new ones. Amazon said it sold over 100 million products during Prime Day last year. Some Amazon workers want to see Prime Day as a chance to hurt the company financially and bring to light their grievances. Amazon has no way to stop them.