Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) workers in Minnesota and Germany have gone on strike or walked out of their jobs during Prime Day, the e-commerce company’s 48-hour event created to trigger a surge in its sales and to promote its Prime program. The strikes are based on complaints that Amazon pays workers too little and works them too hard. New research shows that the problems are deep enough that 39% of Amazon workers want a union to represent them as they fight for better conditions.
Research firm Blind is an anonymous social network for working professionals. It taps a user base of tens of thousands of workers who are employed by America’s largest tech companies. Blind asked its user base for their opinions about unions. It received 2,985 answers to two questions: “Does your company need a union?” and “Do you work in the retail stores/distribution centers?” Some 39.1% of Amazon workers said yes to the first question, while 57.1% of Amazon retail and distribution center employees said they needed one.
Employees at a total of nine tech companies were asked these questions, including Amazon, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Uber. Among the corporations on the list, a recent study shows that Amazon is one of the most respected companies in the United States — these are the American companies with the best reputations.
It should come as no surprise that Amazon distribution workers believe they need a union more than Amazon workers as a whole. The Prime Day strikes are only one piece of evidence that they are poorly treated. The public was first exposed to the issue when The New York Times had a huge expose on the problem in August 2015. Amazon quickly reacted to the article, saying that its conclusions were incorrect. However, the problem has not gone away. Germany seems to be the place where Amazon workers are most reactive to the company’s treatment of factory workers. Protests against Amazon in Germany have gone on for years.
Amazon recently launched a program that will retrain as many as 100,000 of its U.S. workforce so that they can either have a chance to take higher-level jobs at Amazon or leave the company with better educations. Amazon said it will spend $700 million on the program. Some critics say Amazon workers would be better off if it simply raised what it pays its factory workers.
The Amazon distribution center problem will not go away. Whether its workers unionize is another matter, but the move to do so is growing, even though Amazon pays its employees well. The average pay for a full-time salaried worker at Amazon is $100,000 a year. For comparison, check out America’s highest-paying companies.