The economist Yanis Varoufakis has called for a one-day boycott of Amazon on Black Friday as trade unionists, environmental activists, privacy campaigners and tax justice advocates plan coordinated actions against the company’s sites and supply chain. Amazon’s success during the coronavirus pandemic – at one point the company was reported to be making sales of $11,000 (£8,200) a second – has vastly inflated its share price, increasing the personal wealth of its chief executive, Jeff Bezos, already the world’s richest man, by $70bn. Bloomberg estimates his current wealth to be $187bn.
In an online video, Varoufakis asks viewers “not even to visit” Amazon’s website on Black Friday – the retail industry’s most profitable day of the year – which falls on 27 November this year.
“By boycotting Amazon you will be adding your strength to an international coalition of workers and activists,” he said. “Amazon is not a mere company. It is not merely a monopolistic mega-firm. It is far more, and far worse, than that. It is the pillar of a new techno-feudalism.”
Under a banner of “make Amazon pay”, Friday’s actions are intended as the start of a campaign against the retailer’s record on workers’ rights, environmental impact, tax avoidance, work with police and immigration authorities, and what activists say are invasions of privacy via its growing range of internet-connected devices.
The campaign is co-convened by Progressive International, a global initiative bringing together progressive leftwing groups, politicians and intellectuals, including Varoufakis, Prof Noam Chomsky and Bernie Sanders, and UNI Global, a trade union federation representing 20 million workers including the UK’s GMB union.
Casper Gelderblom, Progressive International’s campaign lead said: “Trillion-dollar corporations like Amazon have too much power and are too large for a single government, trade union or organisation to rein in. That’s why workers, citizens and activists are coming together across borders and issues to take the power back.”
A set of demands submitted to Amazon by Progressive International and signed by Oxfam, 350.org, Greenpeace and the Tax Justice Network, said: “Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and only briefly received an increase in pay.”
The first actions are due to take place in Sydney, Australia, with protests at Amazon facilities by the SDA and TWU trade unions. Protests are also planned for Bangladesh, Brazil, France, India, Italy, Luxembourg, the Philippines, Poland, Sweden and the US.
In Germany, the trade union Verdi has organised three-day strikes at Amazon warehouses, demanding better pay and working conditions. In the UK, where protest is effectively banned under coronavirus regulations, GMB members will stage an online rally. Supporters are being asked to endorse the demands and donate to strike funds for Amazon workers.
An Amazon spokesperson said of the campaign: “This is a series of misleading assertions by misinformed or self-interested groups who are using Amazon’s profile to further their individual causes. Amazon has a strong track record of supporting our employees, our customers, and our communities, including providing safe working conditions, competitive wages and great benefits, leading on climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, and paying billions of pounds in taxes globally.”