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Here Are the Labor Abuses Behind Prime Day

A refresher on how we get cheap shit as the spending spree begins.

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Amazon workers protest the conditions that make Prime Day possible.
Photo: Kena Betancur (Getty Images)

Prime Day is upon us, a 48-hour period in which to scoop great deals on ProactivMD Adapalene Gel Acne Kits, amongst other select items. But deal-hunters know that it’s always wise to read up on the seller, so we thought we’d compile a recent guide to Amazon’s business practices. You can find a shorter primer in this petition by 35 social justice organizations demanding that lawmakers ban Amazon’s panopticon-style surveillance and investigate abuse.

First, a tip: Gizmodo’s Victoria Song has pointed out that Prime Day represents an opportunity for Amazon to unload junk at a previously inflated price in order to trick us into signing up for Prime membership. It works. Amazon’s Prime Day statistics tell us that 26.6% of Americans plan to hand them money on this unholy occasion.


“[M]any sellers artificially inflate prices so their crappy deals look more appealing on Prime Day,” Song wrote. She added that Prime Day forces Amazon sellers to pump up their prices before Prime Day and that you can often find better prices on other big tech products at competing stores. Just look at the wild fluctuations in this listing for a $34.99 third-generation Echo Dot smart speaker, which was $18.99 in November 2020 and up to $40 in April. (You can check to avoid getting screwed.)

If you’re still curious about how that Echo Dot smart speaker arrives at your doorstep, we’ve got blogs for you. This story will be available on the front page for a limited time only! Don’t sleep on this blog post!


Amazon workers contract deadly virus

Image for article titled Here Are the Labor Abuses Behind Prime Day
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

As the nation’s source of essential items in a pandemic, Amazon was well-positioned to dispel the famous claims that it treats workers as disposable. Instead, we read almost daily reports that certain Amazon warehouses didn’t follow safety guidelines, and workers claimed that Amazon didn’t alert them to the fact that colleagues had covid-19 at all or until it was too late. (It improved safeguards after workers throughout the company protested.) While a deadly virus we knew little about spread throughout the world, the company showed it was willing to step over bodies to fill dildo orders. But wook at this good boy.

  • March 2020: Lawmakers Demand Amazon Get Serious About Worker Safety Amid Covid-19 Pandemic [link]
  • March 2020: Amazon Fires Worker Who Organized Strike Over Conditions Amid Coronavirus Outbreak [link]
  • April 2020: Leaked Memo Shows Amazon Elite Outlining Smear Campaign Against Fired Employee: Report [link]
  • May 2020: At Least 7 Amazon Workers Have Died of Covid-19 as Company Refuses to Release Official Numbers [link]
  • October 2020: Nearly 20,000 Amazon Employees Have Contracted Covid-19 This Year [link]
  • December 2020: California’s AG Is Now Trying to Force Amazon to Comply With Subpoenas Probing Covid Labor Concerns [link]
  • February 2021: New York Attorney General Sues Amazon Over ‘Flagrant Disregard’ For Covid Safety [link]

Amazon beats back a union

Image for article titled Here Are the Labor Abuses Behind Prime Day
Photo: Patrick T. Fallon (Getty Images)

This year, low-wage warehouse workers pitted themselves against the world’s fifth-largest employer with a union drive at a warehouse in the small town of Bessemer, Alabama. After the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) reported that a majority of workers signed union authorization cards, Amazon plastered anti-union slogans in bathroom stalls and subjected workers to lengthy captive-audience sessions trying to convince them that a union would cause them to lose money. After workers voted against unionizing, RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said that Amazon had threatened to shut the warehouse down. Some labor experts told Gizmodo that they were not surprised when the vote failed.

  • April 2020: The Biggest Threat to Amazon Is Human Well-Being [link]
  • September 2020: Amazon Is Openly Hiring Union-Busters [link]
  • January 2021: Amazon Warehouse Employees in Alabama Will Vote to Unionize [link]
  • February 2021: Twitch Pulls Its Parent Company’s Union-Busting Ads [link]
  • February 2021: Amazon Fails to Stall Unionization Vote in Alabama [link]
  • March 2021: Inspired by Alabama Coworkers, Amazon Employees Nationwide Begin Union Talks: Report [link]
  • April 2021: Amazon Union Vote Fails in Bessemer, as Union Calls for Investigation [link]
  • April 2021: Emails Show Amazon Pressured USPS to Install Mailbox at Alabama Warehouse Ahead of Union Vote [link]
  • April 2021: Union Moves for Results of Amazon Vote in Alabama to Be Invalidated [link]
  • April 2021: Amazon’s Already Busted Out Its Anti-Union Playbook in Staten Island [link]

Amazon denies pee bottles, gets fined for stealing tips, increases hours, expands surveillance apparatus

Image for article titled Here Are the Labor Abuses Behind Prime Day
Photo: Image sent to Gizmodo by a subcontracted delivery driver

Sometime soon after the holidays, Amazon sprung a grueling 10-to-eleven-hour overnight shift on workers, many of whom have claimed that they felt no choice but to take the shift or lose their jobs. (Amazon has said that it provides alternative shifts elsewhere, but many have said that the distance is too far or that no such jobs were available and expect the megacycle to follow them.) Proof emerged that Amazon’s shadow workforce of contracted drivers pee in bottles; Amazon went nuts denying it on Twitter; Jeff Bezos may have been behind a salvo of demented tweets; Amazon admitted that workers don’t have sufficient access to rest stops. In keeping with years of surging injury reports at Amazon warehouses (24,000 serious injuries in 2020 alone), a number of advocacy groups are petitioning for changes.

  • February 2021: Amazon Springs Ten-Hour ‘Megacycle’ Shifts on Its Workers [link]
  • February 2021: Amazon Will Have to Pay Back the $61.7 Million It Swindled From Drivers’ Tips [link]
  • February 2021: Amazon Announces Totally Not Alarming Plan to Install Surveillance Cameras in Every Delivery Vehicle [link]
  • February 2021: Hundreds of Amazon Drivers Agree That They Deserve a Union in an Informal Driver-Led Survey [link]
  • March 2021: Amazon Execs Apparently Need to See Some Pee Pics [link]
  • March 2021: Amazon Is Getting Sued for Failing to Give Warehouse Workers Meal and Rest Breaks [link]
  • April 2021: Amazon Mumbles ‘Sorry’ for Denying That Its Workers Pee in Bottles, Says Uber and UPS Drivers Do It, Too [link]
  • April 2021: Amazon’s Worker-Crushing Megacycle Is Energizing a Battle [link]
  • May 2021: Amazon: Overworked Warehouse Employees Can Go Reflect in the Despair Closet [link]

Amazon nibbles at small businesses

Image for article titled Here Are the Labor Abuses Behind Prime Day
Photo: Amazon

At least we still have third-party sellers and the desiccated remains of brick-and-mortar stores, which makes us proud to walk all the way down the block to the 99 cent store for paper towels. That might not last long, depending on whether the federal government gets it together and reforms antitrust law.

  • June 2020: Amazon’s Reportedly Fielding Probes From California, Washington State Over Trade Practices [link]
  • July 2020: Jeff Bezos Tells Congress He ‘Can’t Guarantee’ Amazon Isn’t Violating Its Own Policies to Undercut Sellers [link]
  • August 2020: Amazon Can Add Germany and Canada to Its List of Investigation Headaches [link]
  • October 2020: Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon Are the Big Monopolies You Thought They Were, Lawmakers Find [link]
  • November 2020: Amazon Hit With Multibillion-Dollar Antitrust Action in EU [link]
  • April 2021: Amazon Was Reportedly Considering a Chain of Discount Stores Before the Pandemic Hit [link]
  • April 2021: Amazon Reportedly Pressures Small Businesses with Retaliation if They Don’t Hand Over User Data [link]
  • April 2021: Amazon Is Opening a Hair Salon, Seriously [link]
  • April 2021: Amazon Accused of Working With Book Publishers In Price-Fixing Scheme [link]

Amazon saves the environment maybe

Image for article titled Here Are the Labor Abuses Behind Prime Day
Photo: Paul Morigi (Getty Images)

Amazon has promised to shift entirely to renewable energy for its operations by 2025, and Jeff Bezos has pledged to throw $10 billion to “save Earth,” which is less than he made in a single day during the pandemic. These are good and big promises, but advocates and employees say that low-income communities near exhaust-filled Amazon truck routes aren’t reaping the benefits. It’s unclear whether climate refugees will get first dibs on the off-world space cities.

  • June 2020: The Danger of Amazon’s $2 Billion Climate Fund [link]
  • September 2020: The Amazonification of Climate Change Is Here [link]
  • December 2020: Climate Polluters Write a Letter Asking to Be Lightly Regulated Please [link]
  • December 2020: Five of 2020's Top Climate Grifters [link]
  • February 2021: Amazon Is Creating an Empire of Trash [link]
  • April 2021: Amazon Can’t Just Change Its Rules to Squash [Climate] Activism, NLRB Finding Suggests [link]
  • May 2021: Amazon Workers Are Petitioning the Company to Bring Its Pollution to Zero By 2030 [link]

Jeff Bezos made more money than ever 

Jeff Bezos reclaimed his spot as the richest man in the world. So unfathomably rich, that, according to an Oxfam study, he could have paid every one of his 876,000 employees a $105,000 bonus and still broken even. At least, that’s the dream.