Today is Prime Day, the Amazon-invented international shopping holiday that involves offering extensive deals on the digital storefront’s products. Amazon workers across facilities in Europe are celebrating this artificial holiday with a multi-day strike, and I’ve decided to join them in my own way.
I stream video games on Kotaku’s Twitch channel multiple times a week. That can mean playing Monster Hunter: World with readers or sitting down for a full playthrough of Metal Gear Solid. Amazon acquired Twitch in 2014 for $970 million, and as workers in Europe strike for better working conditions, I have chosen not to stream.
Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, is the richest man in the world, with an estimated net worth of $112 billion. Yet, Amazon employees across the world have reported significant concerns about workplace conditions and low pay. Warehouse workers in various facilities in America have described feeling pressured by managers to perform tasks at punishing speeds, scrambling to meet strict quotas all while getting paid less than warehouse workers at competitors such as Costco and Target. Amazon employees are listed among the top beneficiaries of food stamps in five states. Amazon facilities in England have similar issues according to author James Bloodworth, who spent a month working at an Amazon facility there and claimed workers would urinate into bottles to avoid missing their quotas. The workers at an Amazon facility in San Fernando de Henares, Spain are striking for better wages, according to The Local Spain, with other Amazon workers in Germany and Poland also joining in to strike against work conditions.
Jeff Bezos makes more in five minutes than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes. I see no reason why Amazon’s vast riches cannot be spent on making working conditions more equitable and fair for the people who make Bezos’ empire possible. When you are as rich as Jeff Bezos, what is your excuse for your workers relying on SNAP dollars for a meal?
“The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel,” Bezos said in an interview with Business Insider last April.
I believe that expecting workers to adhere to harsh conditions without proper benefits or aid is, frankly, violence. Especially when you have the surplus wealth to protect them.
Websites across the internet, including our own, will be festooned with promotions from Amazon highlighting some of the best savings on offer today. Even as some workers strike, other employees will feel the pressure to pick up the slack as Amazon orders flood in for the Prime Day deals. I believe it is important to support these workers however possible. In my case, that means abstaining from using Twitch in solidarity. It also means looking into alternate platforms.
Given the field I work in and my lack of control over corporate mandates, it may not not practical or possible to avoid using Twitch altogether, but I can’t shrug and do nothing. On a day when workers are risking their livelihoods, I believe it is important to stand with them, in one of the few visible ways that I can, as a person who doesn’t work at a facility herself. Canceling a stream and avoiding Amazon is the bare minimum of what I believe that I owe in solidarity with workers who deserve better.