As thousands of Amazon workers across Europe joined in coordinated strikes to protest the company’s infamously “inhumane” working conditions – threatening the e-commerce giant’s Black Friday operations – the company resorted to a tactic that hasn’t been employed to resolve labor disputes in the West in a very long time: It called the police.
According to Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, police in Madrid were “dumbfounded” when Amazon asked them to intervene during a strike at one of the company’s warehouses on the outskirts of the city. The company wanted the police presence to keep productivity high, or at least comparable to that of a normal working day.
A spokesman for one of the labor unions that helped coordinate the strike told Business Insider that Amazon “wanted to send the police inside the warehouse to push people to work.”
Amazon denied the reports, calling them the “worst kind of misinformation.” But the company’s history of labor abuses has been well documented in both the US and Europe. Here are a few examples that we’ve reported on:
- In April of this year, journalist and author James Bloodworth reported what he saw after going undercover at an Amazon warehouse in Staffordshire, UK, where he found horrendous conditions in which some workers are forced to pee in bottles.
- In 2011, the brutal work environment at an Amazon warehouse in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania were reported in the Morning Call. A local emergency room doctor filed a workplace safety complaint after treating several Amazon employees for heat-related illnesses. The company had reportedly hired ambulances to wait outside its warehouse in anticipation of workers fainting from heatstroke.
- In 2012, the Seattle Times published a blockbuster report about overworked, underpaid staff who were encouraged to lie about workplace injuries to avoid having to file reports.
- And in 2015, the New York Times revealed that conditions at Amazon headquarters are cutthroat. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
Some 1,600 workers walked off the job site in Spain alone. Madrid police told Amazon that Spanish law permits workers to strike. While they said police would be present at the strike to ensure the maintaining of the peace, they wouldn’t otherwise interfere. Amazingly, this isn’t the first time Amazon has asked Spanish police to respond to a strike: In July, it asked police to ensure that strikebreakers had access to their job sites and delivery trucks during a strike on Prime Day. Some clashes with police ensued, resulting in a few arrests.
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