Amazon refused to attend a hearing in the European Parliament – and not for the first time. Now, EU legislators have had enough. They called for banning its lobbyists from the Parliament.
Members of the European Parliament (MEP) sitting on its Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) today blasted Amazon management for refusing to attend a hearing in the European Parliament. This comes after Amazon cancelled a visit by an MEP delegation to its warehouses in Germany and Poland scheduled for December 2023 on short notice. In 2021, Amazon already refused to testify at a previous hearing. Now, EU legislators have had enough. They called for banning Amazon lobbyists from the European Parliament – and UNI Europa supports them.
Dragoş Pîslaru, Chair of the EMPL Committee, expressed frustration over Amazon’s absence, stating: “We have received a letter that today was not a good day for [Amazon]. I presume that for a company that has a size and representation, there might have been some people that could have replaced the one that couldn’t make it today.”
The sentiment was echoed by Kim van Sparrentak (Greens/EFA, the Netherlands), who said: “I am disappointed but not surprised that Amazon doesn’t show a lot of respect for our democratic institutions – again, after not coming to our hearing twice and after cancelling our mission.”
Agnes Jongerius (S&D, the Netherlands) went a step further, calling for a ban of Amazon lobbyists in the European Parliament: “I also had this meeting in December with workers in Poland and Germany in my calendar, and this meeting was withdrawn. I think the Parliament should talk about having a ban of lobbyists of Amazon inside the Parliament.”
Leila Chaibi (The Left, France) supported this proposal, advocating for a united approach to demand a ban on Amazon lobbyists: “Amazon shows the same disrespect to democratic institutions it shows to its workers. […] We have a concrete action we can take: we can block Amazon lobbyists from entering the European Parliament.” She suggested to work together across political groups and send a letter to the President of the Parliament demanding a ban of Amazon lobbyists on the premises of the European Parliament.
Gaby Bischoff (S&D, Germany) supported the idea: “I believe it’s really about respect. If the Parliament is planning to have a hearing, one should attend. I support the proposal to withdraw badges.”
Dennis Radtke (EPP, Germany) also denounced Amazon’s lobbying activities and refusal to engage with the Committee: “I support any measure that we as a Parliament or a Committee can take. We shouldn’t accept it.”
UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig commented on the hearing: “It is unacceptable that Amazon’s management refuses public scrutiny by our democratic institutions. Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise to workers and trade unions, as the notorious union-buster Amazon has denied them fundamental rights, such as freedom of association, the right to organise and bargain. We therefore join parliamentarians in calling for denying Amazon lobbyists access to the European Parliament as long as they don’t respect our public institutions.”
During the hearing, trade union representatives from UNI affiliates ver.di in Germany and Solidarność in Poland, as well as a representative of Inicjatywa Pracownicza in Poland, gave an account of the working conditions at Amazon in their respective countries.
Agata Wypior (Solidarność) said: “We are considered robots. The productivity targets are simply not possible on a physical level. We asked for a change to this. There is a lot of pressure on workers, a lot of surveillance of workers.” Corinna Groß (ver.di) added: „Amazon doesn’t ensure good and secure work, unless legislators force it to. People are dismissed for health reasons, dismissed without any proper reasons.”
The trade union representatives emphasised the importance of transnational organising, with Groß noting the role of the UNI Amazon Alliance in facilitating a European network for organising.
In autumn 2023, UNI Global Union and Progressive International organised the first-ever Summit to Make Amazon Pay, bringing together trade unionists, civil society organisations, experts and parliamentarians from over 20 countries in Manchester, UK.
Kim van Sparrentak (Greens/EFA, the Netherlands), who attended the Summit, brought its core message to the European Parliament: “In November, I had the honour to attend the Make Amazon Pay Summit in Manchester, and I am very happy to see that this campaign is growing everywhere in the world. It’s trade unions, tax justice activists, digital rights organisers, Indigenous people, climate activists, small business owners and policymakers really working together. And this is necessary because only together can we tackle this extractive beast that Amazon is nowadays. And I also think this is a moment for us to show that we are on top of it and that we stand united with the people trying to make the situation for the workers […] better.”
The Make Amazon Pay campaign, which has organised five global days of action since 2020, aims to address issues related to labour, tax, climate, data, and racial justice. It has garnered support from over 80 organisations and hundreds of parliamentarians worldwide.