Amazon workers with support from the German trade union ve.rdi went on strike at seven warehouses across the country to demand higher wages and better protection of their personal data.
In Germany, employees have been fighting for a collective agreement at Amazon for years in part because their wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. Many employees rely on cars to get to Amazon’s sites, most of which are located outside major cities. Despite record profits, the corporation continues to deny employees reliable, collectively bargained pay increases.
The strike comes after an international push for greater data transparency. Just last March, Amazon warehouse workers from Germany, UK, Italy, Poland and Slovakia filed access requests under Article 15 GDPR to find out how the tech giant treats workers’ personal data under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The workers were supported by UNI Global Union, the international federation of service unions and privacy organization noyb.eu.
“Amazon may be one of the largest corporations in the world, but they cannot use our data to feed an algorithm, then start firing people right and left or doing whatever they want with our data. As workers, we have a right to privacy and we have the right to know,” said Andreas Gangl a shop steward for ver.di and one of the workers filing the GDPR requests.
Workers are left in the dark about the use of their data, despite Amazon using sophisticated systems to monitor workflows. Amazon has one month to respond and fully disclose their processing of workers personal data.
“We stand with these ver.di members who are striking for higher wages and more transparency. Workers have a right to know if Amazon is collecting video and audio recordings, information from social media, about union membership or other personal data in violation of EU data protection laws,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, the international services union representing 20 million workers in 150 countries worldwide.
Amazon has a history of neglecting workers’ rights. According to The Amazon Panopticon — UNI Global Union’s report on the intrusive and all-encompassing Amazon worker surveillance systems—Amazon’s highly invasive, and ultrafast delivery process is hiding harmful effects on its 1.3 million workers. Employees are relentlessly monitored, evaluated, and subjected to high-pressure and gruelling conditions. This model is so inhumane that in a groundbreaking investigation, the New York Times reported, “Amazon burns through workers so quickly that Executives are worried they’ll run out of people to employ.” Bloomberg News also reported that Amazon drivers have been “fired by the app” for minor mishaps that a real manager would have ignored.