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Gen Z Activists Push Amazon to Change its Labor Practices

If the online leader doesn't know what quiet quitting is, it should probably learn the term.

Internet delivery services have revolutionized the way we live our lives. The same-day delivery and two-day shipping features offered by Amazon  (AMZN)  Prime have bumped the online sales platform to the head of the game for years on end, and that growth has resulted in more than 1,100 distribution centers popping up all over the world. 

All of those boxes and products require a whole lot of employees to keep things running, but the quick-turn packing and shipping methods have not sat so well with some employees, resulting in myriad reports of mistreatment.

Jeff Bezos' multimedia on-demand platform has become a poster child for the flaws in the U.S. labor system. Meanwhile, other retailers like Target  (TGT)  have moved into the e-commerce space thanks to 2020's covid-related work-from-home orders. They're building their own warehouses to accommodate the increased demand for product delivery services. But reports of worker abuse still seem to be focused on Amazon, which recently saw another successful Prime Day event that seems to have been difficult for warehouse workers and drivers alike.

Amazon is No Stranger to Strikes

Amazon has taken some drastically unpopular measures in response to worker demands for better conditions and the right to unionize. The newly-formed Amazon Labor Union recently won a hard-fought victory in Staten Island, meanwhile just last week abut 150 employees in San Bernardino distribution center walked out over low wages and safety concerns due to heat in the warehouse. 

Amazon has cracked down hard on employees demanding better working conditions, and in some instances have even called the police on union organizers. There have been reports of employees attending mandatory anti-union meetings, where, in some instances, employees are directly pressured to vote against unionizing. To make matters worse, in February, audio leaked from an Amazon union avoidance official threatening workers who wanted to unionize with a decrease in pay to minimum wage.

Amazon's AI employee monitoring standards have also been called into question recently. A court in California ruled that the company had to be transparent with employees about the algorithm used to monitor their productivity. These rules were previously not communicated to employees, who could be disciplined or even fired for taking more than the allowed number of bathroom and food breaks.

But with a company so large and so many different distribution centers, organizing unions and strikes can be difficult -- particularly when the employees working rely on their income or can't afford to strike. 

Now, an organization called Gen-Z for Change is trying to galvanize employees, influencers, and viewers to demand Amazon raise its standards across the board.

Enter the #ProfitsOverPrime Movement

Organized by Gen-Z For Change, the TikTok hashtag campaign #peopleoverprime is spreading in popularity all across the app. Gen Z influencers have laid out their demands for the mega-company, cutting partnerships and closing their online Amazon storefronts until their demands are met.

The organization's demands were laid out in an open letter to the company. They include:

  • $30/hour minimum wage for all employees
  • better working conditions, including:
    • two paid 30-minute breaks and an hour-long paid lunch break
    • better medical leave
    • additional paid time off and eliminating productivity rates that require workers to pick a certain number of items an hour
  • complete halt of any and all union-busting tactics used by Amazon in the past, including:
    • compulsory anti-union meetings
    • promising better pay and benefits to employees if they voted against the union
    • threatening with worse pay and benefits or termination to employees if they voted for the union
    • addressing specific issues employees have if they promised to vote against the union

Raising Labor Standards by Influence, Quiet Quitting, and More

As more and more Gen Z'ers are entering the job market, influencer activism has become a real force to be reckoned with. Before this push against Amazon, influencers encouraged their audience to flood Starbucks  (SBUX) with false job applications as a way to protest the company's anti-union stance in various stores.

This kind of activism isn't the only way that the next generation is pushing back against overly-demanding working environments. This week has seen a new hot-button term called "quiet quitting" floating around, in which younger employees are quietly reducing the amount of work they're putting into their jobs to avoid burnout or being taken advantage of. 

Surveys reveal that 75% of all employees have experienced burnout at their jobs. Those are not good numbers -- and when you pare it down by generation, that percentage increases by nearly 10% for millennials. It seems that the next generation of workers are looking at these statistics and seeking to break the cycle of burnout.