Global movement pushing Amazon for better wages to reach Quebec facilities

Former Amazon.com Inc. workers and labour organizers visited some of the e-commerce giant's Quebec locations Friday as part of a global movement urging the company to stop "squeezing" workers, communities and the planet.

Mostafa Henaway, a former Amazon worker and labour activist with the Immigrant Workers Center, said he and others would approach workers at the YUL2 and DXT6 facilities in Lachine to remind them of their rights and encourage their employer to do better.

"We're out here today with other Amazon associates around the world to say enough is enough," said Henaway, who worked at the DTX4 delivery centre in Laval, Que.

"At what cost is fast and free shipping?"

The visit timed to Black Friday — one of the Seattle-based firm's busiest periods — is meant to push the company to pay fair wages, taxes and better account for its affect on the environment.

It's part of the Make Amazon Pay movement, which will see Amazon workers and labour rights groups in at least 30 countries, including the U.S. and England, strike or rally in support of fair wages and climate change action.

Workers in these countries have taken issue with salaries allegedly decreasing while Amazon rakes in record revenue, the company paying no income tax in Europe and seeing its CO2 emissions rise by 18 per cent last year.

"For workers and consumers, the price of everything is going up. And for everyone, the global temperature is rising and our planet is under stress," reads May Amazon Pay's website. "But instead of supporting its workers, communities and the planet, Amazon is squeezing every last drop it can."

However, Amazon spokesperson Kristin Gable said the company is investing significantly in all the areas demonstrators are criticizing.

The company has pledged to be net zero carbon by 2040 and offers "competitive wages and great benefits" while and "inventing" ways to keep staff healthy and safe, she added.

"While we are not perfect in any area, if you objectively look at what Amazon is doing on these important matters, you’ll see that we do take our role and our impact very seriously," she said.

Henaway, who wrote an expose about his month working for the company in 2021, disagreed.

He said new staff are peppered with benefits and made to feel like the company is making history, but slowly become "exhausted" by Amazon's demands.

"It takes a toll when you're doing the same work, minute over minute, second over second," he said.

"There's this constant rush to get things done by a certain time and you're constantly monitored."

The pressure is even higher on Black Friday, which he describes as one of the tensest days at Amazon outside of the December holidays.

"Amazon creates a system where you're told that you're special, that you're part of the family and at the end of the day, you're sort of just pushed out, if you don't make certain quotas," he said.

Many have complained about Amazon's labour practices in the past.

In 2019, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Canada Local 175 accused an Amazon fulfilment subsidiary of engaging in unfair labour practices by encouraging subcontractors not to support unionizations. Subcontractors that had workers aiming to unionize saw their routes significantly reduced, leading to layoffs, closures and bankruptcies.

On Monday, a U.S. judge ordered the company to stop retaliating against employees engaged in workplace activism, after the National Labor Relations Board, sued Amazon to have a New York warehouse worker fired for organizing reinstated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2022.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press