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Ten reasons to avoid Amazon this Christmas

We list 10 reasons to avoid Amazon this Christmas and beyond - from ongoing abuses of its workers to the sale of tech to fossil fuel companies.

They may seem like Santa but they're much more like Scrooge. Here's why...

1. Amazon has treated its workers poorly for years.

In March 2021, Jennifer Bates, an Amazon worker testified before a Senate Budget Committee in the US, stating: “My work day feels like a nine-hour intense workout every day, and they track our every move. I learned that if I worked too slow or had too much time off task, I could be disciplined or even fired."

Her testimony is nothing new. Over the last decade, more and more Amazon workers have spoken out.

In October 2020, TUC released a report about Amazon’s mistreatment of its employees. It found that employees in Amazon warehouses worked 55 hour weeks/ 10 hour days on average, were expected to pack around 300 items per hour, and were harassed, disciplined or fired if they failed to meet their targets. Workers felt unable to take breaks or visit the bathroom, and sometimes had to urinate in bottles. 

The report linked the gruelling conditions to serious accidents or workplace exhaustion, finding that over a three year period, ambulances had been called out 600 times to 14 Amazon warehouses in Britain. One facility alone saw 115 emergency calls, compared to only 8 over the same period at a similar sized supermarket distribution centre just a few miles away.

2. And its treatment of workers only seems to get worse.

In November 2021, Amazon workers and activists from over 20 countries around the globe again took action against Amazon’s atrocious conditions as part of #MakeAmazonPay Black Friday protests. 

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, workers have reported unsafe conditions, with the company not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus in facilities. In November 2021, it agreed to pay a $500,000 fine for failing to notify workers of COVID-19 cases in their Amazon workplace.

Violations have also been reported in the company’s supply chain, with Amazon failing to respond. According to the campaign group Labour Behind the Label:

“Amazon’s supplier Hulu Garment tricked its entire workforce of 1,020 workers into resigning in a shocking attempt to rob their workers of $3.6 million (USD) in legally owed severance.

“After being told their factory may need to lay people off due to loss of orders during the corona pandemic, the workers were told they would not receive their last wages if they did not sign a document management had presented them with. A sentence in this document stating they were resigning was hidden, purposefully covered up by the worker’s most recent payslip. The workers were made to “sign” with a thumb print.”

Labour Behind the Label says that Amazon has done nothing to address the issue. 

3. Amazon is damaging small independent businesses.

Amazon has come to dominate many online markets globally. During the first lockdown in the UK, 35% of all purchases made online were through the company. Its monopoly has marginalised many small independent businesses. 

Since Amazon launched as a bookseller in 1994, the UK and Ireland have lost more than 1,000 independent bookshops.

Bookshops are not the only independent retailers that believe themselves to have been damaged by Amazon’s monopoly. In 2016, a survey found that 90% of independent retailers said that the growth of the company was having a damaging impact on their revenue.

More recently, in August 2020, Amazon announced its intention to pass the cost of a new tax, aimed to ensure that online conglomerates like Amazon would pay their fair share, on to its own small business sellers. The company increased its sale fees by 2%, after the UK Government announced a 2% digital services tax on the revenues of search engines, social media services and online marketplaces.

4. It perpetuates racism through its technology.

Amazon has enabled racial-bias and racial profiling through its technology. 

In 2018 and again in 2020, testing of Amazon’s ‘Rekognition’ facial software showed it to be fundamentally racially-biased. The software was found to disproportionately identify black members of Congress or Parliament as people who had been arrested and had mugshots held in a police database.

In 2020, campaigners won a victory after the company announced a one-year moratorium on selling the technology to US police - which it extended in May 2021. Nathan Freed Wessler, a deputy project director at the American Civil Liberties Union said in response to the announcement:

"Face recognition technology fuels the over-policing of Black and Brown communities, and has already led to the false arrests and wrongful incarcerations of multiple Black men.”

The company’s home surveillance arm, Ring, has also been accused of encouraging racial profiling.

In 2019, it was reported that Ring had over 200 partnerships with police departments in America, through several of which it has incentivised police to encourage community use of its neighbourhood watch app. A review of over 100 posts on the app found that the majority of people reported as ‘suspicious’ by users were people of colour.

In 2021, at the company’s annual meeting, shareholders voted down a proposal to audit the company’s impact on civil rights, equity and diversity issues, including whether Ring and the Neighbors app “disproportionally tag people of color as suspicious.”

5. Amazon sells its services to fossil fuel companies.

Amazon has been criticised for “helping fossil fuel companies accelerate and expand oil and gas extraction” in 2019, after it was revealed to have been offering special technology services to fossil fuel companies including Shell and BP.

Amazon is accused of ‘aggressively courting’ the industry and offering machine learning and AI technologies to enable fossil fuel extraction at a time when “it is imperative most fossil fuels be left in the ground if we are to avoid severe climate disruption”.

Amazon was also found to have sponsored a 2020 event held by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank well known for spreading climate denial misinformation. 

It raised eyebrows therefore, when Jeff Bezos was asked to speak at the COP26 climate summit in November.


6. It’s failed to address its own environmental impacts.

In 2020, Amazon announced its target to be carbon neutral by 2040. Yet, the company’s carbon footprint increased by 19% in the same year.

Currently, the company reports its emissions at over 60 million tons CO2e a year - which is equivalent to over 60million return passenger flights from London to New York. 

It is not only on climate targets where Amazon falls down. In April 2021, a video was published which showed Amazon’s Dunfermline warehouse destroying over 124,000 items of unsold stock. Amazon destroys ‘unsellable’ products that are outdated or have been returned, likely because to keep it stored is worth less than trashing it and bringing new stuff in.

7. It is accused of union busting.

When workers organise for change they face serious retaliation. After Amazon worker Chris Smalls led a walk out at a New York facility over unsafe working conditions at the start of COVID-19 he was quickly fired. A week later, Amazon’s General Counsel was accused of using racist tropes to smear Smalls, a Black employee. Campaigners say that the company has fired at least six workers for speaking out since the start of the pandemic.

In early 2021, workers in Bessemer, Alabama voted on whether to unionise. In the weeks beforehand, Amazon sent an army of anti-union consultants to the city, where they held intimidating and mandatory meetings – including threatening to close the facility down if unionisation was voted for – spread anti-union propaganda, and even changed the schedule of the traffic lights to sway the vote, according to campaigners.

“Amazon has been virulently anti-union everywhere it operates,”

Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union and Sharon Graham, Unite Executive Officer, wrote in Ethical Consumer in May 2021.

8. It faces questions over spying on politicians and trade unions.

In 2020, a group of MEPs wrote to Jeff Bezos - Amazon’s founder and chief executive - after evidence emerged that the company may be spying on politicians and trade union workers.

The company published two job posts in August for ‘intelligence analysts’ in the US, the roles for which included investigating the threat of organised labour against the company and monitoring ‘hostile political leaders’. 

The company deleted the job posts after they were widely publicised, and has since stated that they were inaccurate and posted in error. But MEPs also expressed concern over “increasing warnings about your company’s anti-union policy”.

9. It is an aggressive tax avoider.

We estimated that in 2017 the UK lost £52 million from Amazon’s tax avoidance due to profit shifting alone - and that this was just the tip of the iceberg. By doing everything from registering its UK profits in Luxembourg to deferring its taxation by investing for its monopoly, the company has aggressively avoided paying its share to the public purse.

In 2019, its key UK business paid just 3% more in tax compared to 2018, despite its pre-tax profits growing by more than 35%

Paul Monaghan from the campaign organisation Fair Tax Mark says,

"Amazon is growing its market domination across the globe on the back of income that is largely untaxed, allowing it to unfairly undercut local businesses that take a more responsible approach. Contrived financial arrangements lie at the heart of Amazon’s success.”

Ethical Consumer continues to call for a boycott of Amazon over its outrageous tax avoidance. 

10. You’ll be in solidarity with workers and activists globally.

Organisations all over the world have been protesting Amazon’s actions - from workers unions and civil society organisations to anti-racism and anti-gentrification campaigns. 

In November 2020, a global coalition launched demanding that the company address its workers’, environmental and political abuses. #MakeAmazonPay has brought together a wide range of those campaigning against Amazon, including Ethical Consumer.

Some campaigns have seen major success. In 2019, New York activists successfully drove Amazon away from the city where it had planned to build an HQ2 in return for almost $3 million in tax deals. In 2017, Amazon was ordered to repay €250 million in tax by the EU – although it successfully appealed the fine earlier in 2021. In May 2021, the European Parliament challenged Jeff Bezos over Amazon’s union-busting and spying on workers. In March 2021, Bezos confessed, "we need to do a better job for Amazon employees.”

By boycotting the company, you will be taking part in this global movement and building the pressure on Amazon – or the legislation that allows its abuses – to change.