After Amazon workers in Germany began striking, the company expanded eastward, where looser labor laws brought record productivity.
POZNAN, Poland — The first full-day strike at an Amazon warehouse was on May 14, 2013. Seven hundred workers in all picketed outside three facilities in Germany, the company’s biggest market outside the US. Carrying banners reading “Today we fight for RESPECT,” they demanded higher wages, more permanent rather than short-term contracts, and an end to productivity quotas.
A third of the workforce was off the job at the three centrally located fulfillment centers — a surge of collective action Amazon had never before faced anywhere. “It felt like a historic day,” said Andreas Gangl, who started at Amazon’s warehouse in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, in 2008 and worked in the returns department. “I think it was the best day in the world.”
Amazon, which has consistently opposed unionization efforts throughout its history, appeared to be reeling. The strikers, who had unionized two years earlier under their country’s robust labor laws, won significant concessions: Hourly wages rose from 9.83 euros to 11.62. The company decreased its reliance on temp agency employees, by the union’s estimate, from around 75% of the workforce to 25%, supplanted by employees with full company benefits and longer entry-level contracts. And Amazon agreed to stop firing workers for failing to meet productivity quotas in all three striking warehouses.