Amazon’s (AMZN) German Workers Trek To Seattle For Protests

 @natrudy
on December 16 2013 8:24 AM

E-commerce giant Amazon.com, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) German workers aren’t happy, and they’re traveling more than 5,000 miles to say so.

Some of the company’s German employees will stage a protest at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters on Monday. That protest will coincide with broader strikes in Germany at Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig, where Amazon maintains logistics centers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

About 1,000 workers at the two locations are expected to participate.

For the German union ver.di, which represents Amazon’s workers and the service industry in Germany, the move represents its first time taking a labor dispute to a company’s headquarters outside of Germany.

“What’s happening in Seattle is not a strike, but an act of solidarity with workers in Germany,” ver.di representative Mechthild Middeke told the Journal. The U.S. Teamsters Union and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), two of America’s largest unions, will participate in the protest.

The protest follows a strike in late November, at which ver.di warned of potential further action during the holiday season, when Amazon makes a sizeable chunk of its $61 billion in global revenue.

The union is demanding that Amazon use industry-wide wage agreements for its German employees instead of sticking to Amazon-specific pay scales. Union representatives also want Amazon’s German employees to be paid according to retail and mail order standards, which are higher than the logistics sector's standard salaries.

It’s not the first time this year that the German union has held strikes against Amazon on similar grounds. Strikes started in May 2013. Another strike could happen in the German town of Werne on Tuesday, according to the union’s website.

Amazon couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. The U.S. company has said in the past that its German workers earn a lot relative to those working in the German logistics sector. The company also issued a one-time payment of 400 euros to 600 euros ($542 to $813) to select German workers in November.

In 2012, Amazon maintained international portals in the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, China, Italy, Spain and Brazil, according to its 2012 annual report. It earned $8.7 billion in net sales in Germany in 2012, up from $5.2 billion in 2010. The company earned more in Germany in the past three years than it earned in Japan and the UK, and it has about 9,000 Germany-based employees. 

“Amazon is a hugely profitable corporation in both America and Germany, and employees worldwide feel they should be able to share in the profits they help create,” according to a statement from participating U.S. unions.

“These protests are an encouraging response to the questionable methods of a global company like Amazon,” Frank Bsirske, ver.di’s chairman, said in a statement.

Other U.S. unions expected to join in include the AFL-CIO, the Communications Workers of America and a local labor council. 

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