Boycotting Amazon Won’t Work
It will take real collective action — not just canceling your Prime subscription — to force the company to change its labor practices
The Atlantic recently released a damning report on Amazon that linked the breakneck pace in the company’s fulfillment centers to an epidemic of workplace injuries. Strict quotas enforced through an unforgiving disciplinary regime explain why Amazon has a rate of serious injury more than double the industry average, according to the Atlantic. The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, a nonprofit coalition of labor unions and worker advocate groups, labeled Amazon part of its 2019 “Dirty Dozen,” with six workplace deaths in seven months.
The Atlantic investigation is only the latest in a long series of exposés to shine light on the role the e-commerce giant’s abysmal labor practices play in its ruthless pursuit of ever-greater speed and efficiency. The past few years have seen a litany of horror stories, from workers in the United Kingdom urinating in bottles to the macabre tale of Billy Foister, who lay dead on the floor of an Amazon warehouse in Ohio for 20 minutes without aid while co-workers were forced to continue working around him.
Almost immediately after the Atlantic story was published, Twitter users began sharing it along with the hashtag #BoycottAmazon. But while it’s understandable that people are outraged by the story and feel the desire to do something about it, it’s highly doubtful that this particular tactic will be effective.
For starters, Amazon is so large and diversified that it’s almost impossible to truly boycott it. The very platform that protesters are using to call for the boycott, Twitter, pays nearly $16 million monthly to Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Since 2016, AWS has accounted for a large and growing share of Amazon’s profits. Put it this way: In the United States, Prime subscriptions run around $120 annually. If 100,000 subscribers simultaneously cancelled their memberships, the loss would be equivalent to 0.0005% of AWS’ annual revenue.