Unions, regulators, civil society organizations to hold first-ever symposium on Amazon’s global impact on economies and society

The meeting, to be held on Cyber Monday, is a critical step to reign in Amazon’s unparalleled power over modern life


BRUSSELS—The unchecked power of Amazon will be put in the spotlight at a symposium hosted by international trade unions, UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), in Brussels on Monday 2 December 2019.

For the first time unions, policy makers, activists from the USA and Europe are gathering to consider appropriate regulations and other checks on global corporate power in an era of technological dominance.

“Amazon has refused to meaningfully engage with stakeholders around data, climate, taxes and workers’ rights. The company values control over cooperation and dominance over democracy. Its tentacles reach across economic sectors and national boundaries, and the only way we can hold Amazon accountable is through increased cooperation in challenging its consolidation of power,” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary UNI Global Union.

“Amazon’s refusal to respect its obligations to society must be remedied, and this symposium is a necessary step towards joining stakeholders’ power across issues and across continents to make the company recognize its responsibilities,” said Ms Hoffman.

Keynote speakers include Werner Stengg, Head of Unit E-commerce and Platforms DG Connect and who is expected to soon join the Cabinet of Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, and Maya Bacache, Board Member of the French Regulatory Authority for Communications (ARCEP).

Five panels will discuss Amazon’s record on labour rights and paying taxes, it’s monopoly power, privacy and digital rights and Amazon’s response to the climate crisis. MEPs Evelyn Regner and Iban Garcia del Blanco will participate along with Peter Eberl, Deputy Head of Unit for Cybersecurity and Digital Privacy Policy, European Commission, BEUC representative, Ursula Pachl, trade unions and NGOs. Additionally, from the United states, Stacy Mitchell, Co-Director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Abdi Muse, Executive Director of the Awood Center in Minneapolis, and Stuart Appelbaum, Chair of the Amazon Global Alliance.

“Amazon is one of the defining issues of our time and the future world of work. This is why it’s so critical that we come together at this symposium to fully understand the options available to stop the devastating impact Amazon is having on our global workforce and economy. Amazon has a well-documented history of mistreating and dehumanizing its workers around the world. Amazon needs to understand that human beings are not robots – Amazon needs to change,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

“Amazon’s business model is threatening our rights, our economies and our democracies. Monopoly power can never be acceptable. It is a fundamental threat to democracy—especially when that business is based on controlling and mining our data. No company must be too big to touch, all companies must be subject to mandated due diligence on human and labour rights with grievance procedures for remedy inclusive of their supply chains. It’s time to break up Amazon,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC

While politicians in the United States are confronting these issues in the run up to the 2020 election, unions are calling on political leaders in Europe to live up to the EU’s commitment to a renewed social contract by:

  • Breaking up Amazon with the reform of competition policy;
  • Regulating for a labour protection floor for all workers as agreed in the ILO Centenary Declaration;
  • Ensuring corporate tax is paid where it’s earned;
  • Protecting individual and national data privacy to ensure consent, compensation, and accountability from the company’s extraction of our information.

“Fair competition, privacy, taxation, human and labour rights with freedom of association and collective bargaining are not outdated principles and standards. Amazon must be broken up and forced to respect the social contract as a basis for doing business,” said Ms Burrow.