Anti-Black Friday activists protest for a greener and more responsible consumerism

by Fantine Carron

More than a dozens protests took place last Friday to block access to Amazon’s warehouses. Activists deplore the poor treatment of the multinational’s workers as well as the impact it has on the planet.

Extinction Rebellion activists in Europe blocked the access to 15 Amazon warehouses. [Image source]

For some, Black Friday rhymes with discounts and savings, for others, it is synonymous of climate disaster and human exploitation.

Like every year after Thanksgiving, Black Friday came back with its incredible offers and bargains. While it is tempting to make the most out of the good prices, especially in preparation for Christmas, it is necessary to keep in mind the damages over-buying and over-consuming can cause.

Several groups and organisations led campaigns against Black Friday to raise awareness about consequences it has both on the environment and humans.

One particular company was targeted; Amazon. The multi-billion dollar business is already known for being a top polluter and for the poor treatment of its workers.

The international coalition “Make Amazon Pay” formed by 70 trade unions and organizations led strikes and actions to fight against the retail giant. The group called the company workers to go on strike and make their voices heard.

Created last year, the group states on its website states that it is “united in [its] commitment to Make Amazon Pay fair wages, its taxes and for its impact on the planet”. 

Make Amazon Pay and the environmental group Extinction Rebellion blocked access to 15 Amazon distribution centres in Europe — most of them in Britain. The activists used slogans such as “Amazon crime” or “Stop Exploiting People and Planet” to express their anger.

At least 44 people have been arrested in the UK following the protests and blockades, mainly for tresspassing. 

Journalist Fantine Carron talked to Laura H. — an Extinction Rebellion activist who asked for her identity to be protected.

“Amazon basically promotes overconsumption and it has dramatic consequences on the planet”, Laura H. said. “It just pushes people to buy more and more, most of the time, it’s things they don’t even need.”

Laura H. has been an Extinction Rebellion activist since the creation of the group. She used to go to every climate change protest she could attend but the risks linked with COVID-19 limited her physical involvement without putting a stop to her online activism. 

“I wish I was with the others protesting but I will try my best to raise awareness online.” said the 27-year-old. “I want people to know how on top of treating its workers terribly, by not paying them enough, for example, Amazon really is destroying the planet. It even pollutes more than certain countries.”

Last year, the company carbon emissions grew by 19% despite its promise to reach a zero-carbon emission by 2040. Amazon is also famous for the waste it produces with the destruction of unsold stocks.

 “I don’t think it’s normal that Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, is the richest man on earth and is worth literally hundredths of billions of dollars, when most of his workers are under the poverty line.” shared Laura H.

On Instagram on the official account of Amazon, the company was called out by dozens of users commenting on its Black Friday post: “Let your employees unionize”, “#payyourworkers”, “supply chain of human misery” or “bunch of thieves”.

While the actions are pointing at Amazon in particular, it is the whole capitalist and consumerist system which is the main target. 

Online, the hashtag #BlackFridayLies was trending and people shared their disappointment regarding Black Friday deals. The main complaint was how Amazon and others popular websites, increased their prices in the weeks before Black Friday to lower them again on the day.

A solution to a greener and more environmentally friendly Black Friday is to shop local. Supporting tiny and local businesses is beneficial for every party; the consumers, the sellers, the local economy and also the planet. It is much more ethical than shopping with multinational companies. This is even more important after the impact the lockdowns had on local businesses.

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