Can 70 TikTok Influencers Change How Amazon Operates Its Business?
A small but influential group of TikTok creators are putting their business interests aside to support the Amazon Labor Union, boycotting Amazon until it changes its workplace practices.
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The coalition of about 70 TikTok influencers with a combined following of over 51 million – and growing – launched an awareness campaign called “People Over Prime Pledge” in support of the Amazon Labor Union‘s demands to raise wages, increase time paid off, and stop the company’s union busting tactics.
“Amazon’s widespread mistreatment of their workers and blatant use of union busting tactics will no longer be tolerated by the TikTok Community or TikTok Creators. Until the following demands – set by the Amazon Labor Union from JFK8 and LDJ5 warehouses – are met, we will refuse to monetize our platforms for Amazon, including all direct Amazon sponsorships and usage of Amazon’s storefront,” reads a statement from Gen Z For Change, an advocacy group that helped coordinate the pledge.
The Washington Post reports that the Amazon Labor Union did not help organize the “People Over Prime Pledge,” but union president Chris Smalls welcomes the support from the TikTok influencers.
“It’s a good fight to take on because Amazon definitely is afraid of how we used TikTok during our campaigns,” said Small to the Washington Post.
Amazon doesn’t agree with the characterization of its workplace and in a statement to the WaPo said: “The health, safety, and wellbeing of our employees is our top priority.”
“We’re committed to giving our employees the resources they need to be successful, creating time for regular breaks and a comfortable pace of work, and working directly with anyone who needs additional support to meet their goals.”
“We also work closely with health and safety experts and scientists, conduct thousands of safety inspections each day in our buildings.”
Amazon Faces Challenges in Its Online Retail and Marketplace Business
This TikTok influencer campaign is the latest public setup back for Amazon as workers across the US continue to push the company to listen to their grievances.
Besides efforts to establish a union at several Amazon warehouses, just this week, nearly 150 worders at a critical Southern California Amazon Air Regional Hub staged a mid-shift walkout over low wages and concerns of unsafe working conditions due to extreme heat.
Also adding to Amazon’s woes is a recently launched national investigation into working conditions by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in cooperation with federal prosecutors, inspecting Amazon warehouses across the country.
And following three fatalities over a three-week span at Amazon fulfillment centers in New Jersey, OSHA opened another investigation into Amazon’s facilities in that state.
All of this news comes at a bad time for Amazon as the company is trying to fix financial losses at its online retail and marketplace operations due to slowing sales growth and increased operational costs.
On Tuesday, Amazon announced that for the first time ever in company history, it would charge a peak season surcharge to third-party sellers using its Fulfillment by Amazon (Amazon FBA) services, matching a shipping industry practice to offset increased operational costs during the busy holiday season.
As the company is trying to correct its financial picture from its retail and marketplace business, it is facing increased scrutiny of its labor practices and working conditions.
Amazon has long been considered “unfriendly” to unionization efforts, suggesting that its pay and benefits exceed the compensation in similar roles at other companies and there is no need for its staff to be covered by union contracts.
But it seems worker complaints have risen, which has resulted in increased unionization efforts across the country and higher worker turnover. A leaked company report from earlier this year even suggests Amazon is concerned about running out of people to hire for its warehouses by 2024.
The reasons for staffing challenges go beyond worker turnover, but certainly, that is one key element as people are less likely to return to an employer if they were not happy working for them the first time.
In the same leaked report, a survey among Amazon workers that left the company to join another employer in a similar role “rated Amazon significantly worse on work fitting skills or interests, demands of the work, shift length and shift schedule.”
TikTok Matters Today if Gen Z Is the Customer of the Future
By itself, the “People Over Prime Pledge” campaign is unlikely to have a significant impact on sales in the short term.
Yet, long-term, usually a view that Amazon cares about, Gen Z has embraced TikTok as their internet journey starting point. And that may give the influencers and their followers more influence than many believe.
Also, the investigations, worker grievances, and increased awareness of worker complaints by the public may additionally pressure Amazon to drastically review its logistic workplace environment that supports the company’s online retail and marketplace business.
While Amazon’s average customer today may be a white woman in the South who earns more than $80,000 per year (as characterized by Business Insider in February), the company cannot lose the fight for young shoppers if it wants to keep its online dominance in ten or twenty years.
TikTok is where young shoppers hang out today. This is where the battle starts to build long-term customer and brand relationships.
The social media platform is expanding advertising solutions that are universal and easy to use, giving any sized business or brand an opportunity to reach this growing shopper demographic.
This also enables influencers to pick brands and companies to promote on TikTok that align with their social beliefs. A unique power that Amazon rarely faced previously.
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Richard is co-founder of eSeller365. He has over 17 years of experience on eBay which includes tens of thousands of sales to buyers in over 100 countries and even has experience with eBay’s VeRO program enforcing intellectual property rights for a former employer. And for about two years Richard sold products on Amazon using Amazon FBA in the US.
To “relax” from the daily business grind, for a few weekends a year, he also works for IMSA as a professional race official.