Amazon workers around the world are striking July 15 and 16 - the dates of the company’s Prime Day promotion - to protest poor working conditions, and some Twitch streamers are logging off in solidarity. Twitch is owned by Amazon, along with companies such as Audible, Comixology, IMDb, and Whole Foods, and protestors are calling on people to boycott all of them during the sales event.
The protests were sparked by the allegedly unfair working conditions at Amazon’s warehouses, which have been widely reported. Workers have complained that they’re made to work long hours in hot, sometimes dangerous conditions without breaks for low pay. One undercover journalist reported that workers sometimes urinated in bottles at their work stations because they weren’t able to take bathroom breaks. Workers in Minnesota, where one of the largest U.S. strikes is being held, have argued that Muslim workers are given unfair workloads while fasting during Ramadan and say that Prime Day’s expanded one-day shipping options this year put more pressure on already overworked employees. In addition to working conditions, employees are protesting Amazon’s ties with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. A 2018 report found that Amazon technology powers some of the key technology behind ICE, including facial recognition software.
None of that is directly tied to Twitch, but streamers joining the boycott say that using any of Amazon’s services in spite of the strike is tantamount to crossing a picket line. The boycott is primarily being organized through Twitter, using the hashtags #AmazonStrike, #PrimeDayStrike, and #NoTwitchScabs. Streamers large and small are joining in, both canceling their regular streams for Monday and Tuesday and urging others to do the same. Waypoint’s Patrick Klepek and Rogue One screenwriter Gary Whitta are among the more well-known streamers publicly supporting the boycott, which also calls on users not to watch any streams for the next two days.
No Mario Maker Mornings tomorrow. Solidarity with the workers at Amazon who are striking. Eat the rich. 👊— Patrick Klepek (@patrickklepek) July 15, 2019
If you’re a @twitch streamer and you’re able to avoid streaming today and tomorrow, please do so. Stand in solidarity with those protesting against poor working conditions and low pay at #Amazon. All other Amazon products and services can fuck off too. #AmazonStrike #PrimeDay— Gary Whitta (@garywhitta) July 15, 2019
Of course, only a small part of Twitch’s streaming population is participating in the boycott. Twitch is hosting a special stream called Twitch Sells Out to promote Prime Day with dozens of streamers taking part, not to mention the thousands of other users who don’t know about the strike at all or are choosing not to support it. In a Reddit thread about the boycott, some users raised questions about streamers whose livelihoods could be affected by taking two days off, while others mocked or criticized the idea, saying that it won’t matter to Amazon in the long run.
As streamer ThePedanticRomantic points out, though, the boycott isn’t meant to bring down Amazon, but to show workers that people are listening to their grievances and organize like-minded people. Jeff Bezos may not care if some streamers take the day off, but the protestors likely will.