On 5 February, MEPs on the European Parliament’s Employment Committee sent an official letter to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, urging the withdrawal of lobbying badges from the tech giant’s representatives, effectively barring them from the Parliament’s corridors.
The decisive action came in response to Amazon’s refusal to engage with the Employment Committee on crucial issues concerning working conditions within its warehouses. Amazon declined an invitation to participate in a hearing, reportedly saying “it was not a good day for them”. Amazon is a frequent visitor to the EU Parliament. In January alone, it had nine meetings with MEPs, including a meeting just a day after the hearing.
Amazon already refused to testify at a previous hearing in 2021, and after the company cancelled a visit by an MEP delegation to its warehouses in Germany and Poland scheduled for December 2023. On the exact same day as the hearing, Amazon was also fined €32 million for “excessively intrusive” surveillance of workers in its warehouses in France, underlining its exploitative working conditions.
Now, a coalition of over 30 trade unions and civil society groups is supporting the MEPs’ demand in an open letter to EP President Roberta Metsola, voicing deep concerns over Amazon’s dismissive attitude toward democratic scrutiny and trade unions, coupled with its substantial investments in lobbying efforts.
The letter argues that “Amazon’s disregard for the EU’s democratic institutions should not allow the company to get off the hook.” Its signatories, which include major European trade union federations like UNI Europa, lobby watchdogs Corporate Europe Observatory and Lobby Control, as well as NGOs investigating corporate power such as SOMO, ask Metsola “to implement Rule 123 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament and call for an immediate withdrawal of all lobbying badges of the company.”
Numbers from LobbyFacts.eu show that, since 2013, Amazon has allocated a staggering €18.8 million towards lobbying European institutions, showing the company’s commitment to influencing policy decisions. Additionally, Amazon currently employs fourteen lobbyists accredited by the European Parliament.
Further, a formal complaint filed by CEO, LobbyControl, and SOMO has triggered an investigation by the Transparency Register secretariat into irregularities surrounding Amazon’s registration. Allegations include undisclosed affiliations with various think tanks and a potentially underestimated lobbying budget. On 8 February, the European Ombudsman “asked the EU Transparency Register’s Secretariat to carry out more thorough and meaningful investigations when it comes to public complaints concerning alleged breaches of the code of conduct by registered organisations.”
The mounting pressure on Amazon is part of a broader campaign led by the Make Amazon Pay campaign, which mobilised strikes and protests across more than 30 countries on Black Friday 2023, with workers from four countries coming together for an international picket line at Amazon’s warehouse in Coventry, UK. This week, on 13, 14 and 15 February 2024, over 1000 workers in Coventry are expected to go on strike again demanding a pay rise to £15 an hour and an end to the company’s union-busting practices. The conglomerate’s track record, marred by allegations of exploitative labour practices, antitrust violations, tax avoidance and environmental negligence, has drawn sharp criticism from advocacy groups worldwide.
Oliver Roethig, UNI Europa Regional Secretary, says: “Amazon treats our parliaments, our democratic institutions, like its workers: with contempt. Therefore, we welcome Members of the European Parliament taking a concrete step to ban Amazon lobbyists from entering Parliament. By drawing a clear red line, they are saying that Amazon’s anti-democratic behaviour won’t be tolerated – whether that’s towards trade unions or parliaments.”
Bram Vranken, Corporate Europe Observatory researcher and campaigner, adds: “While Amazon invests massively in lobbying in Europe, the company shows an utter disregard for democratic scrutiny of its exploitative business model. We should not allow the company to get off the hook and immediately withdraw all of its lobbying badges.”
Margarida Silva, SOMO researcher, adds: “Amazon is one of the biggest companies operating in Europe, and wields immense power over smaller businesses and workers. In the past years, it has also increased its lobbying of EU policy-makers. Yet, the company has rejected even minimal parliamentary scrutiny over its business. This is an affront to democracy .”
Max Bank, LobbyControl campaigner, concludes: “It is disrespectful not to attend a parliamentary hearing. This must have consequences for Amazon. Withdrawing the company’s lobby badges is the right signal. Anyone who behaves disrespectfully towards parliament does not deserve to be heard there either.”
Trade unions and civil society organisations’ collective stance underscores the urgency of holding corporate entities accountable for their actions. Ultimately, it reaffirms the commitment to upholding democratic principles within the European Parliament.
The Make Amazon Pay campaign is a coalition of over 80 unions, civil society organisations, environmentalists and tax watchdogs. It has organised strikes and protests in over 30 countries.
Read the full open letter below: