SHAKOPEE, Minn. (FOX 9) - Amazon employees gathered in Shakopee, Minnesota Friday night to air grievances outside the Fulfillment Center.
Extra police had to stand between protesters and the front door of the building after the demonstrators expressed concerns about the hundreds of East African employees at Amazon.
At one point, protesters marched as close as they could to the front before police stopped them in an effort to share their message. Many held signs and chanted.
“We needed secured jobs; we are not robots,” said Abdirafam Muse, an Amazon worker.
Community groups told FOX 9 this protest follows several meetings with Amazon leaders. It includes calls for safe jobs, respect for the East African workforce and funding for community initiatives to lower economic disparity in the area.
“It's most important to understand the religious and cultural backgrounds of their new employees so they don’t create tensions and issues with them,” said Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of CAIR.
“We know that when we ask people to do a fair day’s work and fair day’s labor, we should accommodate their basic needs and respect their religious needs as well,” said Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, who attended the protest.
Amazon spokesperson Ashley Robinson responded saying, “We don’t recognize the allegations that are brought up because we have worked really hard to not only communicate with our employees but also our community.”
Robinson added that 35-40 percent of the workforce at this Twin Cities center are East African.
“We value their voices and respect them, but at the same time the majority of the employees are working this afternoon because we provide an excellent working conditions,” she said.
Several protestors returned to work inside the building immediately after the protest ended.
Police say nobody was arrested Friday night and Amazon officials told FOX 9 the protest did not impact any shipments, especially during the holiday rush.
Amazon statement regarding community activation in Shakopee and “supporting good jobs”:
“We work hard every day to ensure all of our employees are treated fairly and with dignity and respect, including here in Minnesota where we have an open and direct dialogue with employees. Amazon offers a great employment opportunity with excellent pay – ranging here from $16.25-$20.80 an hour, and comprehensive benefits including health care, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more. I encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other retailers and major employers in the Shakopee community and across the country. We invite anyone to see for themselves and take a tour through our fulfillment center tour program.”
Regarding “rejecting bigotry” and “promoting working from their majority East African workforce”:
“Our goal is to also be a leader in this space and we feel really good about our record here. Since we started employing people here in the region, we’ve paid more than $84 million just on compensation alone for employees identifying as East African. And just this week we held a recruitment event in the Cedar-Riverside community to meet with interested candidates for managerial positions. This type of ongoing community engagement is something we have been doing and are doing every day in every community where we work.”
Regarding “using their immense profits to fund initiatives”:
“Amazon is proud to give back to the communities where our associates live and work. We have provided more than $100,000 in monetary and in-kind donations locally to various organizations in the Shakopee and Greater Minneapolis area. Amazon has supported future generation of innovators by with donations to Code Savvy and Shakopee Public Schools to help students explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We’ve delivered smiles to children and families impacted by childhood cancer by inviting them to visit MSP1 and donated to Children’s Minnesota to further support its child life programs. We have worked with People Serving People to provide thousands of essential supplies to assist homeless children and families. These are just a few examples of our commitment to our local community and we look forward to doing more in the areas where can make an impact such as basic needs and education.”