Gen Z TikTokers Challenge Amazon to Meet Union Demands


She is also one of the main organizers of the “People Above First” campaign led by Gen-Z for Change, a non-profit organization aimed at promoting talk and action among young people. The campaign, launched on August 16, asks social media creators to stop monetizing their platforms for Amazon until the company meets Amazon Labor Union requirements.

Joshi became more invested in union activism after a stint at a restaurant last summer which she says went wrong when she tried to unionize the staff. That experience inspired her to get involved in the broader labor movement sweeping the United States, including the recent historic vote among Amazon workers to unionize.

“When I came up with the idea for ‘People Over Prime,’ it was kind of like a switch,” she said. Fortune. “We can’t ask people not to buy from Amazon, but we can tell creators not to be sponsored by them and/or to monetize their platforms for them.”

The “People Over Prime” campaign launched last week with 70 creators totaling 51 million subscribers, and Joshi says that number is growing.

In a statement, the coalition accuses Amazon of mistreating workers and using union busting tactics. It also lists demands the union is fighting for, including a $30 hourly wage, better medical leave and the elimination of narrowly defined productivity rates.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Joshi said. “It’s solidarity with the workers on the ground.”

Joshi and another Gen-Z for Change member at a Service Employees Int’l Union convention in DC, explaining how to successfully use digital tools in the labor movement.

Courtesy of Elise Joshi

When asked to comment on Gen-Z for Change and the “People Over Prime” campaign, an Amazon spokesperson said Fortune that the health, safety and well-being of its employees are the company’s top priority.

“We are committed to giving our employees the resources they need to succeed, creating time for regular breaks and a comfortable work pace, and working directly with anyone who needs extra support to achieve its goals,” an Amazon spokesperson said. Fortune. “We also work closely with health and safety experts and scientists, conduct thousands of safety inspections every day in our buildings, and have made hundreds of changes following employee feedback on the how we can improve their well-being at work.”

“A group of pro-working children”

If you browse TikTok, it’s almost impossible to avoid the “Amazon hauls” and “try-ons” videos, in which influencers show their audiences new clothes and products. In the bios of creators posting this content, there will most likely be a link to their Amazon storefront, so their followers can purchase exactly what they’ve made.

Amazon works directly with content creators through its Amazon Influencer program. It’s a program that requires creators to create a virtual storefront, essentially a personalized page with all of the influencer’s favorite Amazon products. They then have to create content recommending the products to their followers, and when their followers buy through their storefront, the creators earn a commission.

Some influencers have made a name for themselves on TikTok by recommending Amazon products, and say they can earn as much like $3,000 a month from their Amazon storefronts.

The #amazonfinds hashtag on TikTok has around 26 billion views.

“TikTok is powerful and we can take that power back,” Joshi said.

Joshi chats with former President Barack Obama about social media misinformation and the work of Gen-Z for Change at Stanford University.

Courtesy of Elise Joshi

Other Gen Z creators like Dylan Troesken, who has 1.6 million subscribers, Connor Hessee, who has 2.3 million subscribers, and Victoria Hammett, who has nearly 1 million subscribers, joined the “People Over Prime” campaign, posting videos explaining why they join and refuse to work with Amazon.

Emily Rayna Shaw is a 24 year old young woman with over 5 million followers on TikTok. She worked with Amazon before joining the “People Over Prime” campaign and told Fortune she’s cut ties completely because she doesn’t feel comfortable supporting the company.

“I’ve shared and sold many Amazon products on my social media in the past because I have a huge community of people looking for affordable decorating options,” she said. “But hearing about the suffering of the workers stopped me from continuing.”

Some TikTok influencers who are part of the campaign declined to work with Amazon in the first place. Jax James, a 19-year-old content creator with over 3 million followers who joined “People Over Prime” said Fortune that since she started her TikTok in March 2020, it has been her main source of income.

She says she refuses to work with Amazon because she said it would be dishonest given her platform. She said she would continue to refuse to work with the company until the union’s demands were met.

“We’re not trying to be seen as just a bunch of anti-Amazon kids,” James said. “We want to be seen as a group of pro-working kids.”

Influencers are marketing tools for Amazon

The #peopleoverprime hashtag has 800,000 views since its launch last week.

Non-influential TikTok users are posting videos about the campaign and others are tagging creators they think should join.

The Amazon Labor Union was not involved in the creation of this campaign, but union vice president gave them a shout out on Twitter.

“Thank you for your support. Myself and @amazonlabor appreciate it,” he said, adding the hashtag “solidarity.”

Gen-Z for Change has already used social media in its campaigns to give visibility to unionized workers, including Starbucks and Kroger. However, this is the first time they have asked influencers to stop monetizing a business on their platform.

The organizers of the “People Over Prime” campaign know they won’t be putting Amazon out of business anytime soon. But James thinks they give the company the chance to make the right decision and offer the same chance to highly-followed influencers.

“Until you treat your workers with respect and stop using illegal union busting tactics, we will not work with you,” she said.

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