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'We are not robots' Amazon workers in St. Peters join international picket on Black Friday

Employees are asking for better pay and working conditions. Amazon said the protests included a small percentage of staff.

ST. PETERS, Mo. — With a chorus of chants, megaphone messages, and drum beats, dozens of Amazon workers walked out of their shift at the St. Peters fulfillment center known as STL8 on Black Friday, part of an international strike for better pay and conditions at the e-commerce giant.

"They make too much money to treat the employees the way they do," Stacey Cowsette said.

Cowsette said he's concerned that he will soon hit a wage ceiling that caps pay under $19 an hour. The workers are collectively asking for a $10/hr increase.

"Working here is blatantly grueling," employee Alexander Mazella said. "We work minimum 10-hour days with a lot of weight, moving large amounts. Every week the expectations seem to get higher but the pay stays the same."

Amazon has previously said about 3,000 people work in the 90-thousand-square-foot facility.

Some protestors told us that they're concerned about health and safety, with employee Kayla Breitbarth saying on-the-job injuries are downplayed or written off as pre-existing medical conditions.

"All these people down here doing the actual work literally breaking their bodies, and you're gonna hold all the money at the top? I don't think so," she said.

Amazon seemingly downplayed the strike Friday night, with spokesperson Kelly Nantel providing a statement to 5 On Your Side: “Despite a small protest initiated by outside activists, more than 95% of the employees at our facility in St. Peters, MO continued to do what they do every day, deliver for our customers. As always, we’re grateful to our team for their hard work and commitment.”

Breitbarth acknowledged the crowd only represents a fraction of the site's full workforce adding she believed there were 700 to 800 coworkers who pledged to vote to unionize should it come to that.

"We are not children, we are not slaves and we are not robots so stop treating us like we are," she said.

Workers said they would continue to picket as the next shifts reported for work early Saturday morning.


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