Amazon employees are the foundation of our success as a company, and we are committed to respecting the fundamental human rights and the dignity of workers everywhere we operate around the world. In 2019, we set out these long-held values in our Global Human Rights Principles. Our human rights commitment and approach are informed by leading international standards and frameworks developed by the United Nations (UN) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). Both the UN and the ILO recognize the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining,1 and we respect and support these standards, as detailed in this report.
Amazon delivers its commitment to human rights, including labor rights, through strong policies and procedures, and we use the framework of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) to guide our approach. UNGPs are the global authoritative framework on business and human rights. Under this framework, governments have the duty to protect internationally recognized human rights, while businesses have the responsibility to respect human rights. Both governments and business must enable access to effective remedy. Aligning with the UNGP framework, Amazon’s policies and practices are designed to ensure respect for the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining while, at the same time, complying with the legal requirements of the countries where we operate. Our policies afford employees the freedom to form or join a labor organization or other lawful organization of their selection, collective bargaining, direct and indirect participation in workplace consultation structures, and access to redress mechanisms. We embed these policies across our business with direct employee involvement.
Amazon has more than 1.6 million employees worldwide. We operate across the globe, including in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, India, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America. Everywhere we operate, Amazon complies with applicable local laws related to freedom of association and collective bargaining and respects internationally recognized human rights. When there are gaps in governance or conflicting legal requirements, Amazon follows the UNGPs and seeks ways to honor the principles of internationally recognized human rights.
Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining Commitments
In keeping with the UNGPs’ distinction between the government’s duty to protect and the business responsibility to respect human rights, Amazon's Global Human Rights Principles state:
We respect freedom of association and our employees’ right to join, form, or not to join a labor union or other lawful organization of their own selection, without fear of reprisal, intimidation, or harassment.
Amazon also has a detailed set of Supply Chain Standards that apply to suppliers of all goods and services to Amazon, including to third-party staffing agencies. Regarding freedom of association, the Supply Chain Standards state:
Amazon expects that our suppliers respect the rights of workers to establish and join an organization of their own selection. Workers must not be penalized or subjected to harassment or intimidation for the non-violent exercise of their right to join or refrain from joining such legal organizations.
In addition, Amazon has a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (Code of Conduct) that sets out basic guiding principles for all employees. In performing their job, Amazon employees should always act lawfully, ethically, and in the best interests of Amazon. Employees may raise questions or report suspected violations of our Code of Conduct through various channels laid out in the Code.
These commitments guide our specific practices to respect freedom of association and collective bargaining throughout our operations and business relationships.
Practices Related to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining
Freedom to form or join organizations
Employees at Amazon have the fundamental human and labor right to form or join organizations. The scope and purpose of these organizations varies from traditional trade union structures to solidarity and support groups. This freedom is buttressed by Amazon’s respect for freedom of opinion and expression, and its commitment to non-discrimination and non-retaliation that ensures equal treatment for union and non-union employees.
Freedom to bargain collectively
Globally, Amazon applies or is party to dozens of collective bargaining agreements at national, regional, sectoral, and enterprise levels. The agreements cover key topics in the employment relationship, including wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. We respect and apply the terms and provisions of these collective bargaining agreements, many of which have been renewed multiple times. Some of these collective bargaining agreements are negotiated with union representatives at the sectoral level and applied locally; others are negotiated and applied at the company level. In other situations, we honor and apply existing sectoral agreements but are not a direct party to those agreements.
Workplace participation and representation
Most countries have systems of direct or indirect employee participation at the workplace. Direct participation means that employees and management have direct interactions, whereas indirect participation means that elected employee representatives are involved in the process. Workplace participation systems may be statutory or non-statutory and involve varying degrees of access to information, consultation, and decision making at either the site or the company level.
Works councils exist in most European countries. The works council is a representative body elected by employees that has a right to information, consultation, and sometimes co-determination, including approval of certain management decisions or measures that impact employees. Works councils can also propose items or topics for discussion with management. There are numerous sites in Europe with employee representative bodies, many of which have trade union representatives serving on them. In Europe, Amazon is party to hundreds of works council agreements.
A European Union Directive2 provides for the establishment of European Works Councils (EWC) in multinational companies that meet threshold criteria. An EWC represents the European employees of a company at the transnational European level, as opposed to the national level. Employee representatives are informed regarding transnational issues of concern to the company’s employees. Amazon is in the process of establishing an EWC.
Amazon has dozens of Associate Forums in the UK, the EU, and Africa. In Associate Forums, employees (“associates”) elected by their peers meet directly with site management at regular intervals to share ideas, concerns, information, and feedback. Forums give employees and managers an opportunity to directly engage on key decisions that affect the site or the employee experience, including working practices, shift schedules, and employee well being.
In addition to these indirect forms of participation, Amazon provides and supports channels for direct employee participation. We use various communication channels to constantly remain aware of and responsive to changing dynamics in our large global workforce. We work hard to listen to our employees, offer industry-leading pay and benefits, and continuously improve to ensure a better employee experience across all dimensions, including human and labor rights. Below are some ways an employee can directly participate.
- Associate Roundtable Meetings provide employees and managers a meaningful opportunity to discuss issues, ask questions, and get immediate feedback. Roundtable meetings are used globally; the exact cadence varies by business line and site.
- Connections is a real-time, company-wide employee feedback mechanism designed to listen to and learn from employees at scale to improve the employee experience. Each day, Connections questions are delivered to every Amazon employee on a computer, a workstation device, or a hand scanner. More than 1.5 million responses from employees are generated daily across Amazon, including Corporate, Amazon Web Services, World Wide Operations, and Last Mile delivery. Connections receives over 34 million responses a month from over 2.3 million unique people. Employees may choose to answer or not answer any question. Individual responses are aggregated and shared with managers at the team level to maintain confidentiality. Connections analyzes response data and provides insights to managers to review and take actions as they surface issues or see opportunities to improve. Employees respond to Connections questions at more than 3,500 unique locations in 55 countries, and questions are delivered in 26 languages.
- Voice of the Associate Boards are physical and virtual boards operated in fulfillment centers around the globe. These Boards provide employees a forum for expressing their concerns, offering suggestions, and asking questions on a daily basis. Management teams reply directly to questions, promoting dialogue and efficient remediation of issues. Content which involves worker rights, collective bargaining, and unions is freely shared. In 2021, our managers received and responded to more than 210,000 comments and questions raised on the Voice of Associate Boards.
- Regular In-Person Meetings including all-hands meetings with general managers, stand-up meetings with direct supervisors, and one-on-one meetings. These in-person meetings serve to provide employees daily opportunities to engage with management, raise issues, and make suggestions to continually improve the workplace.
Access to Remedy
Amazon’s commitment to respecting human and labor rights includes enabling access to effective remedies. Amazon employees have multilayered protections and remedies, both internal and external. We encourage active reporting of employee issues and concerns without fear of reprisal intimidation or harassment. We provide training to employees on topics covered within the Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, including how to submit anonymous complaints. First and foremost, any employee can go directly to Human Resources, the Legal Department, or any manager with a suggestion, concern, feedback or complaint. This is the most utilized method for employees to raise concerns. Nearly half of all employee concerns are raised directly to Human Resources, a manager, or legal.
Amazon has a variety of additional effective mechanisms that allow our employees to raise grievances and seek remedy. Employees bring questions or report suspected violations of the Code of Business Conduct and Ethics through Amazon’s global Ethics Line, which is managed by an independent third party. Calls to the Ethics Line may be made anonymously on request. Amazon’s Business Conduct and Ethics team records, reviews, and directs for investigation reports of potential violations of the Code. This team tracks cases through to remediation when necessary. The Ethics line is available in 165 languages. It is the second most utilized method for employees to raise concerns. Employees can raise any number of issues through the Ethics Line, such as concerns related to employee relations, employment practices, inappropriate behavior, workplace safety, or retaliation.
Employees can also raise questions or concerns through Amazon’s A to Z app, which is the third most commonly used complaint mechanism. Other intake avenues include, for example, the Employee Resource Center, the Safety team, and Security.
Amazon also provides employees access to a complaints system known as Executive Escalations. An employee can email a suggestion or complaint to a member of Amazon’s senior leadership team, including our CEO, VPs, and other senior leaders. Escalations are independently reviewed by Human Resources, used as a learning opportunity, and may be used to update our processes to prevent gaps in the future. Amazon reports its findings to our senior leaders and stakeholders within the business.
Amazon carefully reviews and investigates all allegations of unlawful conduct or other conduct that violates any of our policies, regardless of the position of the individual(s) involved. We do not allow retaliation against any employee for reporting misconduct by others in good faith. Upon completion of each investigation, we take appropriate action against anyone who we found to have engaged in unlawful conduct or to have violated our policies.
In several countries, Amazon employees can appeal certain disciplinary actions involving final written warnings and terminations. A second level manager or general manager may review the issues raised in an appeal, including management decisions, to determine if a policy or practice was applied properly and consistently.
In some countries where we have works councils or union representation, employees can go to their local employee representative bodies to address concerns or file complaints. These representative bodies have established mechanisms and processes to bring the concerns to the attention of Amazon management teams. In addition, employees always have access to any local judicial or statutory remedies or enforcement mechanisms available in their countries. Amazon does not restrict employees from reporting concerns about allegedly unlawful conduct through any locally available external mechanism.
Amazon respects international human and labor rights standards and complies with all local laws. As stated in our Leadership Principles, we Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer, offering a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. We have many policies, practices, and mechanisms in place to provide open lines of communication between leadership and employees and act regularly to address employee concerns and make improvement. We recognize that Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility. We must begin each day with a determination to make better, do better, and be better for our customers, our employees, our partners, and the world at large.
1 Freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining are universal rights under the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and the ILO Fundamental Conventions. The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the right to form and to join and not join trade unions, and that no one may be compelled to belong to an association.
2 1994 European Union Directive (Directive 94/45/EC, updated by Directive 2009/38/EC)