issue 147

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Boycott news from Ethical Consumer magazine issue 147 March/April 2014.


On this page:

Amazon Boycott update

Amazon sales down

Union campaign to improve Amazon working conditions

Amazon shares downgraded on ethical grounds

Amazon wins CIA contract



News from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s illegal settlements.

Israeli farmers feel the boycott

Dutch fund disinvests from Israeli banks

Dutch water company pulls out of West Bank

ASA joins boycott




Amazon Boycott update 


Amazon sales slow down

According to The Telegraph, Amazon’s sales growth in Britain slowed last year amid calls from MPs and consumer groups, including us, to boycott the online retailer over its low UK tax payments. It paid £3.2m in 2012, partly thanks to processing sales via Luxembourg. 

Latest figures show that net sales in Britain rose to $7.29bn (£4.47bn) – a 12.5% rise, just over half the rise of the previous year. 

Amazon declined to comment on why UK sales growth had slipped but Nick Bubb, an independent retail analyst, said he would have expected the sales growth to have been nearer 20% but he “very much doubted” that a boycott was behind Amazon’s sales slowdown. 



Union campaign to improve Amazon working conditions

The GMB union has written to local councillors across the country to seek support to ensure that Amazon improves security of employment, treats its workers fairly and pays them a wage they can live on.

The campaign comes after Amazon announced plans to double the number of warehouses it operates in Britain in the next three years.

While the union’s activities will focus on workers’ rights issues Martin Smith, GMB National Organiser, said in the letter to councillors, 

“The high tech way Amazon process orders and tracks inventory disguises that it is also a traditional labour intensive mail order retail business...

Where it differs from other retailers is its refusal to pay proper taxes or to treat its workers fairly. This gives Amazon an unfair competitive advantage and is part of the reason why so many established high street names are going to the wall.

The Government and HMRC need to change the rules to ensure that Amazon pays proper taxes.” 



Amazon shares downgraded on ethical grounds

A US financial analyst blacklisted several companies in January, including Amazon, citing moral and ethical grounds.

In his report to investors, Ronnie Moas, founder of Standpoint Research, stated: “I recently read something about Amazon and how much pressure is on their employees ... and at the same time Jeff Bezos with his obscene net worth of $27 billion was on his yacht in the Galapagos Islands. $27 billion and this man is not treating his workers fairly? It boggles the mind.”

Moas told reporters that he had been holding in his feelings for too long, and that he couldn’t sleep despite taking his nightly sleeping pill. At 1am, he reached his boiling point and felt compelled to speak his mind.

Other companies to suffer the same treatment included Apple and Philip Morris.

He later told financial news station CNBC: “You have CEOs making 1000 times what their employees are making and no-one is talking about it. There are people in this world living like animals while the CEOs are driving $200,000 cars. Rich people in the US and around the world are not doing enough to wipe out the problem we have with poverty.”



Amazon wins CIA contract

US campaign group Roots Action has started an online petition asking that the Amazon-owned Washington Post adds a disclaimer to all its CIArelated articles after Amazon won a $600 million dollar contract with the security agency. 

Campaigners say that this deal sets up a conflict of interested and could undermine the Washington Post’s reporting and coverage of the CIA.

Robert McChesney, professor of communication at the University of Illinois and founder of campaign group Free Press, who also campaign on the issue, told the US radio show Between The Lines, “the leading newspaper that set the agenda for politics in the US has this relationship and this is something we should be concerned about”

On going to press the petition had attracted 33,000 signatures. Its goal is 35,000. 




News from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s illegal settlements.



Israeli farmers feel the boycott

The export-driven income of Israeli farmers in Jordan Valley’s 21 illegal settlements dropped by more than 14%, or $29 million, last year due to the boycott. 

Growers say this is largely because Western European supermarket chains, particularly those in Britain and Scandinavia, are increasingly shunning the area’s peppers, dates, grapes and fresh herbs.

Zvi Avner, head of the agriculture committee in the Jordan Valley, said that sales of peppers and grapes to Western Europe have dropped by about 50% and fresh herbs by up to 40%.

In 2009, the UK gradually started labelling or completely boycotting settler products. Michael Deas, a British-based co-ordinator for the international boycott movement, told the Washington Post that supermarkets in the UK were concerned for their reputation if they continued to sell settler products.

Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and Waitrose are among many British firms which have stopped selling settler goods in recent years. According to the BDS website, Germany’s Kaiser Supermarket has also made a moral decision against selling settler products.



Dutch fund disinvests from Israeli banks

In January, the Dutch pension fund PGGM announced that it had withdrawn tens of millions of Euros worth of investments from five Israeli banks.

The fund cited the banks’ unethical and illegal practices in he West Bank.

PGGM said that it had been in discussions with Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, the First International Bank of Israel, the Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank for several years but could not reach an agreement.

The BDS website stated that the fund had tried to convince the banks to reconsider their financial backing for Israel’s West Bank settlements which “are considered illegal under international humanitarian law” – but to no avail.

PGGM said “given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

This is a reference to 2011 Israeli legislation which outlawed any form of boycott, and made it punishable with potentially heavy fines.

PGGM manages the pensions of 2.5 million people and assets worth more than €153 billion ($208 billion).



Dutch water company pulls out of West Bank

In December, the Netherlands’ largest water company, Vitens, severed ties with Israeli national water company Mekorot because of the “political context” of Israel’s West Bank settlements.

The Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, also cancelled a visit to Mekorot headquarters after members of the Dutch parliament accused Mekorot of discriminating against Palestinians in supplying water.



ASA joins boycott

The American Studies Association (ASA), a trade association that promotes the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, has voted to join the BDS movement.

The membership of the ASA voted by a two-to-one margin to endorse an academic boycott. The ASA has 5,000 individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers.

The ASA said in a statement, “The resolution is in solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and it aspires to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.

The ASA’s endorsement of the academic boycott emerges from the context of US military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and finally, the support of such a resolution by a majority of ASA members.”