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Amazon Touts Early Start to Black Friday Amid Legal Woes

Mega-marketplace Amazon is ramping up efforts to ensure that its Black Friday sale will be a success, though shoppers are spending with more trepidation than usual this year.

As economic concerns loom large and the second wave of the coronavirus breaks dramatically across the nation, many consumers are turning to e-commerce for steals and deals. Brick-and-mortar businesses stand to face headwinds, and Amazon plans to capture their market share with enticing promotions that begin ahead of the usual holiday rush.

The Seattle-based e-tailer announced Monday that it would kick off its promotions a full week early this year, beginning on Nov. 20 and running through the actual Black Friday shopping holiday on Nov. 27. In a statement, Amazon said that it would be releasing “tens of thousands” of deep discounts daily on its Black Friday microsite and on its mobile app—many lasting just 24 hours.

As the tech titan aims to drum up enthusiasm for the event, it released a sneak peek of deals that shoppers can expect to see gracing the marketplace over the course of the weeklong sale.

On the fashion front, consumers can expect to see discounts of 30 percent or more on items like cozy loungewear, seasonal trends like animal prints and plaids, men’s clothing and shoes, Adidas active wear and backpacks, and C9 champion athletic apparel. Calvin Klein underwear will see price cuts of 40 percent, along with select apparel from all-American brand Tommy Hilfiger. According to Amazon, Shopbop’s curated selection will include 20 percent discounts on premium labels like Rag & Bone, Frame and Free People.

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Shoppers in the spirit of giving can also support their choice of charities by choosing to shop, an option it has offered for several years running. The company has committed to donating a portion of each sale through the platform. Amazon is also seeking to capture consumers who prefer to support small businesses through a newly launched “Support Small” page that features deals from a range of independently owned lifestyle brands, augmenting its previous efforts encouraging shoppers to browse and buy handmade, artisan-led and small-batch goods.

The massive marketplace has been firing on all cylinders this fall, with its famed Prime Day sale moved from its usual timing in July to October. While the company characterized this year’s event as record-setting for its legion of third-party sellers, analysts estimated that traffic saw flat growth from 2019 amid more cautious spending by consumers.

As Amazon hits the gas on its efforts to accelerate sales during a year plagued with challenges for all of retail, the tech titan is also facing problems from within.

On Thursday, the company was slapped with a class-action lawsuit spearheaded by former Brooklyn fulfillment center worker Chris Smalls, alleging that the company has disproportionately put Black and Hispanic workers at risk of contracting Covid-19.

“Today I filed a Class Action lawsuit in the state of NY on behalf of all @Amazon employees and all essential workers that was unprotected all across the world during this pandemic,” Smalls tweeted Thursday. “[A]s I said in the beginning it’s not Amazon vs Chris Smalls it’s Amazon vs the People @JeffBezos.”

Amazon terminated Smalls on March 30, at the peak of pandemic stress on its operations, and amid multiple employee deaths from the virus. As workers continued to toil in close quarters to dispatch a deluge of orders for household essentials, cleaning supplies and other must-have goods, Smalls spoke out against the company’s health and safety protocols and highlighted outbreaks at Amazon facilities across the country.

The lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court says Amazon has failed to provide its “predominantly minority” workers with the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to do their jobs safely, Reuters reported. The suit also alleged that white managers have had access to safer working conditions.

Smalls also claimed that Amazon targeted him personally, concluding that he was a “weak spokesman” for the company’s workforce because he is a Black man. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for workers at the Staten Island facility, known among workers as JFK8.

At the time, Amazon said that Smalls was fired because he joined a protest at the location after having close contact with another worker who was diagnosed with Covid. But the incident prompted outrage from public officials, who sharply criticized the company for attempting to silence a whistleblower for workers’ rights.

On Thursday, Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski reiterated the company’s stance from the spring, saying in a statement that Smalls was terminated for putting other workers’ health at risk, and adding that the e-commerce giant’s focus on consumers is “central to our work in diversity and inclusion.”

Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment.