In the United States, technology giants like Amazon are often celebrated as fonts of innovation and jobs.
But across the Atlantic — nein, non, no.
Even as President Obama spoke about middle-class jobs last week at an Amazon warehouse in Tennessee, Amazon was facing strikes at warehouses in Germany, its second-biggest market. Unions there say the company has imported American-style business practices — in particular, an antipathy to organized labor — that stand at odds with European norms.
"In Germany, the idea that warehouse workers are going to be getting opposition from an employer when it comes to the right to organize, that's virtually unheard-of," said Marcus Courtney, a technology and communications department head at Uni Global Union, a federation of trade unions based in Nyon, Switzerland. "It puts Amazon out in left field."
(Read More: Amazon.com looks to fill 7,000 jobs in 13 states)
Amazon is hardly out there alone, however. Large American technology companies are increasingly running into obstacles as they expand in Europe. For Facebook and Google, the running issue is privacy. Google was fined this year by German authorities for illegally collecting personal data while creating its Street View mapping service, after facing minimal sanctions over Street View at home. Meanwhile, European privacy regulators are considering tough regulations to protect consumers on the Internet, a direct challenge to Google, Facebook and other online companies that mine personal data.
Antitrust officials in Europe are scrutinizing Apple's relationships with wireless carriers, as well as Google's competitive practices. And Google, Apple and Amazon have all been criticized by European lawmakers for tactics that help them minimize their tax bills.