May 24, 2022

RED-HANDED: Amazon caught in new anti-union tactic attacking free speech among its employees

RED-HANDED: Amazon caught in new anti-union tactic attacking free speech among its employees

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Facing uprisings from disgruntled employees across the country, Amazon has come up with another way to keep an eye on what employees are talking about or doing, all in an attempt to keep any talk amongst employees that would even allude to forming a union to a minimum, if not eradicating it altogether.

Taking their anti-union tactics a step further than social media monitoring, mandatory meetings with anti-union rhetoric, and cautionary videos, Amazon executives met to discuss forming an internal worker chat app that will monitor and censor employee messages.

Ken Klippensein of The Intercept shared excerpts from a leaked memo.

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The app was built to monitor and filter foul language and words deemed “inappropriate.” What is considered inappropriate? According to Amazon, the list of banned words and phrases include: “fairness,” “ethics,” “diversity,” “restrooms,” “pay raise,” and “slave labor” – just to name a few.

If the app detects forbidden words, it will delete the message automatically.

The banned list of words is both extensive and broad. Essentially making nearly every term that could even be remotely connected to unionizations removed from conversations.

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Amazon is working overtime to suppress any desire or attempt by its employees to unionize. In 2021 alone, the retail giant spent $4.3 million on anti-union propaganda.  The Staten Island warehouse – also known as JFK8— is the largest facility in New York City. When workers there were mobilizing to form a union, Amazon created an entire website called Unpack JFK8 to spread anti-union propaganda.

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It was meant to be a place where employees of the Staten Island warehouse could go and have their questions about unions answered. But the website is in bad faith, devoted entirely to swaying employees from voting yes – which they did anyway – with tactics aimed at making workers feel suspicion, fear, and shame. The site accused workers of being disloyal and breaking up the “family” for wanting to unionize. The company also monitored the social media accounts of the Amazon Labor Union, which was working with Staten Island employees.

“Right now, the ALU is trying to come between our relationship with you. They think they can do a better job advocating for you than you are doing for yourself,” a typical message read, switching to a tone that undermines the benefits of being represented by a union, and whether they are effective when bargaining on behalf of members.

“We will aways bargain in good faith, but the law does not require Amazon to agree to everything the ALU may demand. That means while the ALU may promise raises, better benefits, and more, all it can do is ask for those things in negotiations. It cannot force Amazon to say yes…,” the corporate propaganda read.

Amazon was already ordered, stemming from a 2015 suit for unfair labor practices, to visibly post in the workplace an acknowledgment of past bad behavior towards employees talking about unionizing and a list of promises the company failed to keep.

Here’s a copy of the notice:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon was more widely known for its fast shipping than for its labor practices. Then lockdowns caused a stir-crazy public to turn to online shopping to break the monotony and get goods that they couldn’t venture out to the store to purchase, leaving Amazon warehouse employees deemed “essential” to be pushed to the limit.

A lack of proper PPE and unsafe working environments and conditions caused many employees to push back on a grueling schedule and workload, and against being forced to risk their health and safety at their own expense. Being shortchanged on pay, and not getting sufficient time off, employees started to see – and demand — better treatment.

Amazon was making record profits. Its founder Jeff Bezos saw his fortune grow by billions. Calls for an increase in pay and benefits fell on deaf ears.

Rather than give employees what they asked for — and deserved — Amazon instead hired Global Strategy Group, a major player in political circles, known for getting things done. They took on the official role of “union buster” for the world’s most essential business.

Amazon executives claim that the new company app is being designed to boost employee morale and make the work environment more welcoming.

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A spokesperson for Amazon contacted us and asked us to add this official statement from the company to an earlier version. of this article:

*Our teams are always thinking about new ways to help employees engage with each other. This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all. If it does launch at some point down the road, there are no plans for many of the words called out to be screened. The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team.” – spokeswoman Barbara Agrait

I guess increased pay and better working conditions were a bridge too far for corporate to consider.

Original Source – Ken Klippenstein at The Intercept.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

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Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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