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Amazon Insults it's Union Consumers

In a leaked video, Gizmodo exposes Amazon's management's true feelings towards union households

Kris LaGrange's picture
Sep 27, 2018

Last fall, I was down in Florida visiting my cousin who was just finishing his career with the US Armed Forces. Florida in the fall, to all of us from the North, can be a scary place, politically. There were symbols of hate and Trump everywhere, but hey it’s Florida. You vacation there and, for most of us, that’s as far as we are willing to go.

While out with my cousin, he introduced me to a few of his fellow retiring military colleagues. They had nothing good to say about Democrats, unions, Hillary, or really anything that we value here at UCOMM. I really couldn’t believe the narrow-minded bigotry that was coming out of their mouths’, but I was a guest of my cousin and tried my best to maintain my attitude while on vacation. As our silly conversation got more personal, I found out what these guys were going on to do once they retired from the Armed Forces.


This image came from the Amazon Anti-Union Video.

Well you guessed it, they were hired by Amazon to run a fulfillment center somewhere down there. So, when I hear horror stories of how Amazon treats its workforce it’s easy for me to not be surprised. I’ve met the bad men carrying out the orders to not only work their people to death, but also to terrorize them. But what do we do? Do we not patronize this company? Amazon builds union where they must, but we know if it was up to them they would never pay anyone a living wage, whether working in the fulfillment center or building them. Now, with this leaked video we realize that they are insulting all union households saying they don’t believe in our way of life. The American consumer is a selfish bastard. Union guys and gals still shop at Walmart and will still shop at Amazon and places of business that are intolerant of people different than them (like Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby). But maybe if enough people realize how they feel about us, we can hurt their bottom line or inspire their workforce to organize. I am rooting for the latter and hope you are too. Enjoy the story below and please share on your respective social networks.

Amazon, the country’s second-largest employer, has so far remained immune to any attempts by U.S. workers to form a union. With rumblings of employee organization at Whole Foods—which Amazon bought for $13.7 billion last year—a 45-minute union-busting training video produced by the company was sent to Team Leaders of the grocery chain last week, according to sources with knowledge of the store’s activities. Recordings of that video, obtained by Gizmodo, provide valuable insight into the company’s thinking and tactics.

Each of the video’s six sections, which the narrator states are “specifically designed to give you the tools that you need for success when it comes to labor organizing,” take place in an animated simulacrum of a Fulfillment Center. The video’s narrators are clad in the reflective vests typical of the real-world setting. “We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either,” the video states, drawing a distinction that would likely be largely academic to potential organizers. To expound on what non-neutrality might look like, the video adds in plain language (emphasis ours):

We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers, our shareholders, or most importantly, our associates. Our business model is built upon speed, innovation, and customer obsession—things that are generally not associated with union. When we lose sight of those critical focus areas we jeopardize everyone’s job security: yours, mine, and the associates’.”

 

Amazon’s anti-union training video comes to light amid an image crisis for the company. Years of reporting on low pay and poor working conditions reached a fever pitch late this summer when Senator Bernie Sanders proposed legislation directly challenging the company’s reliance on social subsidy programs. Likewise, Amazon lost more than it gained in a charm offensive ploy that rewarded its warehouse ambassadors for tweeting nice things about the company—like how they are free to use facility restrooms and are not slaves.

Gizmodo has opted to not publish the video itself in order to maintain source anonymity.

Throughout, the video claims Amazon prefers a “direct management” structure where employees can bring grievances to their bosses individually, rather than union representation. However, a number of warehouse workers have expressed to Gizmodo in past reporting that they believed voicing their concerns led to retaliatory scrutiny or firing. “[Amazon] preaches that they have this open-door policy and then when you try to go through that open door, instead of being allowed in, you are now set up,” a former Fulfillment Center worker in Indiana told Gizmodo. “You’re somebody that talks and you’re somebody they’re gonna absolutely make the job as difficult as humanly possible for.” Another Floridian Fulfillment Center worker told Gizmodo he sent complaints of low pay to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s public-facing email address (jeff@amazon.com) and claims management was “harassing me since I sent that email.” He said he was terminated shortly afterward.

We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment regarding its response to employees who raise concerns and will update when we hear back.

The video provides some background on the National Labor Relations Act—the 1935 law that guaranteed workers the right to organize, take collective action, and strike—and the various protect activities employees can engage in. But the meat of the video begins in section four, entitled “Warning Signs.”

Here are a few of the (extensive) examples “that can indicate associate disengagement, vulnerability to organizing, or early organizing activity,” according to the video:

  • Use of words like “living wage” and “steward”
  • Distribution of petitions and fliers
  • Associates raising concerns on behalf of their coworkers
  • Wearing union t-shirts, hats, or jackets
  • Workers “who normally aren’t connected to each other suddenly hanging out together”
  • Workers showing an “unusual interest in policies, benefits, employee lists, or other company information”
  • Increased negativity in the workplace
  • “[A]ny other associate behavior that is out of character”

The training video then asks managers to listen to 10 hypothetical employees and select whether their remarks constitute a “warning sign” or “innocent interaction.” Workers loitering in the break room after their shift, asking for a list of the site’s roster, or complaining about the absence of a living wage fall into the “warning sign” category.

Click here to read more from Gizmodo.

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