- Four Democratic senators have demanded that Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos respond to allegations that the company spies on its staff and undermines their right to unionize.
- The four Democratic senators accused the company of “secret anti-worker tactics” that amount to “unethical, and potentially unlawful, action.”
- The senators sent Bezos a list of 18 questions and demands, with a November 1 deadline for a response. They asked him to meet with unions and to allow third-party audits of Amazon warehouses.
- An Amazon spokesperson said the company respects its employees’ “right to join, form or not to join a labour union or other lawful organisation of their own selection, without fear of retaliation, intimidation or harassment or harassment.”
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Senators Brian Schatz, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kirsten Gillibrand have demanded that Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos respond to allegations that his company spies on staff and undermines their right to unionize.
In a letter to Bezos on Thursday, the four Democratic senators accused the company of “secret anti-worker tactics” that amount to “unethical, and potentially unlawful, action.”
Amazon uses technology to monitor employees, Sen. Schatz, who led the letter, said in his accompanying commentary. This included the company infiltrating private worker mailing lists and social media groups, Schatz wrote, and visually mapping data points to track “labour organising threats” at its warehouses.
Grocer Whole Foods, which Amazon owns, uses a heat map to track which stores are most at risk of unionizing, according to five people with knowledge of the matter and internal documents viewed by Business Insider.
An Amazon memo leaked on October 6 described the company’s plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on tracking internal union activity, and two Amazon US job vacancies in September advertised “intelligence analyst” roles that would involve monitoring “labour organising threats against the company” alongside hate groups and terrorism.
“There is a clear pattern of secret anti-worker tactics employed by Mr. Bezos’s companies,” Schatz wrote on Thursday.
The senators sent Bezos a list of 18 questions and demands, giving him a November 1 deadline to respond. The demands included calls for him to meet with unions and to allow third-party audits of warehouse health and safety conditions.
“The fact that Amazon has decided to heavily invest in systems to retaliate against freedom of expression about unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, and to refer to organising and workers’ rights mobilisation efforts as threats against the company equal to those posed by hate groups and terrorism, is unacceptable,” the senators wrote.
Union leaders in Europe have called on politicians to investigate Amazon’s “potentially illegal” attempts to allegedly spy on workers, and Members of European Parliament wrote to Bezos with the same concerns. Union leaders described the “intelligence analyst” job postings as “yet another reminder that EU institutions should closely investigate Amazon’s business and workplace practices throughout the continent, as we suspect them to be in breach of European labour, data and privacy laws.”
An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that it respects its employees’ “right to join, form or not to join a labour union or other lawful organisation of their own selection, without fear of retaliation, intimidation or harassment or harassment.”
Senators accuse Amazon of not addressing health and safety concerns
The US senators wrote that Amazon “has prioritised tracking workers who would look to improve their working conditions over addressing the underlying health and safety concerns that those workers face.”
On October 1, Amazon said more than 19,000 of its US front-line workers â€” or around 1.5% â€” had contracted COVID-19, and staff have said the company isn’t doing enough to protect them from the virus.
German Amazon workers went on strike on Prime Day after the company scrapped their COVID-19 bonus payments, and earlier in October former Amazon employees protested outside Jeff Bezos’ home, calling for free healthcare, better protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and increased hazard pay.
Amazon Ring contractors at a call centre in the Philippines said Thursday that the company does not allow them to work from home, and described poor social-distancing measures and sanitation at the facility.
On Wednesday, the State of California fined Amazon $US1,870 for safety violations in a delivery station and a warehouse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And back in March, a different group of US senators, also including Sen. Sanders, asked Bezos how the company is keeping its warehouse workers safe during the pandemic, saying that “any failure of Amazon to keep its workers safe does not just put their employees at risk, it puts the entire country at risk.”
The Amazon spokesperson said that “nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams. It said it has invested more than $US1 billion in safety measures in 2020, including safety technology investments, masks, gloves, and enhanced cleaning and sanitization, and now has more than 5,000 employees on its global workplace health and safety team.”