Pinkerton is a name that most associate with union-busting in the old days. But, believe it or not, the company still exists. And Amazon is reportedly using it against unionizing efforts.
“A trove of more than two dozen internal Amazon reports reveal in stark detail the company’s obsessive monitoring of organized labor and social and environmental movements in Europe, particularly during Amazon’s ‘peak season’ between Black Friday and Christmas. The reports, obtained by Motherboard, were written in 2019 by Amazon intelligence analysts who work for the Global Security Operations Center, the company’s security division tasked with protecting Amazon employees, vendors, and assets at Amazon facilities around the world.
The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. They also reveal, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton operatives—from the notorious spy agency known for its union-busting activities—to gather intelligence on warehouse workers.
Internal emails sent to Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center obtained by Motherboard also reveal that all the division’s team members around the world receive updates on labor organizing activities at warehouses that include the exact date, time, location, the source who reported the action, the number of participants at an event (and in some cases a turnout rate of those expected to participate in a labor action), and a description of what happened, such as a ‘strike’ or ‘the distribution of leaflets.’ Other documents reveal that Amazon intelligence analysts keep close tabs on how many warehouse workers attend union meetings; specific worker dissatisfactions with warehouse conditions, such as excessive workloads; and cases of warehouse-worker theft, from a bottle of tequila to $15,000 worth of smart watches.
The documents offer an unprecedented look inside the internal security and surveillance apparatus of a company that has vigorously attempted to tamp down employee dissent and has previously been caught smearing employees who attempted to organize their colleagues. Amazon’s approach of dealing with its own workforce, labor unions, and social and environmental movements as a threat has grave implications for its workers’ privacy and ability to join labor unions and collectively bargain—and not only in Europe. It should also be concerning to both customers and workers in the United States and Canada, and around the world as the company expands into Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, and India.
Amazon intelligence analysts appear to gather information on labor organizing and social movements to prevent any disruptions to order fulfillment operations. The new intelligence reports obtained by Motherboard reveal in detail how Amazon uses social media to track environmental activism and social movements in Europe—including Greenpeace and Fridays For Future, environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s global climate strike movement—and perceives such groups as a threat to its operations. In 2019, Amazon monitored the Yellow Vests movement, also known as the gilet jaunes, a grassroots uprising for economic justice that spread across France—and solidarity movements in Vienna and protests against state repression in Iran.”
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