New Amazon Worker Chat app would ban words like “Union”
Amazon will block and flag employee posts on a scheduled internal messaging app that contains trade union-related keywords, according to internal business documents reviewed by The Intercept. An automatic word tracking would also block a variety of terms that could potentially pose criticisms of Amazon’s working conditions, such as “slave labor”, “prison” and “plantation”, as well as “restrooms”, presumably related to employee reports. Amazon. releasing in the bottle to satisfy punitive quotas.
“Our teams are always thinking of new ways to help employees interact with each other,” said Amazon spokesperson Barbara M. Agrait. “This particular program has not yet been approved and may change significantly or not even launch at all.”
In November 2021, Amazon convened a high-level meeting where top executives discussed plans to create an internal social media program that would allow employees to recognize the performance of colleagues with posts called “Shout-Outs,” according to a source with direct knowledge.
The main goal of the program, said Dave Clark, head of Amazon’s global consumer sector, was to reduce employee friction by promoting happiness among workers and also productivity. Shout-Outs would be part of a playful rewards system where employees receive virtual stars and badges for activities that “add direct business value,” the documents say. During the meeting, Clark remarked that “some people are crazy star collectors”.
But company officials also warned of what they called “the dark side of social media” and decided to actively monitor posts to ensure a “positive community.” During the meeting, Clark suggested that the program should resemble an online dating app like Bumble, which allows people to engage one-on-one, rather than a more forum-like platform like Facebook.
After the meeting, an “automatic swear word monitoring” was devised, which constitutes a blacklist that automatically alerts and prevents employees from sending a message that contains profane or inappropriate keywords. In addition to profanity, however, the terms include many relevant to organized labor, including “union”, “grievance”, “pay raise” and “compensation”. Other prohibited keywords include terms such as “ethics”, “unfair”, “slave”, “master”, “freedom”, “diversity”, “injustice” and “fairness”. Some phrases like “This is troubling” will also be banned.
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“With free text, we risk people writing screams that generate negative feelings among viewers and recipients,” says a document summarizing the program. “We are inclined to be restrictive on the content that can be posted to prevent a negative experience from members.”
In addition to the automated system, managers will have the authority to flag or suppress any Scream they deem inappropriate, the documents show.
A pilot program is expected to be launched at the end of this month. In addition to insults and profanity, the list includes the following words:
I am not interested
This is troubling
This is stupid
Unite / unite
Amazon has experimented with social media programs in the past. In 2018, the company launched a pilot program in which employees were carefully selected to form a Twitter army in support of the company, as reported by The Intercept. The workers were selected for their “great sense of humor,” the leaked documents showed.
On Friday, Amazon workers at a fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, stunned the nation by becoming the first Amazon office to successfully unionize. This came as a shock to many because it was obtained by an independent union not affiliated with an established union and operating on a tight budget. With a budget of $ 120,000, the Amazon Labor Union managed to defeat the $ 1.5 trillion giant, which spent $ 4.3 million on anti-union consultants in 2021 alone.
In addition to the shades of David and Goliath, Amazon Labor Union president Christian Smalls, a 33-year-old former rapper, had been fired from the company after leading a small strike demanding better workplace protections against the coronavirus in the 2020. Amazon executives vilified Smalls, who is black, as “not intelligent or articulate” during a meeting with then-CEO Jeff Bezos, according to a leaked note reported by Vice News.
Security issues have been a perennial concern for Amazon workers. In December, a tornado killed six Amazon employees in a warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois. Many employees said they received virtually no emergency training, as reported by The Intercept. (The House Oversight Committee recently launched an investigation into Amazon’s workplace safety policies.)
In 2020, workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama tried to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The attempt became unusually high-profile, attracting the attention of President Joe Biden, who released a declaration saying, “Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union … without intimidation or threats from employers.”
Bessemer’s vote failed, but the National Labor Relations Board ordered a new election, citing undue interference by Amazon. The Bessemer warehouse held a second vote that was also counted last week, and although the initial count favored Amazon, the vote was much closer than the previous one and will ultimately depend on the results of the disputed voting.
Amazon released a statement on Friday saying it is considering filing an objection to the Staten Island union vote, claiming interference from the NLRB.
Updated: April 4, 2022 4:32 pm ET
The title and article have been updated to emphasize that the app is still in the planning stage and hasn’t launched yet.