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Leaked Amazon training video teaches managers to watch for signs of unionization
A leaked training video suggests ‘livable wage’ is a bad word amongst fulfillment center employees.
For years Amazon has faced criticism over the way it treats its workers. Reports suggest employees pee in bottles to avoid being disciplined for wasting time by taking bathroom breaks. Amazon has also topped lists of companies with the most number of employees on SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Now, someone has leaked the company’s anti-union training video, and it’s not a good look.
Gizmodo obtained Amazon’s anti-union training video and published details and screenshots from the video. The animated video takes place in six parts in a simulated Fulfillment Center. According to statements in the video, Amazon leadership says “We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either” and that it does “not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers.”
Amazon states that it prefers using a “direct management” structure instead of union representation, according to Gizmodo. In this scenario, employees are supposed to complain directly to their bosses. However, fulfillment center workers who have done so have been scrutinized, harassed, or ultimately terminated.
The video also guides managers to identify questions, statements, and behaviors that are “warning signs” of union-type organizing. These include phrases like “livable wage;” unusual interest in politics, benefits, or company information; and employees voicing concerns on behalf of one another. Amazon considers things like hanging out in the break room after hours or complaining about the lack of livable wage as warning signs in a segment that tasks managers with identifying whether scenarios are innocent or indicative of early unionization-type activity.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has accused Amazon of not paying workers a livable wage and is working on legislation that directly targets the company’s labor practices. Amazon has shot back that those claims are inaccurate or unjustified, claiming that it provides full-time workers with a host of benefits. Still, the median salary for a full-time Amazon employee is only $34,123. Considering executives and computer scientists figure into that number, a lot of Amazon employees are not compensated enough to live comfortably in much of the United States.
If Amazon is trying to clean up its image as a caring, responsible employer to its fulfillment center workers, this anti-union training video seems to be a warning sign that it is not.
For more details about Amazon’s video, view the full report on Gizmodo.
Update 4:20pm ET, Sept. 27: Amazon has provided additional comments on the video.
To any organizing efforts: “At Amazon, we respect the individual rights of associates and have an open-door policy that encourages associates to bring their comments, questions and concerns directly to their management team. We firmly believe this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce. Amazon is a fair and responsible employer and as such we are committed to dialogue, which is an inseparable part of our culture. We are committed to ensuring a fair cooperation with all our employees, including positive working conditions and a caring and inclusive environment.”
To Gizmodo’s and the Guardian’s interpretation of the video: “We’re perplexed as to why someone would take issue with a company wanting to better engage its employees, train hundreds of managers to maintain an open and direct dialogue with associates, and create channels to drive innovation on behalf of the customer in a caring and inclusive environment. Soundbites were clearly cherry-picked by reporters from the video to meet an editorial objective and do not align with our view on how to create career opportunities for employees. We respect the individual rights of associates to join a union or to choose otherwise.”
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.