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Amazon thinks these 8 employee behaviors signal interest in unionizing

Amazon thinks these 8 employee behaviors signal interest in unionizing
[Photo: www.quotecatalog.com]

For years, Amazon has been staunchly anti-union. Though reports come to light every so often about insane work conditions and unlivable wages, the company tries hard to fight off every whisper about potential employee organizing. Now it appears it has a structured way that it trains managers to crack down on any union activity.

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Gizmodo got its hands on a video Amazon sends to team leaders, which shows them how the company approaches union activity. Spoiler alert: The e-commerce giant doesn’t think too highly of such activity. According to the description of the video, which Gizmodo opted not to post to help maintain the source’s anonymity, Amazon resorts to well-trodden anti-union tactics. It told managers that it believes in direct communication between employees and higher-ups, instead of having an organization to advocate for workers. It said plainly that unions are not in the best interests of the customers.

Perhaps most interesting was a bulleted list of behaviors for which managers should be on the lookout. These are, in the company’s eyes, what employees act like if they are vulnerable to union activity. Here’s the list, according to Gizmodo:

  • 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”

According to this, if a team leader saw an underling exhibiting increased negativity, that may “indicate associate disengagement, vulnerability to organizing, or early organizing activity.” It all sounds very McCarthy era–asking people to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior that may indicate they want to advocate for their own employee rights. I reached out to Amazon for comment and will update this post if I hear back (Update: see below).

You can read the entire Gizmodo article here.

Update: Amazon has provided Fast Company with the following statement:

We’re perplexed as to why Gizmodo takes 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. The reporter clearly cherry-picked soundbites from the video to meet his editorial objective and do not align with our view on how to create career opportunities for employees.

In the U.S., the average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour before overtime. That’s in addition to our full benefits package that includes health, vision and dental insurance, retirement, generous parental leave, and skills training for in-demand jobs through our Career Choice program, which has over 16,000 participants. We encourage anyone to come see for themselves by taking a tour at one of our fulfillment centers — learn more at http://amazonfctours.com.


Disclosure: Fast Company editorial staff is in the process of unionizing and is represented by the Writers Guild of America-East.

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