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USA: Amazon accused of 'aggressive anti-union tactics' after training video is leaked; Incl. Amazon's response & Whole Worker rejoinder

Source: Gizmodo screenshot of Amazon training video

Amazon has been accused of "aggressive anti-union tactics" after a 45-minute video produced by Amazon and sent to Team Leaders of the Amazon-owned grocery chain Whole Foods was leaked in September 2018. The video contains six sections, which the narrator states are “specifically designed to give you the tools that you need for success when it comes to labor organizing.” More details can be found in the article linked below, which includes comments by Amazon.

In July 2019, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Amazon to respond to allegations of anti-union tactics. Amazon responded that workers must not be penalized or subjected to harassment or intimidation for the non-violent exercise of their right to join or refrain from joining such legal organizations. Its full response is included below.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre received a rejoinder to Amazon's response from Whole Worker, a grassroots movement of Whole Foods team members. Whole Worker said Amazon failed to acknowledge or address the training video in its response and said by invoking the possibility of violence Amazon was engaging in another union-busting tactic. The full rejoinder is also included below. 

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All components of this story

NGO rejoinder
12 August 2019

Whole Worker rejoinder

Author: Whole Worker

Amazon’s response is deeply bizarre, untrue, and borders on defamatory. The response fails to even acknowledge or address their union-busting training video. Amazon’s past assertion that the Gizmodo article simply “cherry-picked soundbites” is blatantly false. The video clearly attempts to train management in monitoring for “normal behavior” amongst employees as a way to look for union activity...

The video also clearly states that unionization can lead to inefficiency and even job loss. Both are frequently used as anti-union talking points and may be illegal...

Amazon appears to be defaming activists and its employees that are attempting to unionize by implying we could be or have been violent. Invoking the possibility of violence is another common union-busting tactic designed to spread fear by associating unions with organized crime and violence...

The only one engaging in workplace violence is Amazon by their continued disregard for the mental and physical health of their employees through its inhumane working conditions...

Lastly, the idea that a company once unionized somehow begins respecting the rights of workers is ludicrous. Unionized companies can be as virulently anti-union as non-union ones...

Download the full document here

Company response
2 August 2019

Amazon's response

Author: Amazon

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre – Amazon Response (August 2019)

Workers must not be penalized or subjected to harassment or intimidation for the non-violent exercise of their right to join or refrain from joining such legal organizations. We have works councils, statutory employee representation obligations, and union agreements in certain countries outside the United States and at certain of our studio operations within the United States...

[The full response is also attached]

Download the full document here

26 September 2018

USA: Leaked Amazon training video reveals 'union-busting' tactics; Incl. co. comments

Author: Bryan Menegus, Gizmodo

"Amazon's Aggressive Anti-Union Tactics Revealed in Leaked 45-Minute Video", 26 September 2018

... a 45-minute union-busting training video produced by... [Amazon] was sent to Team Leaders of the grocery chain [Whole Foods]... Recordings of that video, obtained by Gizmodo, provide valuable insight into the company’s thinking and tactics.

...“We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either,” the video states... [T]he video adds in plain language (emphasis ours):

We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers, our shareholders, or most importantly, our associates. Our business model is built upon speed, innovation, and customer obsession—things that are generally not associated with union. When we lose sight of those critical focus areas we jeopardize everyone’s job security: yours, mine, and the associates’.”

... In following sections, Amazon teaches managers that, where talking to subordinates about unions is concerned, “almost anything you say is lawful,” even providing some examples of what statements are completely kosher even if they’re clearly meant to inspire fear of organization (emphasis ours):

“You would never threaten to close your building just because associates joined a union. But you might need to talk about how having a union could hurt innovation which could hurt customer obsession which could ultimately threaten the building’s continued existence.

While warning managers that activities like threatening employees cross a line, giving personal opinions that accomplish nearly the same are within their rights. “Opinions can be mild... or strong: ‘Unions are lying, cheating rats.’ The law protects both!”

Throughout, managers are encouraged to express opinions against unions to their workers, and any of signs of potential organization are supposed to be escalated to human resources and general managers immediately...

...Amazon... issued the following statement proceeding publication. Amazon asserts that we “cherry-picked soundbites” from the video and that our characterization does not convey Amazon’s “view on how to create career opportunities for employees.”...

Read the full post here