Economy

Amazon hires private investigators to prevent unions

Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos.

Almond Ngan / AFP via Getty Images

Amazon hires detectives from the infamous Pinkerton Agency to spy on warehouse workers and monitor their union efforts, Motherboard reported Nov. 23.

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed that Amazon has indeed recruited employees from Pinkerton, the spy agency with a centuries-old history of union busting.

According to Motherboard, Pinkerton agents were “smuggled” into a warehouse in Wroclaw, Poland, under the pretext of coaching applicants for job interviews.

“… fully in accordance with local laws”

Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski told NewsABC.net that the company is working with Pinkerton to “secure valuable shipments in shipping,” not to gather information about employees. Furthermore, all activities are “fully in accordance with local laws”.

Motherboard received internal emails written by members of Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center in 2019. The leaked documents reportedly show that Amazon analysts are following the organizing of workers in Europe. Apparently they have the ability to keep up to date with the organizing efforts of the workers in the warehouses; to the date, time, place and number of workers involved.

The report also revealed that the data analysts used Facebook and Instagram to monitor the activities of groups of social justice and environmental activists – including Fridays4future by Greta Thunberg and Greenpeace. Amazon has always denied that its analysts create social media accounts to track social movements.

The Pinkertons have a long and bloody history of union busting.

Some of the documents suggest that the same surveillance tactics used in Europe could also be used in the Americas, according to the report.

Levandowski told NewsABC.net that, “Like any other responsible company, we maintain a level of security within our operations to protect our employees, buildings and assets. This includes an internal investigation team that may work with law enforcement agencies. Everything we do is in accordance with local laws and is carried out with the full knowledge and support of the local authorities ”.

The Pinkertons were used as early as the 19th century by high-level industry officials as a means of spying on unions and breaking up workers’ strikes. For example, during an American steelworkers strike in 1892 that resulted in the deaths of a dozen after the Carnegie Steel Company involved recruited 300 Pinkertons as armed guards, History.com documents. The event led some states to pass laws banning the use of private security guards in labor disputes.

A historic strike in Homestead in 1892.

A historic strike in Homestead in 1892.

PhotoQuest / Getty Images

Tech bosses are the “robber barons” of the 20th century

As Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union told Motherboard, Amazon’s use of Pinkerton spies to monitor workers’ strikes is essentially the same tactic used by 19th century industrial tycoons.

“For years tech bosses have been compared to the“ robber barons ”of the 19th century, and now Bezos is once again making it very clear why. He hires the Pinkertons to do his dirty work, ”Hoffman told Motherboard.

The revelations are the latest in a series of pieces of evidence that illustrate Amazon’s efforts to monitor and crack down on the organizing of its workers. The e-commerce giant has always strongly opposed unions. As recently as the spring, the company had advertised a vacancy for an analyst to oversee the organizing efforts of the workers. However, this was quickly deleted.

Motherboard had previously uncovered other Amazon activity

While CEO Jeff Bezos and his company benefited greatly from domestic customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon workers campaigned for better working conditions and organized strikes and protests.

Christian Smalls, a former warehouse worker at Amazon’s fulfillment center in New York, was fired after the company claimed he ignored social distancing recommendations during a work stoppage in March. Leaked documents, also obtained from the motherboard at the time, revealed Amazon’s internal efforts to run a public relations campaign against Smalls.

The documents reportedly revealed that Amazon’s top attorney called Smalls “neither smart nor eloquent” and said the company should “make him the face of the entire union / organizing movement.”

Another September Motherboard report found that Amazon had used a tool to monitor dozens of private and public groups on social media to identify drivers who had organized strikes or protests.

The article first appeared here and has been translated from English.

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