Leaked video reveals Amazon's union-busting playbook

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/09/27/red-scare.html


“Increased negativity in the workplace.”

Ha! That’s never going to go away as long as you treat your workers like chattel. It’s like they’re admitting there’s good reason for workers to want a union. You know how you stop a union? By making the workplace clean and safe and giving people good wages-- all the things the union would demand anyway.


Amazon sucks, but it’s worth noting that the image below the headline about Amazon’s “union-busting playbook” showing someone listing interrogation and spying is misleading - the Gizmodo article specifically notes that that section of the video is listing tactics Amazon is telling its managers not to use.

There is enough in Amazon’s actions to criticize without distorting what the video actually contains.


Oh, I should have shown that to my class yesterday, as I talked about the ILGWU yesterday.


Amazon uses the same tactics as any other mass-scale poverty-inflicting retailer: set impossible goals, encourage breaking rulea to reach them, and fire people for it when thry dissent.

RIP my manager, who spent 14 years at RetailerRedacted, fired for protecting my team.


My favorite “danger” triggers are “use of words like ‘living wage’” and “raising concerns on behalf of their coworkers”.

It’s supremely instructive to understand what companies like Amazon consider dangerous to their bottom line. Like employees demanding fair compensation for their work. And empathy.

Also, the BB excerpt doesn’t include this, but during the video at one point they say “we are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either”, as if there’s supposed to be some kind of daylight between those two positions.


Yeah, it’s the “on behalf of” that really burns them up. The “right to work” position is that every worker should be “free” to negotiate with their employer, i.e. that every worker is in a direct, one-to-one relationship, them against the company. It is on that basis (individual worker vs. wealthy company) that workers are supposedly free to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment. Interfering with this, and allowing a union to interpose itself between the powerful and the powerless, inhibits the individual worker’s “freedom,” apparently.

It is a clear example in our politics-by-perception of how right wingers deploy smug little intellectual arguments like this that fall apart at the lightest real inspection. But these arguments exist only so that people shilling for corporations have something to say besides “we don’t give a shit about you.”


Revolutionary unions have different aims from reformist unions. Ironically, removing power from the reformist unions tends to make the revolutionary unions look more interesting, but if the capitalist class want to kill their golden egg laying goose I’m not going to stop them.


This is exactly like all the arbitration clauses in Terms of Use that we users click OK to get to what we want to do. Along with the arbitration provisions comes a part that also prevents users from banding together in a class action suit against the company. Here is the one from Amazon’s Conditions of Use dated 21 May 2018:

We each agree that any dispute resolution proceedings will be conducted only on an individual basis and not in a class, consolidated or representative action.


If only more people knew what the terms and conditions of their employment actually were

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I guarantee you any company that is not already working with unions will have this kind of thing as part of their managerial training.

Such training will put the failure to suppress unionization squarely at the feet of individual managers, with the promise that happy employees don’t want unions, and unhappy employees means inefficient management supervision, backed up with “for want of a nail” anecdotes.



… why offer a living wage when one can externalize that cost? Behold:

Thanks @Wanderfound… Scrolled through here hoping to see someone quote Billy Bragg. Leaving feeling hopeful. Thank you.

For a good measure, those lyrics…

There Is Power in a Union
by Billy Bragg

There is power in a factory, power in the land
Power in the hands of a worker
But it all amounts to nothing if together we don’t stand
There is power in a union

Now the lessons of the past were all learned with workers’ blood
The mistakes of the bosses we must pay for
From the cities and the farmlands to trenches full of mud
War has always been the bosses’ way, sir

The Union forever defending our rights
Down with the blackleg, all workers unite
With our brothers and our sisters from many far off lands
There is power in a union

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child
There is power in a union

The Union forever defending our rights
Down with the blackleg, all workers unite
With our brothers and our sisters from many far off lands
There is power in a union

(oh heck, for good measure, since I’ve been re-listening to this fine version of Richard Thompson’s “The Blackleg Miner,” which has a pitch to join the union… hear Thompson’s tone and conviction:)


I’m guessing that Taft-Hartley isn’t seen as any kind of interference.

On the other hand having a union doesn’t mean squat if they have a cosy relationship with management and roll over as soon as management want to gut your pension coughco-op bankcoughcough

Well, the labor regime that was instituted back in the 30s was supposed to institutionalize unions in exchange for no wildcat strikes and no sympathetic strikes, as well as a narrower operating regime. Since that has largely been swept away, I see no reason not to bring these tactics back. Right to work states have been asking for that kind of action for decades, as it is.


“The beatings will continue until morale improves”

On second thought, no, scratch that.
What Amazon needs are some catchy company songs.

Just a quick point-out: that video screenie with the TIPS acronym thing in it, that’s actually in the video as a “what NOT to do” thing, the original article only pointed that out in the caption to that image and an awful lot of people seem to be very confused by it.

Amazon’s union busting still sucks donkey balls through a pipette though.

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