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Leaked Memo Reveals Amazon's Proposal to Implement Union-Tracking Software

Leaked Memo Reveals Amazon's Proposal to Implement Union-Tracking Software
07 October 2020

Amazon have come under scrutiny for a leaked memo that describes a new level of surveillance on employee activity outside of work – unions are listed amongst other threats to business such as weather and crime.

Details from the 11-page document were publicly shared by Recode – it outlines plans for funding the use of a new technology, the geoSPatial Operating Console (SPOC). Amazon already uses data from sources such as social media, search engines and device microphones to target advertising that is more relevant to the consumer. The new investment would help the company analyse around 40 different data sets. Many of these related to employee concerns such as overtime and safety incidents. Several specific labour unions were mentioned for monitoring purposes.

The software would allow Amazon to efficiently map and calculate the external environmental factors that can affect the success of their business, including national disasters and power cuts. Bringing human workers into that picture raises the issue of privacy. In September they advertised for two data-analyst roles that would include reporting on union activity – these adverts were later taken down from the internet.


Amazon's Response to the Leaked Information

In a statement to the BBC, Amazon said: "We respect our employees' right to join, form or not to join a labour union or other lawful organisation of their own selection, without fear of retaliation, intimidation or harassment. Across Amazon, including in our fulfilment centres, we place enormous value on having daily conversations with each associate and work to make sure direct engagement with our employees is a strong part of our work culture."

A large number of employees have expressed frustration with Amazon’s handling of COVID-19. The Congress of Essential Workers staged a protest outside Jeff Bezos's mansion, calling for higher wages, the right to unionise and changes to the way the pandemic is being addressed. This is the most recent of employee disputes with the second largest private sector employer in the USA.

Picture: an amazon building. 
Picture 2: a surveillance graphic.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 07 October 2020


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