Published on April 30th, 2020 📆 | 3321 Views ⚑0
Amazon locks down internal employee communications amid organizing efforts
Amazon is reportedly (and suddenly) enforcing rules limiting employees’ internal communication as workers, critical of the company’s behavior, become increasingly outspoken and organized.
Internal listservs with more than 500 participants are now required to move to a moderated model where a manager must approve any content before its distribution, according to emails obtained by Recode.
Amazon had almost 800,000 total employees worldwide as of the end of 2019, a number that does not include the recent addition of another 175,000 temporary warehouse and delivery workers the company just hired to handle increased demand due to COVID-19. Of those 800,000, more than 500,000 are in the United States, and at least 275,000 of those are full-time employees.
Those hundreds of thousands of employees use thousands of internal listservs to talk amongst themselves about basically anything. That “anything,” of late, includes many criticisms of Amazon. The company has faced both internal and external reproof for its management of warehouses, where some employees have called for better cleaning, more protective equipment, and more paid time off as COVID-19 has spread through at least 50 US facilities.
Amazon fired one warehouse worker at the head of organization efforts in the company’s Staten Island warehouse about a month ago, then tried to paint him as the face of all attempts to organize while dismissing him as “not smart or articulate.” Several employees who had spoken out in those internal groups about the company’s treatment of its warehouse workers during COVID-19 were likewise fired earlier this month. At the time, Amazon said the employees were fired for “repeatedly violating internal policies,” adding, “We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies.”
The company told Recode that the moderation policy is not new but that it has begun enforcement against lists that either weren’t following the rules or had previously been granted exceptions after a “routine audit.” An internal message to employees, obtained by Recode, said the change was to “minimize disruption to any business-critical email lists.”
One corporate employee told Recode they felt the move was “obviously and transparently” to shut down employee communications, pointing out that any discussion about a firing, or attempt to organize a meeting or event, would now require approval from managers who, by approving such posts, would put their own jobs at risk.
Amazon is hardly the only large tech firm increasingly grappling with a dissatisfied and outspoken workforce. Google last year fired several staffers who filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging they were let go for protected organizing activity. Google denied the pink slips were in any way retaliatory for “raising concerns or debating the company’s activities,” instead saying the workers violated “longstanding data security policies.”