Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Workers in Amazon fulfilment warehouse

Workers sort packages at a distribution station in the 855,000 square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City, on February 5, 2019. (Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)

'This Seems Totally Illegal': Amazon May Ban Union Terms in Messaging App

"In case you've forgotten, union-busting is still disgusting," said the House Labor Caucus.

Jessica Corbett

On the heels of a major organizing win for Amazon workers in New York City last week, The Intercept revealed Monday that the e-commerce giant is considering a ban on various union-related terms for a planned internal messaging application.

"In November 2021, Amazon convened a high-level meeting in which top executives discussed plans to create an internal social media program that would let employees recognize co-workers' performance with posts called 'Shout-Outs,'" according to journalist Ken Klipperstein.

Klipperstein reported that some Amazon officials expressed concerns about controlling what is shared on the platform, for which a pilot program is slated to launch later this month.

"With free text, we risk people writing Shout-Outs that generate negative sentiments among the viewers and the receivers," says an internal document reviewed by The Intercept. "We want to lean towards being restrictive on the content that can be posted to prevent a negative associate experience."

In addition to profanity, the list of words that would be automatically blocked on the company app reportedly includes: bullying, diversity, ethics, fire, grievance, living wage, pay raise, plantation, restrooms, robots, slave labor, and union.

The company pushed backed: "Our teams are always thinking about new ways to help employees engage with each other," Amazon spokesperson Barbara M. Agrait told the outlet. "This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all."

"If it does launch at some point down the road," the spokesperson added, "there are no plans for many of the words you're calling out to be screened. The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team."

Meanwhile, worker rights advocates and others attentive to Amazon's labor practices were outraged by the reporting.

"In case you've forgotten, union-busting is still disgusting," tweeted the Labor Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Spending millions of dollars on anti-union consultants isn't enough for Amazon. Now the company is aggressively cracking down on their workers' freedom of speech in the workplace and outright banning any word tangentially related to labor organizing and working conditions," said Robert Reich, a former U.S. labor secretary who is now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

"A reminder to every Amazon worker who is about to face this dystopian plan: The corporate giant wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't terrified of your power," Reich continued, adding that the victory in NYC "is proof: Organized people can beat organized money. Keep up the fight."

As Common Dreams reported earlier Monday, the Amazon Labor Union demanded over the weekend that the company start collective bargaining talks in May and halt any changes to employment policies following the successful union vote Friday at a Staten Island warehouse.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'About Damn Time': NY Jury Finds Trump Organization Guilty on All Counts of Tax Fraud

"Today's guilty verdict against the Trump Organization shows that we will hold individuals and organizations accountable when they violate our laws to line their pockets," said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Brett Wilkins ·

Oxfam Rebukes EU Over Delayed Deal on Global Minimum Corporate Tax

"This is a loss to ordinary people who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and a win to the ultra-profitable corporations," said the group's tax expert for the bloc.

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Biodiversity Summit Called 'Make-or-Break Moment' for Wildlife

"The deluded dreams of billionaires aside, there is no Planet B," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. "We must fix the world we have."

Julia Conley ·

Congressional Progressives, Climate Activists Rally Against Manchin's 'Dirty Deal'

"As if spending $847 billion on the military-industrial complex wasn't bad enough," said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, "now they want to add sacrificing frontline communities for polluter profits to the package?"

Brett Wilkins ·

As GOP Threats Continue, Dems Told to 'Raise the Debt Limit Before It's Too Late!'

"Republicans are set on using your earned Social Security benefits as a bargaining chip," said one advocacy group, noting that "Democrats can stop this scheme by raising the debt ceiling before the end of the year."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo