Amazon Reportedly Blocks Pro-Union Phrases From Planned Worker App

Amazon Reportedly Blocks Pro-Union Phrases From Planned Worker App

Amazon will block various pro labor union words and phrases from a planned internal social media app, including “union” and “pay rise”, as reported by The Intercept.

The masthead claims it obtained and reviewed internal Amazon documents which outlined the company’s plan to develop and introduce an internal, yet-unnamed social media app exclusively for Amazon employees.

The documents reportedly also featured plans to implement an automatic word blocker, which would reference a “black list” of banned words and subsequently flag and ban an app user for inappropriate terminology.

While the app will remove profanity from its platform, it could also remove labor adjacent phrases such as “union”, “grievance,” “pay raise,” and “compensation”.

“With free text, we risk people writing Shout-Outs that generate negative sentiments among the viewers and the receivers,” one of the internal documents reportedly reads.

“We want to lean towards being restrictive on the content that can be posted to prevent a negative associate experience.”

These “Shout-Outs” will be a central feature of the planned app, allowing workers to give an in-app kudos to their fellow employees’ performances, which could in turn see them rewarded with stars or badges for helping to add “direct business value” to the company.

“Our teams are always thinking about new ways to help employees engage with each other,” Amazon spokesperson Barbara M. Agrait told The Intercept.

“This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all.”

Agrait also told the publication reports of the aforementioned phrases being blocked were misleading.

“If it does launch at some point down the road there are no plans for many of the words you’re calling out to be screened,” said Agrait.

“The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team.”

However, The Intercept‘s report does raise questions as to why “union”, “pay raise”, “compensation”, and even “slave labor” among others were included in Amazon’s list of banned words and phrases, alongside profanity and other inappropriate terms.

The Intercept‘s report comes days after workers at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in New York’s Staten Island borough voted in favour of unionising, becoming the first group of US-based Amazon workers to do so.

However, their employer wasn’t too pleased with the outcome.

“We’re disappointed with the outcome of the election in Staten Island because we believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” Amazon said in a statement.

“We’re evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the NLRB that we and others (including the National Retail Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce) witnessed in this election.”

The historic outcome was even more significant considering Amazon had spent $US4.3 million ($A5.6 million) on anti-union consultants in 2021 alone.

This included an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama where workers were required to attend speaking events held by these consultants in the lead-up to a union vote.

While the Bessemer workers ultimately voted against joining the union in November 2021, federal officers ordered a new election after discovering Amazon had violated labor laws.

A pilot program for the unnamed Amazon workers app will reportedly launch later this month.

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