Amazon is reportedly planning to block the word “union” and other related keywords from an internal messaging app the company is developing for workers.
The list of banned words includes “union,” “fire,” “compensation,” “plantation,” “slave labor,” “diversity,” “robot,” “grievance,” and “injustice,” according to the leaked insider. Messages seen by the Intercept. The news came days after Amazon workers in New York made history by voting to form a union, the first successful US organizing effort in the company’s history.
The app, which is set to pilot later this month, will serve as an internal social media program for workers to praise their colleagues’ performance, The Intercept reported. It was created with the intention of increasing worker satisfaction to reduce wear and tear. The developers created an “Auto Bad Word Monitor” to prevent workers from sending inappropriate messages and also added words related to the organization and conditions in the workplace.
“With free text, we risk people writing shout-outs that evoke negative feelings in viewers and recipients,” says an Amazon document about the program. “We want to tend to be restrictive about the content that can be posted to prevent a negative employee experience.”
Amazon told the Guardian that the proposed app, when launched, would only check terms that are “offensive or harassing”.
“Our teams are always thinking of new ways to help employees interact with each other. This particular program has not yet been approved and may change significantly or even not launch at all,” Barbara M. Agrait, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Agrait added: “If it launches sometime later, there are no plans that many of the words called will be checked. The only types of words that are allowed to be screened are offensive or harassing words, which are designed to protect our team.”
Amazon has waged an aggressive campaign against unions. In Bessemer, Alabama, the company crushed the organizing efforts of the retail, wholesale, and department store unions, bombarded workers with anti-union messages, and campaigned to postpone an election there. Workers were given another chance to form a union at this facility after the National Labor Relations Board found that Amazon violated labor laws in the first union elections. But last week, for the second time, Bessemer workers appeared to be rejecting a union.
Pro-union Bessemer and Staten Island workers have spoken out in favor of longer breaks and higher wages. Amazon, which employs more than 1 million people in the US, has come under repeated criticism for its working conditions. Last year, a leaked internal memo revealed the company knew delivery workers were being forced to urinate into bottles while on the job. Workers have said they have no choice but to relieve themselves in company vehicles to meet Amazon’s delivery quotas.