In a recent filing, the National Labor Relations Board decided that Amazon cheated a lot during the union vote at their Alabama warehouse in April and should probably hold a second election. There’s basically nothing funny about the 61-page decision, other than that it lays bare how mystifyingly cutesy Amazon’s union-busting strategies were and how little they tried to veil the constant campaigning and surveillance they wrought upon their employees. Here are some of the highlights:
Every week had a theme:
Every week of Amazon’s anti-union campaign was given a “theme,” which ranged from the right-to-work copypasta “Speak for Yourself” to the vague assertion “No Guarantee,” as in “no matter how this election goes, there is No Guarantee that we will pay you more.” The company drilled these motivational poster slogans during what they called “captive audience meetings,” where managers known as “mini campaign owners” ran through decidedly boring PowerPoint presentations.
If you missed the theme, they reminded you in meetings about the theme:
The audience was captive because these meetings were mandatory to attend. But it was easy to secure a spot in one because they were running “six days a week, 18 hours a day,” shuffling in small groups of Amazon employees (Covid restrictions) throughout the day to learn about speaking for themselves and the lack of guarantees.
Just to be sure you understood the first theme, about speaking for yourself, they put a mailbox on site so you could speak for yourself in front of 30 surveillance cameras:
Amazon bought their own knock off mailbox to collect election ballots, a violation of NLRB rules, until the Postal Service intervened. Instead, they installed a real mailbox right outside the warehouse so workers could vote within the view of at least 30 of its 1300 surveillance cameras. You couldn’t miss it because there was a giant banner in front that said “Speak for Yourself.”
In addition to the pro-Amazon propaganda blasted to workers’ cell phones, emails, actual homes, the in-house app called “Amazon A-to-Z,” and TV screens stationed throughout the facility known, hauntingly, as “acid boards,” management also papered the bathrooms with fliers. Some might call this an invasion of privacy and disturbing bellwether of how workers couldn’t even piss without getting an eyeful of anti-union agitation. But Amazon called them “installments,” because they were on stalls.
At mandatory propaganda meetings, Amazon sold anti-union merchandise decorated with their company mascot “Peccy.” One of the stupidest yet under-discussed features of Amazon’s sprawling package enterprise, Peccy is a limbless toy that the NLRB described as “a yellow character that resembles a yellow ‘minion’ from the 2010 Universal Pictures movie, ‘Despicable Me,’ and is apparently used as a mascot for this Employer.” If you have never heard of this mascot, you are not missing out. It is technically not yellow, but colored in Amazon’s patented flat orange. It grins with the signature Amazon smile logo. They call him “Peccy” because the company is “peculiar,” which is a chiller way of saying “you may sustain a musculoskeletal disorder from working here.”
As they say in the allegedly anti-union film On the Waterfront, "You think you're God Almighty, but you know what you are? You're a cheap, lousy, dirty, stinkin' mug!” Amazon should probably not be such a mug. If any Amazon workers would like to speak for themselves, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.