Amazon employees have started an 'Anti-Surveillance' petition to stop the company's union-busting and labor-monitoring efforts: 'Stop spying on us'

  • Amazon employees have started a new "anti-surveillance" petition, demanding the company stop its labor-tracking efforts.
  • The petition, first created in October, comes amid a series of reports about Amazon spying on its workforce and employee activism, such as unionization efforts.
  • "The central demand of this letter is simply to stop spying on us," the petition says.
  • It's the latest case of employee activism at Amazon, which has seen mixed results so far this year.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A small group of Amazon employees have organized an "anti-surveillance" petition campaign, demanding the company stop monitoring employee activism and labor-organization efforts, Business Insider has learned.

The petition, first created in October, comes in light of recent reports about Amazon's labor-tracking and union-busting practices. The team behind the petition, called Amazonians for Employee Privacy, is requesting greater transparency around Amazon's recent activities, including a "union heat map" previously reported by Business Insider.

It's also created a separate "Anti-Surveillance" pledge intended to gain commitments by managers and members of the human resources and global security teams.

"The central demand of this letter is simply to stop spying on us," the petition says. "Let us work and speak amongst ourselves without fear of being surreptitiously watched."

Both the petition and the pledge are available to the public.

In an email to Business Insider, Amazon's spokesperson confirmed the petition, adding the main purpose of running an internal investigations team is "to identify wrongdoing against our business." 

"Like any multinational business, we maintain a level of security within our operations to help keep our employees, buildings, and inventory safe — it would be irresponsible if we didn't do this," the statement said. 

Slow support

Amazonians for Employee Privacy, the team behind the "anti-surveillance" petition, was formed in mid-October by just nine Amazon employees, according to a person involved, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the group is still private. A series of reports about Amazon in September, including job posts for an intelligence analyst to monitor "labor organizing threats" and the board hiring of former National Security Agency chief Keith Alexander, further prompted them to move faster.

But the petition campaign has seen slow support, getting just under 200 signees so far, this person said. Part of it is due to the lack of exposure, this person said, as Amazon's email policy has made it more difficult to reach larger affinity groups and the work from home policy prevents them from promoting the petition to a wider audience in the office.

The group intends to bring the petition to Amazon's leadership and make the names of the supporters public, once it reaches 200 signees. 

To raise awareness, Amazonians for Employee Privacy has sent out a massive email blast last week — the second since starting the petition — including to those representing Black, Asian, and LGBTQ employees, as well as people with disabilities, according to a copy of the email seen by Business Insider.

The email, titled "Amazon's Use of the Pinkertons and Privacy Petition," reminds employees of Amazon's hiring of the Pinkerton agency and other labor monitoring efforts across the world, and recommends them sharing it with other coworkers.

"While raising your voice against these practices alone can be risky and without much leverage to change things, if we band our voices together, we can change Amazon for the better," the email said.

Mixed results

The anti-surveillance petition is the latest case of employee activism at Amazon, which has seen mixed results so far.

Last year, an internal group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) led a climate-change proposal backed by more than 8,000 Amazon employees, which eventually led to the company announcing several net-zero-carbon initiatives and a $10 billion donation by CEO Jeff Bezos. Earlier this year, it published a Medium post with quotes from 400 named employees to protest the company's business with the oil and gas industry.

Those moves, however, were met with strong pushback from Amazon. Two of its most prominent members, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, were fired earlier this year after calling out the company's unsafe warehouse working conditions and weak climate policies. Amazon also started deleting some protest invites from employee inboxes this year.

Amazon also came under fire this year when it fired several warehouse employees who organized a strike demanding safer working conditions. A National Labor Relations Board investigation found at least one of those employees, Gerald Bryson, was illegally fired, according to a Vice report on Thursday.

Meanwhile, multiple reports this year shed light on Amazon's internal labor-monitoring efforts. Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, has been quietly tracking its employees with an interactive heat map to assess the chances of unionizing, Business Insider previously reported. Vice reported on Amazon's secret partnership with Pinkerton, the infamous spying agency known for tracking unions and breaking up worker-held strikes. Amazon also started enforcing stricter rules around internal group emails this year, as part of its effort to crack down on employee activism, according to Vox.

Due to these challenges, AECJ now directs employees to sign up for updates at a separate website.

"Since Amazon is censoring internal communications, we're moving more communications to external channels," AECJ says on its sign-up page.

 

 

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