Warren, Bush, Booker, Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez Blast Amazon for Proposed Worker Chat App that Reportedly Blocks Discussions about Work Conditions and Unionization Efforts
App Would Reportedly Ban Words Such As “Union”, “Pay Raise”, “Slave Labor”, “Harassment”, “Restroom”
App Could Violate National Labor Relations Act, Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Representatives Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Amazon’s President and CEO, Andy Jassy, demanding answers about the company’s proposed worker chat application (Proposed App), which reportedly would ban workers from using certain words and phrases, restricting their ability to discuss their working conditions and basic legal rights, including unionization. The lawmakers expressed concern that the Proposed App violates federal labor laws and are requesting Amazon provide them with all documents, communications, and other materials related to the Proposed App.
“If you are concerned about your workers discussing topics like ‘restrooms’ or ‘slave labor,’ or exploitative working conditions generally, the answer is not to interfere with your workers’ ability to communicate with each other, but to improve your treatment of workers… Amazon’s efforts to muzzle its workers and prevent them from discussing their working conditions reveals that the company continues to aggressively fight efforts by its workers to speak out and organize, and will not provide them with the tools they need to report harassment and other poor working conditions. This is wrong, and it may be unlawful,” wrote the lawmakers.
Reporting from The Intercept revealed that Amazon’s Proposed App would block and flag words and phrases such as “union”, “pay raise”, “slave labor”, “restroom”, “prison”, “plantation”, “compensation”, “accessibility”, “injustice”, “harassment”, and “threat”. Many of these worker communications are protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA).
The lawmakers expressed concerns that Amazon is violating the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), which requires employers to report expenditures on activities that interfere with employees’ NLRA rights to the Department of Labor’s Office of Management Standards. Amazon has not reported any spending on its Proposed App and its censorship of organizing-related speech.
The lawmakers also called out Amazon’s distributing pattern of worker exploitation, retaliation, and union-busting. Amazon is facing NLRB complaints for threatening, surveilling, and interrogating workers attempting to unionize at their JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, New York and it spends millions on anti-union campaigns each year. Amazon’s inhumane quotas have limited workers from taking bathroom breaks and its rates of serious injuries is more than double that of other companies in the warehouse industry.
Senators Warren, Booker, Sanders and Representatives Bush and Ocasio-Cortez are asking Amazon to provide them all documents, communications, and other materials related to the Proposed App and respond to a set of questions about the app by June 16, 2022.
Senator Warren is a leader in the fight to protect workers’ rights and prevent workers from being exploited by giant corporations like Amazon.
- In May 2022, Senator Warren and Representatives Bush and Ocascio-Coretz sent a letter to Amazon, blasting the company for its lackluster responses and failure to answer their questions from their letter in December 2021 about the circumstances and policies that led to the collapse of an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois that killed six workers.
- In March 2022, Senators Warren, Sanders, Booker, Blumenthal, and Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Bush sent a letter to the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), urging them to investigate Amazon’s “Attendance Points Policy”, which punishes workers for taking legally-protected leave.
- In February 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Schedules that Work Act to help ensure that low-wage employees have more certainty about their work schedules and income.
- In February 2022, Senator Warren and Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro, Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) reintroduced the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act to strengthen protections for part-time workers and allow them to better balance their work schedules with personal and family needs.
- In December 2021, Senator Warren and Representatives Cori Bush and Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez sent a letter to Amazon, demanding answers about the circumstances and failure in safety policies that led to the death of six employees after an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois collapsed during a tornado.
- In April 2020, Senator Warren and Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) proposed an Essential Workers Bill of Rights, which includes universal paid sick leave and family and medical leave.
- Senator Warren is an original cosponsor of the 2020 PAID Leave Act, legislation that would provide universal paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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