Amazon reportedly plans to block and flag words like “union,” “living wage” and “plantation” on an internal messaging app — days after warehouse workers in New York became the company’s first in the US to unionize.
The list of banned words also includes “pay raise,” “prison,” “slave labor” and “restrooms,” the Intercept reported on Monday.
The alleged “restrooms” ban comes after years of reports that Amazon warehouse workers and drivers have been forced to pee in bottles in order to meet punishing work quotas.
Amazon’s “auto bad word moderator” is expected to roll out on an internal social media-style app used by Amazon employees later this month, according to the Intercept.
Additional banned words reportedly include “freedom,” “bullying,” “harassment,” “petition,” “diversity,” “concerned” and “robots,” as well as slurs and swear words.
Amazon managers would also be able to flag or suppress posts even if they don’t include banned words, according to the report.
“Our teams are always thinking about new ways to help employees engage with each other,” Amazon spokeswoman Barbara Agrait said. “This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all.”
“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. The only kinds of words that may be screened are ones that are offensive or harassing, which is intended to protect our team,” she said.
The apparent effort to crack down on labor organizing comes days after workers at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in the Staten Island borough of New York City voted to form the company’s first-ever union in the US, drawing praise from President Joe Biden, Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul, among others.
But Gov. Hochul is also taking flak from fellow Democrats following reports that a top consultant for her re-election campaign helped Amazon with its tooth-and-nail fight against the union, which included mandatory anti-union meetings and targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram.
Following Friday’s result, Amazon hinted that it’s looking to challenge the Staten Island election, which saw 2,654 employees vote in favor of unionizing and 2,131 vote against it.
“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 US Chamber of Commerce) witnessed in this election.”