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Amazon Questioned by US Senators on Allegedly Tracking Employees, Curbing Bids to Form Unions

Four Democratic US senators on Thursday sent a letter to Amazon’s Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, demanding answers over its alleged moves to track and monitor employees and limit efforts to form unions.

Democratic senators Brian Schatz, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand asked the company for details on the steps it takes to discourage workers from organising, how it tracks workers who participate in strikes and the law firms Amazon contracts with for union avoidance.

“The fact that Amazon has decided to heavily invest in systems to retaliate against freedom of expression about unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, and to refer to organising and workers’ rights mobilisation efforts as threats against the company equal to those posed by hate groups and terrorism, is unacceptable,” the letter led by senator Brian Schatz said.

In September, a research paper from the Open Markets Institute, a Washington-based research and advocacy group, also said Amazon relies on extensive worker surveillance to boost employee output and potentially limit unionization efforts around the United States.

The letter from the lawmakers on Thursday referred to several media articles that have reported similar action by the retailer.

This month, Amazon said more than 19,000 of its US front-line workers contracted the novel coronavirus this year, or 1.44 percent of the total, a disclosure sought by labour advocates who have criticised Amazon’s response to the pandemic.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company respects its employees right to join or form a labour union without fear of retaliation, intimidation or harassment.

On the issue of monitoring, the spokeswoman said Amazon discovered one group within its delivery team that was aggregating information but the practice is against company standards and the team is no longer doing so.

Reuters reported in May that Amazon has long resisted unionisation. Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said at the time that Amazon already offers what labour groups are requesting.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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