Amazon's union busting training video
June 17, 2019 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Actual clips from Amazon's union-busting training video that was sent to Whole Foods management in 2018. It was then leaked by Whole Worker to the media.
posted by adept256 (52 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
When your uppity associates start talking of a living wage, the fix is in.
posted by chavenet at 2:37 PM on June 17 [17 favorites]


Just say no, associates.
posted by pipeski at 2:39 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


All the parts about identifying and reporting behavior indicating union activity, ie the entire thing. Not sure why we need to be fair to Amazon here, are they in need of defense?
posted by adept256 at 2:40 PM on June 17 [17 favorites]


Actual clips from Wile E. Coyote's roadrunner-busting video that was sent to Acme management in 1965
posted by theodolite at 2:40 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


"Our business model is built upon speed, innovation, and customer obsession."
posted by box at 2:46 PM on June 17


why does Biff the Union Buster have a Flintstones beard
posted by benzenedream at 2:47 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


I will never understand why this shit is legal.
posted by odinsdream at 2:57 PM on June 17 [25 favorites]


"use of words associated with unions... like living wage..."

This is another one of those wretched things where one wonders if a gifted satirist would do anything differently, if they'd produced it instead.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 3:01 PM on June 17 [130 favorites]


Fitting that the ant-union avatar is literally a bobbleheaded automaton with no agency or ambition.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:08 PM on June 17 [11 favorites]


Fitting that the ant-union avatar

Ants revolting against billionaire egg-filled ant queens popping out trustafarians -- Pixar, call me! Oh wait they're anti union wage fixing bastards too.
posted by benzenedream at 3:23 PM on June 17 [13 favorites]


At a place that shall remain nameless that I may have or not be working for has an almost identical video as the First training video new hires watch. Starts with stuff about how great the company is and how it has grown because it is so great and then launches into how to report union-rousing activities to the proper authorities in the company.

Tale as old as time.....
posted by mightshould at 3:37 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


as usual, direct relationship means they don't want to wear a rubber when they're screwing you
posted by pyramid termite at 3:38 PM on June 17 [14 favorites]


Associates of the World Unite!
posted by srboisvert at 3:57 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


I will never understand why this shit is legal.

Roughly 60 odd years of politicans trying to destroy thr labor movement by any means necessary
posted by The Whelk at 4:00 PM on June 17 [66 favorites]


Yeah this video doesn't show union busting at all. They want managers to report signs of associate disengagement so that any issues they may be having can be handled quickly on the level of a direct relationship with each employee.

Ugh, I feel dirty just writing that. Amazon has repeatedly fired union supporters, which is illegal but also there is no punishment at all for doing so.

Gizmodo watched the full video last year and has transcribed other parts of the video, including the part where managers are coached in how to discourage individual employees from supporting a union.
posted by muddgirl at 4:22 PM on June 17 [6 favorites]


They want managers to report signs of associate disengagement so that any issues they may be having can be handled quickly on the level of a direct relationship with each employee.

This is literally what a union is for.
posted by odinsdream at 4:35 PM on June 17 [22 favorites]


In other news: HR is not your friend.
posted by odinsdream at 4:35 PM on June 17 [38 favorites]


I thought I must have misunderstood the meaning of 'union busting', so I had to look it up. From wikipedia:

Union busting is a range of activities undertaken to disrupt or prevent the formation of trade unions.

That's what I thought. Maybe I don't understand why this isn't that.
posted by adept256 at 5:00 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


That's what I thought. Maybe I don't understand why this isn't that.

Because they say directly in the video that they are not anti-union.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:11 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Ah yes, the old "telling a lie" routine.
posted by odinsdream at 5:18 PM on June 17 [50 favorites]


They said they're not anti-union or neutral, that must mean they're pro-union! They just want associates to report people involved in union activity so they can give them a big hug.
posted by adept256 at 5:29 PM on June 17 [33 favorites]


Because they say directly in the video that they are not anti-union.

Stay tuned for my 87-tweet series on why the haymaker I just threw at the nearest Whole Foods manager isn't actually a punch, and thus why I am immune to assault and battery charges.
posted by Mayor West at 5:33 PM on June 17 [20 favorites]


They're not anti-union, they're just anti-"unions having any influence or rights to collective bargaining or monitoring workplace conditions".

A club for workers - great!
posted by chiquitita at 5:40 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


This is literally what a union is for.

"direct employee relationship" means the ability to fire any employee who dares to complain about their working conditions, so hopefully that's not what a union is for!
posted by muddgirl at 5:42 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I meant the part about preventing a company from "dealing directly with individual employees" to address their grievances. Having a group of employees represented as a group when discussing their grievances is the point of a union.
posted by odinsdream at 5:45 PM on June 17 [7 favorites]


Poor misguided management video, most employees are smart enough to avoid organizing at work. The only reason I would ever stay after work in the break room for an hour is to get in a fellow associate’s pants... the union organizing is a post-coital activity.
posted by sleepingwithcats at 5:48 PM on June 17 [7 favorites]


Guys, I believe muddgirl was being sarcastic when writing "Yeah this video doesn't show union busting at all."
posted by queensissy at 5:56 PM on June 17 [16 favorites]


I had a feeling, I guess I was thrown by the first comment in this post. But it did lead me to do a little more research. Here's a refresher on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23:

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.


Dare to dream, high ideals and all that. No one has ever implemented the UDHR, or even attempted to, but it is nice to have something to point at that says Amazon violates human rights.

'his' interests? this document shows it's age, which makes it yet sadder that something so old is a billion times more woke than the current state of affairs
posted by adept256 at 6:24 PM on June 17 [6 favorites]


I got about a minute into this before I realized "associate" = employee.

I also like how this "direct relationship" is so very important, but at the first sign of trouble, you should inform a whole list of higher ups rather than handle it on your own. It's as if there is some kind of benefit to involving a large organization.
posted by RobotHero at 6:30 PM on June 17 [19 favorites]


[Very late delete of early comment that may have been in bad faith, and a couple responding to it.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:34 PM on June 17


Hey guys I clicked the link but it was this weird video about creating horse-men called Equisapiens and I'm not sure what's going on here?
posted by latkes at 7:09 PM on June 17 [19 favorites]


Yeah, sorry, no shit "report employees who are organizing (so we can fire them)" is the definition of union busting.
posted by muddgirl at 7:13 PM on June 17 [12 favorites]


from the video: "We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either."

me: okay, sooo, not anti-union, and not union-neutral. Soooo, you're pro-union?

*watches more of video*

me: ohhhh, they mean "We are not anti-union" the same way some people mean "I'm not against voting for a woman for president"
posted by 23skidoo at 8:47 PM on June 17 [23 favorites]


(the "not" is silent)
posted by 23skidoo at 8:47 PM on June 17 [14 favorites]


"Our business model is built upon speed, innovation, and customer obsession."

That seems to be a pretty strange reading of Amazon's appeal. Speed: somewhat - but range and price is equally important. Innovation: it depends on whether the innovation serves any of the more important aims. Customer obsession: I have no idea what that means; do Amazon?

I got about a minute into this before I realized "associate" = employee.
Me too; I thought they were making a video aimed at suppliers who they were in partnership with or something. Organisations that refer to employees by names other than "employee" can reveal quite a lot about their culture by this means alone. In real life my "associates" are people who I happen to interact with in my day to day life - but whom I hold at a distance. I have no contractual responsibilities or duty of care to my associates as I would for my "colleagues" or "employees" or "partners". My associates and I are not "in this together" and I would probably prefer to keep them at a distance.
posted by rongorongo at 1:26 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Organisations that refer to employees by names other than "employee" can reveal quite a lot about their culture by this means alone.
I briefly worked for a company called Home that referred to employees as "Homies".
posted by winterhill at 1:49 AM on June 18 [18 favorites]


Organisations that refer to employees by names other than "employee" can reveal quite a lot about their culture by this means alone. In real life my "associates" are people who I happen to interact with in my day to day life - but whom I hold at a distance.

I don't mean this unkindly, but if this confused you, then it sounds like you haven't had a low-level service or labor-for-a-big-fancy-company job in a while. At least in the US, this language is really, really common, to the point where I'd have been surprised if they did use the word "employee." (Other common euphemisms: "specialist," "partner.")

I agree that this sort of weird euphemistic language is annoying. But unless you think jobs in these categories are bad for anyone to take ever, it isn't a red flag.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:58 AM on June 18 [8 favorites]


how about "team member" - and of course, there's the "team leader" although higher up, more traditional names for management apply

at amazon, i suggest "chief bobblehead"
posted by pyramid termite at 5:58 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I thought Bezos was more clever and subtle than this ham-fisted video suggests.

I have a modest proposal: If I were him, I'd create a separate corp to provide union organizing and management CRM-style software, then build and offer 'Watzon', an easy automated and algorithmically optimized concession-extracting collective bargaining service for existing unions, then complete the circle by forming an easy web-based 'Unizon' virtual union, offering members a cheaper, more effective union than anything they could do on their own. You could have Unizon Dash buttons everywhere to report infractions and Prime benefits to promote union loyalty. And Unizon would eventually replace all existing unions.

So what if Amazon unionizes then? Everything is optimized, everybody is happy with the service yet miserable with the conditions, and JB collects rent from all sides. Leave it to Bezos, indeed.
posted by zaixfeep at 6:05 AM on June 18


Customer obsession: I have no idea what that means; do Amazon?

CX professional here: the word has come down in a lot of companies that we're not saying " surprise and delight customers" any more (it's seen as corny and retrograde), so you get weird new phrases like this to try to say it without saying it.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:45 AM on June 18 [6 favorites]


I once had an "associate" come to me at our online marketing firm and explain that we were getting a new "resource. "

Like, a resource? What are we gonna do, strip mine him?

I never made any friends by ridiculing peoples' attempts to sound business-y, that's for sure.
posted by klanawa at 8:42 AM on June 18 [4 favorites]


My giant pet-peeve for not-"employee"-word-for-employees, is "coworker" which is used by Ikea. So for example the do-not-enter areas have signs that say "Coworkers Only" and they have announcements over the loudspeaker "Ask a coworker about...".

I kind of really want to go there with an actual coworker and go places and ask them stuff.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:58 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Then find a manager to tell them that the coworker you're using seems to be broken.
posted by rhizome at 9:04 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Organisations that refer to employees by names other than "employee" can reveal quite a lot about their culture by this means alone.

I spent some time as a Subway "sandwich artist". I was being paid minimum wage to work 3 hour shifts* and I was expected to do my best imitation of a sandwich-making automaton. There were exact rules for how to cut the bread, how to place the fillings (most of which were pre-portioned out) and dole out the condiments. We had diagrams to follow. Being called an "artist" under those conditions felt pretty condescending.

* I seem to recall that 3 hours was the legal minimum at the time - they could send me home sooner, but they'd still have to pay me for at least 3 hours once I'd clocked in.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 9:05 AM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Customer obsession: I have no idea what that means; do Amazon?

“Customer obsession” has been a big thing at Amazon for a long time, and is one of their 14 “leadership principles”. It apparently means something along the lines of “make all decisions with the customer in mind first”. I’m told by friends who have worked there that you’ll be asked about it in your job interviews regardless of position, but I don’t know that first-hand.

(My Amazonian friends have also told me about their long nights for months on end, crying at their desk, and managers who like to fire people right before their stock vests. So.)
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 9:13 AM on June 18 [3 favorites]


The video tells people to report any suspected organizing to their GM or HR manager...

Remember, HR is there to protect the company, not the employees. You can't spell "union" with HR.
posted by AlSweigart at 11:59 AM on June 18


This video is nauseating!
posted by crazy_yeti at 3:18 PM on June 18


I never made any friends by ridiculing peoples' attempts to sound business-y, that's for sure.

Funny, that's a good portion of what my friends (inside and out of the company I work for) do on a daily basis. Now it's never got me a promotion either but I never was good at licking buttholes either and I'm very, very lucky that DrMsEld is in a profession that she loves and could, if barely, support us alone.

So, well, fuck'em.

I've thrown myself on the train track before over issues that others wanted to but couldn't for fear of losing said job and when it finally does cost me my job, well, let's just say they'll regret not getting the keys, I mean passwords/certificates, before showing me the door.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:59 PM on June 18


Something to think about before shopping at Whole Foods and ordering something on Amazon. Or, really, before using the internet. Many online stores and streaming companies (including Netflix) use Amazon Web services. Union-busting is built into the infrastructure of twenty-first century, first world, life. Request: escape plan.
posted by Morpeth at 3:57 AM on June 19


I was pretty sure this was fake. And then I remembered some the emails I've gotten from HR and upper managers that have agglomerated at my company as we've grown. The surest fix for this kind of idiocy is keeping companies from growing to this size. It never benefits citizens as much as shareholders.
posted by DigDoug at 7:07 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Gizmodo reached out to Amazon in Sept 2018 and they did not say it was fake. What they did say is "The reporter clearly cherry-picked soundbites from the video to meet his editorial objective and do not align with our view on how to create career opportunities for employees."
posted by muddgirl at 7:50 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Before I posted this I had to consider it's provenance, and one thing I learnt was that this wasn't uncommon. Walmart apparently has something similar, for example. Union busting is as old as unions though, and you can find examples all throughout history, many that are more egregious than this. What's worrisome is that the more extraordinary examples are resolved with equally extreme measures.
posted by adept256 at 8:33 AM on June 19


« Older A spanner in the wercs   |   "Fasten, then zip. You?" "Fasten, zip." Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments