An Amazon employee group sent an ‘anti-surveillance’ petition with over 200 signatures to CEO Jeff Bezos (AMZN)

  • Over 200 employees signed a petition calling for transparency around Amazon’s labor-tracking efforts.
  • The names of the sign-ons were revealed last week, and the petition was sent to Amazon’s leadership.
  • Amazon faces a vote on forming a union next month, which would be the first in its history.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The names of more than 200 Amazon employees who had signed an “anti-surveillance” petition last fall were made public last week ahead of the petition being forwarded to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, an internal employee group called Amazonians for Employee Privacy told Insider.

The “anti-surveillance” petition campaign, first created in October, demands Amazon’s leadership to stop monitoring employee activism and labor-organization efforts, as Insider previously reported. The employee privacy group is requesting greater transparency around Amazon’s recent activities, including a “union heat map” previously reported by Insider.

“The practices that Amazon engages in by monitoring its labor force for signs of dissent discourages workers from being able to voice their issues collectively through structures like a union,” a representative from Amazonians for Employee Privacy said in an email statement.

The group has also created a separate “Anti-surveillance” pledge that asks managers and members of the human resources and global security teams to commit to. 

The establishment of both the petition and the pledge have been public since October, but the individual names weren’t disclosed until last week to provide safety for the early sign-ons while the group waited for broader support. 

The disclosure puts additional pressure on Amazon’s leadership to terminate its labor-tracking and union-busting practices that have been reported in recent years. It also comes at a time when a growing number of tech employees are engaging in stronger unionization efforts.

Amazon, for example, faces a unionization vote next month when roughly 6,000 warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama will cast their ballots on forming what would be the e-commerce giant’s first union in history. Google, earlier this month, saw over 200 employees form a union called The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU), the first labor organizing movement of its kind at the company.

In an email to Insider, Amazon’s spokesperson declined to comment on any specific petition, instead saying it continues to hear from employees through different feedback channels.

“We continually work to improve the Amazon employee experience, and with hundreds of thousands of employees located around the world, we use several methods to gather feedback at scale. This anonymized feedback has helped us improve our employee benefits, further strengthen our COVID-19 procedures, and improve the overall Amazon employee experience,” the spokesperson said.

Labor-tracking efforts

The employee privacy group at Amazon said the “anti-surveillance” campaign was inspired by 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.

Amazon has come under fire in recent years for its labor-tracking efforts. Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, has been quietly tracking its employees with an interactive heat map that could gauge interest in unionizing, Insider previously reported. Vice shed light on Amazon’s secret partnership with Pinkerton, the infamous spying agency known for tracking unions and breaking up worker-held strikes, while Vox revealed new rules around internal group emails designed to crack down on employee activism.

Employee activism at Amazon, meanwhile, has seen mixed results so far.

After an internal group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) led a climate-change proposal, Amazon announced several net-zero-carbon initiatives and a $10 billion donation by CEO Jeff Bezos. But Amazon also pushed back by firing two of the group’s most prominent members, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, after they called out the company’s unsafe warehouse working conditions and weak climate policies.

Amazon also faced heavy criticism last year after firing 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.

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