Amazon is using Pinkertons for union-busting surveillance

Lauren Gurley at Vice's Motherboard has broken the story about the obsessive monitoring of labor and environmental activists at Amazon facilities in Europe by Pinkerton merceneries. From the source:

A trove of more than two dozen internal Amazon reports reveal in stark detail the company's obsessive monitoring of organized labor and social and environmental movements in Europe, particularly during Amazon's "peak season" between Black Friday and Christmas. The reports, obtained by Motherboard, were written in 2019 by Amazon intelligence analysts who work for the Global Security Operations Center, the company's security division tasked with protecting Amazon employees, vendors, and assets at Amazon facilities around the world. 

The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. They also indicate, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton operatives—from the notorious spy agency known for its union-busting activities—to gather intelligence on warehouse workers.

The details here offer a pretty chilling view of what are essentially paramilitary surveillance tactics being used against warehouse workers—treating them like potential terrorists just in case they dare to ask for Just Cause before termination.

More from a follow-up interview at NPR:

It involves collecting data, it seems, from Facebook groups, from social media. In some cases in the case of the Pinkertons, there is a line in one of the documents that we've obtained that says that Pinkerton operatives were inserted into a warehouse in Wroclaw, Poland, to gather intelligence on what their warehouse workers were up to. They believe that some people were tinkering with the application interview process, so some people were sent in to figure out what was going on.


Our source told us that they do the same thing in the U.S. They sort of create – they gather the same intelligence. But one difference is that unlike Europe, there are no Amazon unions in the U.S. No Amazon workers have unionized in the U.S. There have been several failed attempts. But we do know that they're tracking how many people are attending meetings, how many people are joining unions. So I imagine that in the U.S., they're tracking labor organizing activity but not union members yet.

About a year and a half ago, the New York Times had reported that the Pinkertons were also outsourcing their mercenary services to sell climate change resiliency protections to the highest bidder. It's a good if worrying reminder that we're basically living in a continuation of the labor movement that began in the early 20th century, when the Pinkertons first rose to fame.

Secret Amazon Reports Expose the Company's Surveillance of Labor and Environmental Groups [Lauren Kaori Gurley / Motherboard]

Amazon Reportedly Has Pinkerton Agents Surveil Workers Who Try To Form Unions [NPR]

Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons