This editorial is brought to you by a former chief of police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.
SEATTLE, WA- They say that power corrupts…and absolute power corrupts…absolutely. For employees at Amazon, it appears that management may have taken that to a much higher level.
According to The Intercept, the shopping behemoth is planning to engage in censorship on a planned internal messaging app, specifically messaging believed connected to labor unions, according to internal company documents reviewed by the outlet.
Under the proposed app, an automatic word monitor would key on a number of terms which might represent criticism of Amazon’s working conditions. Among words or phrases that would be the source of censorship include “slave labor,” “prison,” and “plantation,” along with the word “restroom(s),” an apparent reference to Amazon employees being forced to relieve themselves in bottles in order to meet what are described as “punishing quotas.”
“Our teams are always thinking about new ways to help employees engage with each other,” said Amazon spokesperson Barbara Agrait. “This particular program has not been approved yet and may change significantly or even never launch at all.”
According to a source with direct knowledge of the discussion, Amazon organized a high-level meeting with top executives in November 2021, where they discussed a scheme whereby the company would create an internal social media program which would allow company employees to engage in activities such as recognizing co-workers’ performance with posts referred to as “shout-outs.”
According to Dave Clark, the company’s head of worldwide consumer business, the major goal of the program is designed to reduce company attrition by “fostering happiness among workers—and also productivity,” the outlet said. The shout-outs would be part of a rewards system where employees are awarded virtual stars and badges for activities that “add direct business values,” documents stated. Clark noted that “some people are insane star collectors.”
Company officials however are aware of what was referred to as “the dark side of social media,” which led to the decision to actively monitor posts in order to ensure a “positive community.” At the meeting of key executives, Clark suggested using a program such as online dating app Bumble, which allows users to engage on a one-on-one basis rather than in a forum setting such as Facebook.
After that meeting, the so-called “auto bad word monitor” was developed, ostensibly a ‘blacklist” that would flag and automatically block Amazon employees from sending messages that contained profanity, or “inappropriate” words.
In addition to profanities, those “inappropriate” words included a number applying to organized labor, including “union,” “grievance,” “pay raise,” and “compensation.” Other banned words include terms such as “ethics,” “unfair,” “slave,” “master,” “freedom,” “diversity,” injustice,” and “fairness.” Even a seemingly innocuous phrase such as “this is concerning” would be banned.
“With free text, we risk people writing Shout-Outs that generate negative sentiments among the viewers and the receivers,” a document summarizing the program states. “We want to lean towards being restrictive on the content that can be posted to prevent a negative associate experience.”
Aside from the automated bots which will monitor speech, managers will also be able to flag or suppress any shout-outs that the deem inappropriate, the reviewed documents show.
The Intercept reported a pilot program is scheduled to be launched later in April. In addition to union-related words and obscenities, other words include “bullying,” “vaccine,” “ethics,” “fairness,” and “freedom.”
“If it does launch at some point down the road,” the spokesperson said, “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.”
The report comes on the heels of news out of Staten Island, New York, where Amazon employees at a fulfillment center there became the first Amazon location to successfully join a labor union. What was shocking about that development was the fact it was an independent union not affiliated with an established labor union, which is operating on a shoestring budget of only $120,000.
With those limited funds, the Amazon Labor Union defeated Amazon, a $`1.5 trillion company which devoted some $4.3 million on anti-union consultants in 2021 alone.
Moreover, the Amazon Labor Union’s president, Christian Smalls had been fired by the company after leading a walkout in 2020 calling for better workplace protections during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a meeting with then-CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon executives slammed Smalls, referring to him as “not smart or articulate.”
The move toward a union came in light of a number of safety concerns expressed by Amazon employees, which culminated in December when six Amazon workers at a warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois were killed when a tornado struck the building. A number of Amazon employees claimed they had received limited emergency training, as reported in The Intercept.
In 2020, workers at a fulfillment center in Alabama tried to join a union, which attracted the attention of Joe Biden, who managed to give a statement in which he said, “Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union…without intimidation or threats by employers.”
That vote failed, but Biden’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered a new election be held, claiming interference by Amazon. A second vote was held last week, which also appears to have gone Amazon’s way, although reports say it was much closer than the previous one.
Meanwhile as concerns the Staten Island vote, Amazon released a statement last week which said the company is considering filing an objection to that tally, claiming interference by the NLRB.
For more on Amazon, we invite you to read a prior piece we did on the company dropping BLM from it’s fundraising platform:
SEATTLE, WA — Amazon has removed the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Global Network Foundation from its charity platform, AmazonSmile, due to the organization’s lack of financial transparency.
After receiving several millions of dollars in donations since the 2020 death of George Floyd, there has been increased scrutiny over BLM’s finances.
Amazon donated $10 million to BLM and 11 other social justice groups amid the nationwide unrest spurred by Floyd’s death, according to a report by Washington Examiner.
I have a guess as to where some of the 'tens of millions' of undisclosed dollars went, that led to the suspension by Amazon's charity: the purchasing of co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors' multiple luxury estates. https://t.co/5DN7dWmYhH
— Xendependently Minded Podcast 🎙 (@XenPods) February 18, 2022
AmazonSmile functions by giving a portion of eligible purchases on the online shopping site to charities.
An Amazon spokesperson told New York Post that it “had to temporarily suspend” the group:
“States have rules for nonprofits, and organizations participating in AmazonSmile need to meet those rules.
“Unfortunately this organization fell out of compliance with the rules in several states, so we’ve had to temporarily suspend them from the program until they come into compliance.”
NEW: Amazon, which committed MILLIONS to Black Lives Matter and other groups in 2020, booted BLM off AmazonSmile earlier this week as the charity faces legal threats from multiple states over its failure to report what it did with its financial windfall.https://t.co/WXPYEPJI7s
— Andrew Kerr (@AndrewKerrNC) February 16, 2022
The spokesperson also confirmed that any current funds that have accumulated for BLM will be held until the group is back in compliance.
Compliance may be an issue because several questions have arisen over how BLM’s reported $66.5 million war chest is being spent.
In addition, the purported charity has refused to disclose where millions of dollars have gone.
BREAKING: Amazon Removes BLM From Charity Platform Amid Growing Concerns Over Lack of Financial Transparencyhttps://t.co/dury42ztOl
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) February 17, 2022
Khan is the wife of BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors.
— Newsmax (@newsmax) May 28, 2021
The money was used to purchase a mansion that used to be the headquarters of the Communist Party of Canada, according to public records reviewed by the New York Post.
Yahoo News noted the controversy:
“M4BJ, which is a non-profit based in Toronto that was set up in part by Janaya Khan, bought the 10,000-square foot mansion for $6.3 million in July 2021.
“Khan is the wife of Khan-Cullors, a self-professed Marxist who helped found Black Lives Matter Global Foundation Network.
“Last year, Khan-Cullors resigned from the organization after an investigation revealed that she spent $3.2 million on homes in Georgia and Los Angeles. She reportedly denied that the homes were purchased with donations to BLM.
“The purchase of the Toronto mansion, which is also called Wildseed Centre for Art and Activism, drew criticism from within the organization.”
Another controversy involved Khan-Cullors’ purchases of at least four pricy homes in the U.S. and eyeing property in other countries.
Q: What kind of mansion is the best mansion?
A: The one that was purchased with other people's money.
— Murray Bauman (@MurrayBauman3) January 30, 2022
New York Post reported:
“As protests broke out across the country in the name of Black Lives Matter, the group’s co-founder went on a real estate buying binge, snagging four high-end homes for $3.2 million in the US alone, according to property records.
“Patrisse Khan-Cullors, 37, also eyed property in the Bahamas at an ultra-exclusive resort where Justin Timberlake and Tiger Woods both have homes, The Post has learned.
“Luxury apartments and townhouses at the beachfront Albany resort outside Nassau are priced between $5 million and $20 million, according to a local agent.
https://t.co/YnrGyvW3a3 some of it went on very expensive real estate for some of its founders
— Scott Hunter (@scott19567) February 18, 2022
“The 2,370-square-foot property features ‘soaring ceilings, skylights and plenty of windows’ with canyon views.
“The Topanga Canyon homestead, which includes two houses on a quarter-acre, is just one of three homes Khan-Cullors owns in the Los Angeles area, public records show.”
Khan-Cullors and her wife also bought a fourth home in Conyers, Georgia.
This talk was a good one. https://t.co/PqDiWWUT24
— janayathefuture (@janaya_khan) June 28, 2021
New York Post further reported that the “custom ranch” on 3.2 rural acres featured a private airplane hangar with a studio apartment above it and access to a community runway for small airplanes:
“The three-bedroom, two-bath house, about 30 minutes from Atlanta, has an indoor swimming pool and a separate ‘RV shop’ that can accommodate the repair of a mobile home or small aircraft, according to the real estate listing.
“The Peach State retreat was purchased in January 2020 for $415,000, two years after the publication of Khan-Cullors’ best-selling memoir, ‘When They Call You a Terrorist.’”
Shaun King is qualified to lead BLM at the executive level now that Patrisse Khan-Cullors has stepped down.
What do they both have in common?
They got rich pretending to care about blacks, only to go drop tons of cash on luxury properties in predominantly white neighborhoods. https://t.co/yS3fBHAekR
— Suburban Black Man 🇺🇸 (@goodblackdude) July 31, 2021
According to an investigation by the Washington Examiner, two activists who were supposed to assume senior leadership at BLM after Khan-Cullors’ resignation left abruptly in September, claiming that they never took the jobs due to disagreements with the group’s “acting Leadership Council.”
The activists — Makani Themba and Monifa Bandele — reportedly also told the Washington Examiner they don’t know who now leads the nation’s most influential social justice organization and refused to disclose who served on the Council.
I think we need a grand jury..
— Denver morgan (@morgan_denver) January 28, 2022
The Washington Examiner reported:
“No one appears to have been in charge at Black Lives Matter for months.
CharityWatch Executive Director Laurie Styron told Washington Examiner that BLM was like a floating treasure ship:
“Like a giant ghost ship full of treasure drifting in the night with no captain, no discernible crew, and no clear direction.”
How did BLM become a charity?
The Washington Examiner reported:
“BLM was not a charity in its own right for much of 2020, a year in which it received a windfall of cash from big corporations and individual donors spurred by the police killing of George Floyd and the nationwide riots that followed.
“Rather, BLM spent most of the year essentially borrowing the charitable status of two other California-based charities, Thousand Currents and the Tides Foundation, which served as BLM’s fiscal sponsors.
“But the IRS granted BLM tax-exempt status in December 2020, enabling the group to operate as a charity independent of its former fiscal sponsors.
“And Thousand Currents reported in its most recent audited financial statements that it transferred $66.5 million directly into BLM’s coffers in October 2020.”
— BLACK LIVES MATTER GEORGIA (@BLMGEORGIA_) February 14, 2022
Other similar-sounding groups are still on the AmazonSmile charity list, including Black Lives Matter Georgia, which may be impacted by BLM’s negative press.
“Black Lives Matter Georgia assists families and businesses invested in the deactivation of systemic racism endured by all people of color.
“Black Lives Matter Georgia is an official non-profit organization recognized by the state of Georgia and the Federal Government.
“We identify as a peaceful, non-violent movement. The premise behind our existence is to stop the violence against People of color through advocacy, leadership development, and initiatives geared toward community education and safety.
“We Support various programs, and we are currently developing programs to support better community relations with the high school youths and police.”
Fuck your rules### pic.twitter.com/tpvb73uJ7P
— BLACK LIVES MATTER GEORGIA (@BLMGEORGIA_) November 23, 2021
On AmazonSmile, Black Lives Matter Georgia requests face masks, food, water, cleaning supplies and gift cards.
In addition, it notes the fortunate must “pay a price” and help the less fortunate:
“Those who have the opportunity to serve others freely and personally should see this good fortune as grounds for humility.
“The practice of humility will strengthen their will to be of service.
“No one should take for granted their own advantages over others in health, talents, abilities, success, a happy childhood or congenial home conditions.
“One must pay a price for all these boons. What one owes in return is a special responsibility for others’ lives.”
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