A team within Amazon's Global Security Operation Center, which includes former military intelligence analysts, according to LinkedIn, closely tracks organized labor and union activity in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia—noting where organized labor groups are strongest and could influence Amazon workers.
A second type of report written by Amazon intelligence analysts, called the Monthly Business Review, is broken down into sections by region detailing "highlights" and "lowlights" from each month, and how Amazon handled various threats to its operations spotted by the intelligence team that month. Amazon described its use of Pinkerton spies in this type of report. In the same report that mentioned the Pinkertons, an analyst explained that after receiving intelligence that then-UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had plans to visit an Amazon warehouse, known as DXS1, in Sheffield, Yorkshire in late November 2019, Amazon sent in security officers and members of its Security & Loss Prevention team to monitor the site. In a speech, Corbyn promised workers outside the Amazon warehouse that he would "tackle wage and cheat culture" at multinational corporations in the United Kingdom.
Another set of reports, known as "peak-risk assessments," document threats to Amazon between Black Friday and the end of the year. It has become typical for workers across Europe to stage mass strikes against Amazon between Black Friday and Christmas, when Amazon workers experience the highest injury rates and the workload becomes especially grueling.'Peak season' documents obtained by Motherboard list all potential events that could impact Amazon operations. During this time, Amazon creates lists of dates, times, and the number of participants for protests planned in each country in Europe where Amazon operates, data seemingly gathered from events pages on social media.
Stefan Clauwaert, a legal and human rights advisor at the European Trade Union Confederation, told Motherboard that Amazon's intelligence activities could potentially violate EU data collection laws and labor conventions and standards outlined by the UN's International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Council of Europe's European Social Charter, both of which guarantee workers the freedom to associate with unions as well as the right to organize and collectively bargain. The European Union's 2018 data privacy law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, requires companies to disclose their collection and usage of personal data—and explain why the data is being collected."In the EU, we have regulations which protect workers and trade unions," said Clauwaret. "I can envision many legal avenues for actions against Amazon for these activities, many more than exist in the United States. But what we need to do now is make noise to our bodies about the violations and what Amazon is doing." In addition to Chaibi, five other members of the European Parliament, including Emmanuel Maurel of France, Marie Toussaint of France, Younous Omarjee of France, Brando Benifei of Italy, and Manon Aubry of France who signed onto the October letter to Bezos criticizing Amazon's surveillance of workers, responded to the documents obtained by Motherboard with strong disapproval. "Amazon's systemic use of military surveillance methods against unionists and activists is deeply alarming," said Aubry, who is also a senior member of France's France Insoumise, France's main radical left party. "Amazon and Jeff Bezos act as if they were above the law because they have accumulated unprecedented levels of wealth and power. This has to stop.""We already knew that the world within Bezos' [empire] is a world of social suffering and environmental destruction," Toussaint, another member of European Parliament, said. "Now, it becomes clear that this is also a world with no democracy."
Hoffman, president of UNI Global Union, which represents more than 20 million trade union workers around the world, says that Amazon's use of anti-union tactics common in the United States in Europe and around the world is creating a global human rights crisis. "Most American companies that try to succeed in Europe have adapted to the fact that there are strong unions here. Those that haven't, such as Walmart and Toy R' Us have left. But Amazon is an outlier," she said. "This isn’t the way companies operate in Europe—ignoring the law, spying on workers, using every page of the US union busting playbook, as if they don’t have enough power and money on their own. They need to know they're not going to get away with that in Europe."
Do you work for Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center or have a tip to share with us about Amazon’s surveillance of labor or social movements? We’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch with the author of this article by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or on Signal 201-897-2109.