More evidence of Amazon's widespread worker surveillance program and the company's use of the Pinkerton spy agency has emerged in Spain.
El Diario reported on Monday that Amazon spied on workers planning an October 30, 2019 strike at its BCN1 warehouse in Barcelona. To spy on workers, the outlet reported, Amazon called on the Pinkertons, who subcontracted the job in Catalonia to a local firm named Castor & Polux. A retired police officer, Antonio Giménez Raso, was named as a "police liaison" between Castor & Polux and the Catalonia police force, Mossos d'Esquadra.
The Barcelona strike took place days before another strike in Poland that Motherboard reported was infiltrated by Pinkerton operatives working for Amazon.
Castor & Polux’s report on the BCN1 warehouse, obtained by El Diario, is a detailed 51-page document featuring secretly-taken photographs of the strikers and their faces, as well as extensive comments collected from trade unionists, workers, and journalists reporting on the strike. The document also mentions a reporter who interviewed workers, prompting the agents to search for her vehicle, record the license plate and model, and take photographs of it.
Amazon did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment. A spokesperson told el Diario that Amazon did not direct the Pinkertons or its affiliates to spy on the strike.
The Pinkertons are infamous for a long bloody history of frustrating labor organizing in the late nineteenth century, going so far as to kill striking workers, conduct sabotage and espionage, and infiltrate organizing efforts with agent provocateurs. In 1893, Congress passed the Anti-Pinkerton Act, forbidding the government from contracting with private detectives. The Pinkertons have spent the 100-plus years adapting, however, and are still widely used by private companies for worker surveillance as well as anticipate and protect corporate clients from violence sparked by climate change.
This is not the first time the Catalonian firm and Giménez Raso have been thrust in the spotlight for spying. In 2013, both were implicated in a court case surrounding attempts by the Spanish government to crush the pro-independence movement in Catalonia and spy on its supporters. Julian Peribanez, the founder of Castor & Pollux, was accused of being involved by witnesses in the 2014 corruption trial as was Gimenez Raso.
The Workers Commission—Spain's largest trade union—has moved to take legal action against Amazon and the Castor & Pollux firm for spying on striking workers at the BCN1 warehouse.
"These are practices typical of the first half of the last century that violate fundamental rights," said Manolo Fages, the general secretary of the Federation of Citizen Services branch of the trade union, in a statement to El Dairio.
Actions by Amazon and Castor & Polux, the Workers Commission alleges, violate not only the right to strike and freedom of association, but also the right to privacy, protection of data of the workers, and of union delegates of the company.
The union is also pursuing options in Barcelona's special courts such as having a judge force Amazon and Castor & Polux to hand over documents related to the strike, its surveillance, and any follow-up reports. Another concern the union is raising beyond Amazon or Castor & Polux interfering with the right to strike is that it is illegal in Barcelona for detective investigations to, as an objective, interfere with "an exercise of a fundamental right" nor are they allowed to obtain information from activities that violate such exercises.
"We are not willing to allow practices that we believed were already outdated and that go against basic standards both at the labor level and with regard to people's privacy," added Fages.