In the midst of Amazon's record layoffs, corporate employees of the company float a forbidden word: Union
- Amazon is undergoing the largest corporate layoffs in its history, reportedly shedding 10,000 employees.
- Job cuts, and a lack of communication from leadership, have sent many employees into a tailspin of anxiety.
Earlier this week, in an absence of communication from leadership, employees gathered in a Slack channel to share information on which divisions had been affected by layoffs, as well as cobble together a "Safe List" of divisions that had seemingly been spared. That channel garnered nearly 20,000 members before Amazon shut down users' ability to post anonymously, effectively killing it.
Some employees urged their colleagues to migrate the discussion to a public Discord server with roughly 1,400 members as of Thursday morning. There, a small group of corporate employees have been openly discussing the pros and cons of labor activism, including organizing into a union.
"The only way to have any job security is through organizing," wrote one worker.
Amazon has been fighting a major effort to unionize its warehouse workers. Though only one warehouse has successfully voted to unionize, organizing efforts are active in at least seven Amazon locations. The company's corporate work force, which includes higher paid engineers and other technical roles, have previously staged large-scale protests sparked by climate issues and Amazon's treatment of warehouse workers in the pandemic. And now, with about 10,000 corporate jobs on the line, union activism is picking up here, too.
Members of the Discord group have brought up the Alphabet Workers Union, a minority union representing roughly 1,000 Alphabet employees and affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, as a possible model. When some workers expressed fear that Amazon would fire employees calling for a union, others posted links to labor law specifying that retaliating against workers for engaging in workplace organizing is illegal and reminded colleagues that two Amazon employees illegally fired for their activism received a settlement payment.
The number of employees discussing organizing is small, but the fact that they are doing so openly – though largely anonymously – is a surprising development at a company renowned for its aggressive stance against labor activism. Amazon is fighting hard against multiple union drives at its warehouses, and has previously suppressed union activity at call centers and among facilities technicians.
"Tech will never unionize," one worker wrote, to which another responded, "Keep in mind, the same was said about the original labor movements."
"We know what happens if we do nothing," another worker wrote.
Work at Amazon? Got a tip? Contact reporter Katherine Long via phone or the encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-206-375-9280), or email (email@example.com).
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