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February 9, 2022 23 mins

In this episode we take a look at various Amazon scandals that don’t fit in anywhere else, but within their own collection of shame.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon
customer because you guys paid progress. You guys paid problems.
This is Megacorp, an investigative podcast exposing some of the
world's most unethical corporations. This series is about Amazon. I'm

(00:22):
Jake Hanrahan, journalists and documentary filmmaker. Megacorp is produced by
H eleven for Cool Zone Media. So in this series
we've gone from the Amazon warehouse, to the Amazon picket line,

(00:43):
to the Amazon accounts office, to the Amazon Spine operations,
and then to the Amazon sort of space mission. Now,
in between all of that there are several various scandals
that haven't quite fit into their own episode. So today
this is a sort of amalgamation of various Amazon madness,

(01:04):
a patchwork quilt of disgrace if you like. So, first
let's take a look at Amazon in Germany, where in
they were accused of hiring security guards with neo Nazi
connections in a bid to intimidate foreign workers. Amazon punk

(01:24):
endersty effect Senans Can Diets in Dudgeland, Germany's a r
D t V channel made a documentary allegend the Amazon
hired security personnel from Germany's Hess Security. It claimed that
the guards were tasked with keeping order at the hostels
and budget hotels where foreign Amazon workers stayed. The documentary

(01:50):
showed guards in all black with military boots, searching the
bedrooms and the kitchens of the foreign staff. One of
the foreign workers said that the security men lie to them,
telling them that they were actually the police. Another said
she was thrown out of her hostel by the security
for drying her wet clothes on a wall eater. The

(02:11):
security men were apparently aggressive and intimidating. So what is
HESS Security well? A r D said that Hess Security
was run by a man named U E. L and
apparently he has ties to football hooligan firms in Germany
and convicted neo Nazis who are quote known to police.

(02:32):
A I D says the name of HESS Security is
even a slight noder to a leading member of the
World War two Iran Nazi Party, Rudolph Hess. They say
it stands for Hencell European Security Services. From an independent
article about the HES security situation. In regards to the

(02:53):
treatment of Amazon workers, A r D said the following quote.
Amazon's temporary staff worked eight hour shifts packing goods at
the company's logistics centers in bad Hrstfeld, Constants and Augsburg.
Many walked up to seventeen kilometers per shift, and all
those taken on could be fired at will. On arrival

(03:15):
in Germany, most were told their pay had been cut
to below the rate promised when they applied for the
jobs at Amazon. End quote. Amazon denied that they directly
hired hair security, saying quote, although the security firm was
not contracted by Amazon, we are of course currently examining

(03:35):
the allegations concerning the behavior of security guards and will
take the appropriate measures immediately. We do not tolerate discrimination
or intimidation. End quote. Just as a side note here,
I would argue that they do kind of tolerate intimidation
because they literally trained people on how to act like
spies in a bid to union bust. But anyway, according

(03:59):
to d W News, the security firm was contracted by
an employment agency, not Amazon directly. However, the accommodation where
they were was full of temporary Amazon workers from outside
of Germany, brought in to deal with the Christmas rush.
Most of them were brought in from Spain. One of

(04:20):
these workers, a woman named Sylvia, said quote, it's like
being in a machine, and we are just a small
part of this machine. End quote. A spokesman for the
German United Services Union said, quote, they don't see any
way of complaining. They're all too frightened of being sent
home without a job end quote. Now, you could argue

(04:44):
that Amazon has some responsibility for the security seen as
they asked the employment agency to provide them with workers
and their workers were staying at the place where this
security was. Also, you could say, to be fair to Amazon,
they said they would investigate and they didn't personally contact

(05:05):
has security. But this is just another example of what
can happen when human beings are treated. There's nothing more
than flesh robots for the warehouse floor. Proper checks were
clearly not carried out, likely simply due to the fact
that profit was all that mattered, and as we've learned
in this series, Amazon often doesn't look out for its workers.

(05:30):
This is reflected on the ground in Germany more recently also,
as workers there went on strike in November one to
protest wages and work conditions. Unions They're said Amazon has
failed to meet industry standards when it comes to the
wage rights. A union rep there said, quote is unacceptable

(05:50):
that a multinational corporation worth billions earns itself silly and
yet refuses to give its employees the wage increases the
other companies in the industry repay their colleagues. End quote. Yeah,
I agree with that guy. That's kind of what this
whole series is trying to get at. Amazon employees almost
thirty thou people in Germany and plans to build more

(06:13):
warehouses there in the future. In November, there was a
staff walk out in Leipzig and at two sides in
Bad Hersfeld, which is also where the foreign workers harassed
by her security were working. This was yet another account
of workers being mistreated directly by Amazon or via proxy

(06:33):
of the people that employed them to work for them,
as we've seen many such cases. Now we're going to
go from foreign Amazon workers harassed in Germany the mysterious
Amazon workers on Twitter. This is actually kind of mad

(06:54):
and it really shows how potentially devious Amazon is. So Basically,
in March one, as many Amazon workers in the US
state of Alabama voted to form a union, some Amazon
workers took to Twitter to say how much they loved Amazon.
They were a group of so called Amazon FC ambassadors

(07:17):
Fulfillment Center ambassadors. They were generally starting off by tweeting
what was a template sort of message with an image
of themselves, saying things like this, quote my name is Leo,
I'm an Amazon ambassador and rebin at Jack's two. Any
questions about the FC, just ask. I'm also into riding motorcycles,

(07:42):
the beach and slash or pool. I'm retired public service Newark,
n J c R seven support Portugal National Soccer Club
and Sporting Football Club end quote. Or there's Michelle, the
Amazon FC ambassador. She tweeted, quote, I I am Michelle.
I am a Pick ambassador and trainer at b F

(08:05):
I four in Kent, Washington. If you have any questions
about what it is like to work at an FC,
feel free to ask me. I am passionate about my
family and love to cook, bake, and garden. It gives
me peace. End quote. Then it led to things like this.
One user named FC Dalla began to speak out against

(08:28):
the Amazon unions. She said, quote what bothers me most
about unions is there's no ability to opt out of jews.
Amazon takes great care of me. End quote. That was
quite weird to say. Is seen as Dalla claimed to
be based in Alabama, where reported by the BBC, it's
actually illegal to have a union without a jew's opt

(08:51):
out option. Another user named Burt, who said he worked
at the Okay for Amazon warehouse, tweeted, quote unions are
good for some companies, but I don't want to have
to shell out hundreds a month just for lawyers. End quote. Now,
it just so happened that Burt's display picture on Twitter
was actually a guy from a YouTube comedy group called

(09:14):
Dude Perfect. They have almost sixty million subscribers. A short
while after these anti union tweets were sent out, it
was noticed online that some of the Amazon FC ambassadors
suddenly changed their names. So the quote we just read
about Michelle was actually now from an account called Sarah

(09:35):
at Amazon FC. Sarah, as first reported by a journalist
Karen Weiss, Rick, became James, Leo became Sierra, and Michelle
became Sarah. So what's going on? Well, as you've probably
clocked by and now, these were not real people. These
were fake accounts set up to smear unions, made to

(09:55):
look as if they were the opinions of genuine workers
at Amazon. The BBC wrote about this and they contacted
Amazon to ask about these fake accounts, of which there
were many, but Amazon didn't respond. Now, I don't think
it takes a genius to realize who the most probable
company behind them is fake accounts. Aside, Amazon actually pays

(10:19):
real workers to do this online. These workers are paid
to promote and defend Amazon on Twitter, these name changing
accounts I just mentioned, though they weren't even real in
the end that Twitter had to suspend many of these
fake accounts as they broke the spam and platform manipulation rules. Now,

(10:40):
if it was Amazon who was behind these fake accounts,
which personally I believe it almost definitely was, everything points
towards them. They even actually pay workers to do this
without them being fake accounts. If it was them, I
think this really shows how unbelievably dishonest and devious Amazon
can be when it comes to busting unions. They do

(11:02):
not want their workers organized, and they don't want them
to make a better working environment for themselves. That much
is clear to me. At least. A way to play
the long game to stop workers organizing unions could be
to basically coach people from young that unions are no good. Now,

(11:23):
how could Amazon. Do that you ask, We'll have to
listen to this. In Could John High School in the
US state of California began offering a Amazon Logistics and
Business Management pathway courts. This was reported first by Vice's

(11:45):
motherboard writers Aaron Gordon and Lauren Kori Girley. They described
the course as quotes, a first of its kind series
of courses intended to help students get a head start
in a career. In the gistics end quote, Amazon donated
fifty dollars to kick start the course. You could argue

(12:08):
that that's not a donation and simply a payment or
a bribe provided to the school to get them teaching
and Amazon business syllabus, but I'm not saying that now.
If you didn't think this was starting to sound a
bit weird before, get this. The classroom where this Amazon
Business courses being taught was redecorated, painted in Amazon's signature

(12:29):
yellow branding and with Amazon's Leader principles written on the walls.
Those are customer obsession bias for action deliver results. So
you go into class in an Amazon colored room with
their odd catchphrases written all over the walls. Customer obsession

(12:52):
bias for action deliver results. Sounds like a really weird
business cult. To get a better idea of what's going
on with the Amazon Logistics and business management pathway, course,
I spoke to Lauren Cotory Gurley about the article that

(13:15):
she co wrote about this. You had this scoop recently.
I can only describe it as like an Amazon indoctrination
kind of course in a school. Maybe you can explain
to us all about this article, you know you recently wrote,
and the kind of ins and outs of it what
it actually is. Sure so. UM About a year ago,

(13:39):
I came across, UM, of course, a program that Amazon
was launching at a high school in southern California in
the Inland Empire, which we can talk about later, but
it's near Los Angeles. Uh, there's a big Amazon presence,
UM and in the program was specifically to prepare students

(13:59):
to UM for work in the logistics industry, so for
warehouse work. UM. You know, we know knew Amazon sort
of had STEM sponsorship programs and high schools and middle
schools around the country, but this is the first time
UM there had been sort of a program specifically about
preparing a very young workforce for warehouse work. UM. And

(14:22):
this is in an area where there is a ton
of warehouse jobs. UM. And so we ended up floying
UM the school district and this is where this high
school is located. It's called cohone High School UM to
see sort of what we could get about the class
UM and we got a couple of uh, what would

(14:43):
we call like syllabi um for two courses that are
currently going on at this high school. The program is
called Amazon Logistics and Business Management Pathway. And the two
courses that we got ahold of the syllabi for were
Business Management and Entrepreneurship and Global Logistics and Concepts. And

(15:04):
I guess I would just start off by saying that
Amazon did not design these courses. We talked to the
school district, and the school district told us that they
did not play a role in designing it. But they
are sort of a partner in this, uh in this program,
and they are sort of oversee it. So they provided
a load of money though right, like fifty grand I

(15:24):
think it would, yeah, fifty grand. They donated fifty grand UM.
And this this is all going on in a in
a classroom that is um painted with Amazon's leadership principle.
So we have some photos in the article if you
look at it, but UH it says customer session bias
for action deliver results like on the classroom walls. UM.

(15:47):
Amazon UH is very UM customer centric, as your listeners
probably already know. But sort of the models like do
anything for the customer, UM. And so yeah, the students
I learn in a classroom with UH these UM these
things written on the walls, right, So so tell us
about the syllabus of the courses. So the first course,

(16:08):
the Management and Entrepreneurship course UM has is just like
sort of pretty standard I think for what you would
get in like a class like this in high school.
But UM, there's a there's a section on motivating employees,
a very large section motivating employees where they talk about
UM Frederick Taylor and scientific management, which is sort of

(16:31):
like Frederick Taylor was an industrialist UM and during the
Industrial Revolution who sort of developed ways of streamlining work
processes in order to maximize the productivity of workers with
a stopwatch. This is very similar to sort of Amazon's
practices today where they're just constantly trying to find new
ways to squeeze productivity and and and and you know,

(16:54):
profit in other words, out of out of their workers.
UM students are also learning about Maslow those hierarchy of needs,
which is interesting because Muzzle's hierarchy needs like sort of
teaches you that people will UM sort of sacrifice like
I don't know, their own personal fulfillment or mental health
for basic physical needs if they need to. UM. There's

(17:17):
a section on mergers and acquisitions where they ask students
why our mergers and acquisitions important to a company's overall growth?
UM sort of a section on Uber actually where UM
they talk about like sort of things that Uber has
done wrong and they say what can Uber do to
ensure its competitors are not chipping away at its dominant

(17:39):
market share as a result of such bad press. So
it's very much like UM a course that was designed
for from the perspective of someone wants to go into business. UM.
There's another course that UM that we had the curriculum

(18:00):
for which goes on to have called about global supply chains,
and there's a large section on Amazon. UM. It goes
through Amazon's history, it's vision um sort of its impact
on e commerce globally, and it's just found the language
that they're using you can tell that this is very
pro Amazon. Um, it's described as exciting and why people

(18:22):
should be excited to join these industry. Oh and then
as both as part of this entire program, the stab
I say that like students have to take a participate
in an internship and the place they suggest the internship
being is at an Amazon warehouse. Um so um, yeah,

(18:43):
so it's it's it's not like Amazon played a central
role in designing the course, but clearly they are very much,
you know, involved in this because they're trying to prepare
the future generations of their warehouse workers sort of give
them a tay east of or like have their first
experiences with Amazon b ones like these. Um, and just

(19:06):
want to note that, yeah, your listeners probably know, but
Amazon has a long record of of union besting and
being anti union and so it's it's ironic too, and
it's it's very warring to a lot of people to
have young people have their first you know experience of
like what is a labor union coming from a company
that is extremely anti labor. I think it raises a

(19:29):
lot of questions for for the community and for people
who are um, you know, activists in this area. Roughly
like what kind of age group the students that were
in this class. Currently there are ninety four students who
are in this class and they're um, I think mostly
uh sophomores, juniors, and seniors, so they're like sixty and

(19:53):
eighteen years old. Um. And it's unclear this course was
designed in partnership with a with a state college and
a community college is unclear whether Like I asked the
school and as district, it was like, do a lot
of students go on how many of your students go
on to work in Amazon warehouses it? Or do they
go off to college or sort of what? Um, where

(20:14):
are a student? Like are they preparing students directly warehouse
work or what? And they didn't. I couldn't provide any statistics,
but I do know in in the Inland Empire, a
lot of people working in Amazon warehouses are college students
trying to get through college. To me, if it was
like kind of like subversive feudalism, you know what I mean,
like putting the seed in there from really early, like

(20:35):
everybody should be a part of Amazon, Like it does
feel kind of creepy to me. I mean, what do
you work? Oh yeah, I mean I think that's totally
a part of it. Like companies, and this is not
just true of Amazon, like companies want to I mean,
like look at like Instagram trying to make Instagram for
like babies or like children or something like they want to, um,

(20:56):
create a relationship, or like banks wanting young people to
open up bank accounts, they want to create relationship with you,
like as early as possible. Um. There's actually and I
don't know a ton about this either, but there are
these things called Bezos Academies, which are preschools that are
popping up all over the country over the past few months.
There's some in Florida, Texas, Washington State. UM. Besas Academy

(21:20):
starting when you can't even read yet. So we've got
the ironically named Amazon principles being taught in the warehouse,
on social media and now even in some schools. I'm
not saying rich business people shouldn't invest in education. I
think the opposite is true. They definitely should if they

(21:41):
want to. However, when you look at who Bezos is,
what he believes in, and how his company treats its workers,
I think we need to take a step back and
consider what the Amazon long game is in the next
episode of Megacorp, we're going to be digging into who
Jeff Bezos actually is. Is the richest man on earth,

(22:04):
the founder of Amazon, and much much more. Megacorp is
made by my production company H eleven for Cool Zone Media.
It's written, researched, and produced by myself, Jake Hanrahan. It
was also produced by Sophie Lichtman. Music is by Some Black,

(22:26):
graphics by Adam Doyle and sound engineering by Splicing Block.
If you want to get in touch, follow me on
social media at Jake Underscore Hanrahan. That's h A N
A A h A n
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