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March 9, 2022 21 mins

In this final episode of Megacorp we take a look back at all the scandal at the heart of Amazon that we’ve learned about through this series. For anyone not in the know, this can be their “too long didn’t read” introduction to everything we’ve uncovered throughout Megacorp.

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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 probs.
This is megaco 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 this is the
final installment of Megacorp. For this series, at least over

(00:45):
the past twelve episodes, we've dug into almost every Amazon scandal.
There is dangerous working conditions, union busting, spin on customers,
and much much more. This series has been very information dents.
So for the final episode here, I'm going to recap
everything we've learned and take a look at what people

(01:08):
might want to do now they have all this information.
You can maybe use this last episode as a primer
to get people interested in listening to the whole of megacorps.
Or you could use it as a too long, didn't
read version. It's up to you anyway. Let's go back
to episode one. We heard about the mistreatment of warehouse

(01:31):
workers at Amazon, where they're worked off their feet. As
we mentioned then, Amazon warehouse workers are paid around seventeen
dollars an hour in the US and around fourteen pounds
an hour in the UK. For these wages, employees will
often work ten to twelve hour shifts, constantly on their feet,

(01:52):
where they're expected to hit never ending targets. A package
must be dealt with every thirty seconds. If you're working
as a pick you're expected to process three hundred items
per hour. You've given nine seconds to take each item
from a robot that delivers shelf upon shelf of Amazon packages.
Staff are constantly filmed in the warehouse as they work,

(02:14):
and their toilet breaks are even time. Workers get two
fifteen minute breaks, much of which can be taken up
by just walking to the toilet through the vast expanse
of the warehouse. People often fall asleep standing up will
become injured at work. Leak documents revealed in the New

(02:36):
York Staten Island Amazon Warehouse reported injuries over three times
the industry average. To put that into context, the injury
percentages at the Amazon warehouse will worse than its steel
refineries and sawmills all over the world. Workers have voiced
anger at these horrific working conditions, so as any of

(03:00):
this changed in a few months we've been doing this series.
The short answer is no. There have been some victories
for unions here and there, but Amazon continues in its
mission to crush them. Workers are exhausted, overworked, and in
my opinion, are often treated like flesh robots on a
warehouse floor. For that, Amazon managers now remember Bezos is

(03:24):
worth an estimated one and seventy seven billion dollars, and
on working conditions at Amazon, he has said quote, I'm
very proud of our working conditions end quote. After twelve
episodes of research for this that quote rings even more
tone death for me than it did at episode one,

(03:46):
especially when you consider how sinister some of Amazon's union
busting techniques have been, which we covered in episode two.
If you remember, we covered how in and internal and
union Amazon video was leaked onto the internet. The video
is essentially a training guide on how to stop workers unionizing.

(04:09):
This video was sent to managers at the company Whole
Foods amidst the initial stages of worker organization around June.
Whole food was brought out by Amazon in seventeen for
thirteen point seven billion dollars. The anti union video is

(04:30):
forty five minutes long, and it's split up into six
different parts. The whole thing is animated. It takes place
in a two D Amazon warehouse, where the narrator says,
the purpose of the video is quote specifically designed to
give you the tools that you need for success when
it comes to labor organizing end quote. Now there's something

(04:51):
quite all well and in the way this video portrays itself.
As we said before, it's essentially a guide that Amazon
is created to help recognize when workers unions are beginning
to form, but not so they can help them. It's
so they can stop them. Yet the language used in
the video acts as if it's somehow an ally of
the workers. When they say they're helping give companies the

(05:13):
tools they need for success when it comes to labor organizing,
what they mean by success is basically crushing the unions.
Amazon is training and encouraging workers to literally spy on
each other. They suggest monitor in their behavior, their clothes,
and even what words they use to try and work

(05:34):
out if they're involved in union organizing or not. The
video goes as farmers to suggest that managers second guess
the motivations of the workers by watching to see if
anything changes in their behavior, even if they have not
said anything regarding unionizing. So I think it's safe to
say that the Amazon warehouse and anyone unionize in there

(05:58):
is not in the healthiest place to be working if
you want some level of autonomy in the workplace. So
what about the health and safety. Well in episode three
we covered that too now. As we noted back then,
in twenty the UK's GMB trade union obtained figures that

(06:22):
showed injury rates weren't improving and we're perhaps getting worse.
More than fifty of the country's Amazon warehouses. GMB used
the Freedom of Information Act to get hold of the
figures that showed the dire situation of warehouse safety. In fact,
as cited in a Guardian article, in three years leading

(06:43):
up to twenty, more than six hundred Amazon workers have
been seriously injured at UK warehouses. That's an average of
two hundred plus Amazon workers a year sustaining what's classed
as quote serious injury in the workplace. In the UK,
the annual total of Amazon warehouse injuries was one hundred

(07:04):
and fifty two. In the years twenty sixteen to twenty seventeen,
it went up to two hundred and thirty in twenty eighteen,
and then up again to two hundred and forty in
twenty nineteen. One study by the Strategic Organizing Center the
s o C shows that workers more likely to be

(07:25):
injured at Amazon warehouses than in any other warehouse in
that industry. They're also more likely to be injured more
frequently at Amazon warehouses, even more severely. So basically, if
you work in warehouses for a living, you are way
more likely to catch a severe injury working for Amazon

(07:46):
than any other of their competitors. So Amazon's warehouse work
is borderline oppressive and even dangerous. When workers want to
unionize to try and change some of this, Amazon truly
encourages other employees to spy on them in a bid
to crush the union. So why is Amazon so underhanded? Honestly,

(08:10):
at this stage, my best guess is quite simply because
profit over everything. As we already know, Bezos is the
richest man on earth. It's not like his business is
struggling either. As we mentioned in episode four, in twenty twenty,
Amazon made forty four billion euros in sales income in Europe.

(08:33):
That's thirty eight billion pounds and fifty billion dollars they
didn't pay any corporation tax on this. Corporation tax is
paid by businesses in the UK, and it's calculated on
their annual profits in a similar way to income tax
for individuals. The corporation tax rate has been for all

(08:55):
limited companies since April. Prior to this, the rate very
dependent on the company's profits. Unlike individuals, companies don't receive
any kind of tax free allowance and therefore all profits
are taxable. However, there are a number of expenses and
deductions that can be claimed to reduce your bill. Either way,

(09:17):
Amazon should pay their way like everyone else has to. Now,
as I stated before, I am not a big fan
of any state, and I'm certainly not a fan of
my government here in the UK. But this is just
the way things are. If you're a mega rich company
making money under these conditions, you should have to pay
the proper tax under these conditions. Why well, because if you,

(09:40):
or me, or your average man and woman earning normal
money on the street don't pay their taxes, we get
sent to prison. Now, your average man or woman is
not rich enough to hire top of the range accountants
firms that help you dodge at tax Amazon is. I
say this because what they're doing is actually perfectly legal. Now.

(10:01):
I don't know about you, but for me, that makes
it all the more frustrating. Europe has become a playground
for mega corporations. They're able to do acrobatics with their
tax payments because they can afford to make it work
for them. Meanwhile, companies like Amazon willingly abused their most
important workers, whilst paying as little as possible back into

(10:23):
the countries they make money off of. If all this
wasn't bad enough, we went on to discover in episode
five and six that Amazon is also spying on everybody too.
So we asked the question, is Amazon spying on you?
We took a look at several of their products and
the answer was a resounding yes they are. First, we

(10:46):
looked at their smart speakers. In nineteen, it emerged that
Amazon employees have been listening to voice recordings captured via
Amazon's Echo smart speaker in consumers homes and offices. This
wasn't a couple of rogue employees either. Amazon literally hired
thousands of people to do this. Their job was to

(11:07):
not only listen to what you're saying, but to also
transcribe and annotate it. They then feed it back into
the software with the aim of apparently helping Alexa understand
voice commands more effectively. Either way, they're listening to your
conversations and they're writing them down. This raises extremely serious

(11:28):
questions about a citizens personal privacy, and trust me, it
gets a lot worse. Reported by Forbes, the people tasked
with listening to your conversations quote required to record the data,
whether the device has been activated on purpose or not.
End quote. So by buying an Amazon Echo, you've essentially

(11:51):
invited an employee of Amazon to listen into your private conversations,
whether you've given Alexa a command or not. If Big
Brother is always watching, it's clear now that Amazon is
always listening. If the people hired to listen, in record,
and annotate conversations in your home via the Amazon Echo

(12:13):
here private data such as your bank details, they're told
to just market down as quote critical data and move on.
Let's just hope every single one of the thousands of
people Amazon employed to do this honest and didn't steal
anyone's details. Next, we looked at Amazon's home security devices. Specifically,

(12:37):
Ring Ring is a home security company owned by Amazon.
They bought it in eighteen for one billion dollars, and
millions of people across the world used the technology. Ring
provides a line of WiFi connected security cameras for your home.
You've likely seen footage of Ring doorbell security systems online.

(12:58):
Is basically you usually a little camera in the doorbell
or wherever they put it in their house, and it
allows the home owner to see what's going on outside
before they open the door or inside. For example, if
you want to keep an eye on your kids as
they're playing through the WiFi, you can pull Ring up
on your phone or your tablet, or your laptop or whatever.

(13:20):
In nineteen it was reported that hackers had built themselves
dedicated software for hacking into Amazon's Ring security cameras. It
becomes clear how funked up this is when looking at
a story from Mississippi in the US, where it was
discovered that hackers had managed to get into a Ring
security camera placed in the bedroom of three young girls,

(13:44):
one of them was just eight years old. The hacker
managed to take control of the Ring security camera, playing
music through its speaker as the young girl has played
in their room. The hacker played the song Tiptoe through
the tulips, and when one of the young girls asked
who was there, the hacker replied, quote, it's Santa, It's

(14:06):
your best friend. End quote. If that wasn't bad enough,
it was later discovered that rings own employees have been
improperly accessing rings user video data. It doesn't stop with
the home security systems either. We learned that Amazon had
been allowing law enforcement to use customers home security systems,

(14:28):
specifically the ring doorbells to access video footage in the
wake of the George Floyd riots across the US. They've
also been building huge systems for America's CIA of Britain's
g C h Q After that. This brings us to

(14:52):
episode seven, where we looked into Jeff bezos trips to
near space aboard his Blue Origin projects. Blue Origin, the
Bazos commercial space company, stresses that to keep costs down,
their rockets are all about reusability. Well, actually, when we
looked into it, according to the two World Inequality Report,

(15:14):
one space flight amidst more carbon dioxide than most of
the world's population creates in their entire lifetime. To me,
knowing that, it seems a bit ironic for Blue Origin
to be talking about paving the way to a brighter
future for our kids, as they do when their very
own m oh of regular commercial space flights will possibly

(15:34):
destroy the Earth's environment quicker. Now, whilst Blue Origin says
it wants to make commercial space travel cheap, they don't
mean the same kind of cheap as the way most
people understand it cheap to me, for example, is say
thirty pence for a point of milk. My point is
the people who will be taking these space flights will

(15:54):
almost definitely already be very very rich. For their michere
might be cheap, but for your average man and woman
on the street, Blue Origins space trips will be completely
and utterly unobtainable. So in theory, whilst these rich people
are flying around like the Jetsons claiming to be advancing society,

(16:15):
for us, your everyday man and woman are getting blasted
in the long run with unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide
build up in the atmosphere. Now why does that matter, Well,
if there's too much carbon dioxide, the Earth gets too hot.
If the Earth gets too hot, we are all completely fucked.
The oceans will go toxic, food will become scarce, crops

(16:38):
won't grow, and brutal climate wars will undoubtedly erupt. Carbon
dioxide levels have been steadily rising on Earth for the
past one hundred years now, hitting levels that scientists say
have been unprecedented for hundreds of thousands over years. So
we already reckoned the shop due to excessive pollution, and

(16:59):
now the rich commercial space people want to save us
by dumping out a load more carbon dioxide via space
shuttles will never be able to afford a ride on.
After taking a look at Blue Origin and Bezos is
Early Life, we came back to Earth and the present
day to learn about the Amazon Flex driver pyramid scheme,

(17:22):
a scandal in which Amazon drivers had had their tips
stolen from them by Amazon as a means to pay
their daily rate. For this, Amazon got fined sixty one
point seven billion dollars, and believe it or not, almost
immediately they became even richer. Listen to episode eleven to

(17:43):
find out how. Now, that was all a very long
way of summing up the key points of what we've
already gone into in this series. But as I said,
you can use this as a means to draw people
into learning more about the mistreatment, corruption, and on stop
scandal inside Amazon. Now, if you've got to the end

(18:04):
of this series, you've listened to every episode, you might
be thinking, should I boycott Amazon or not? Well, maybe
you shouldn't, Maybe you shouldn't. I don't know that. It's
entirely up to you. I didn't make this series to
preach or tell anybody what they have to do. Let's
be honest, Amazon has become so intrinsic in our lives
and so useful that it's hard to totally detach from it.

(18:25):
Spending money with Amazon obviously doesn't make you a bad person,
and it doesn't mean you have no ethics, And if
anyone tells you that, honestly, just tell them to mind
their own fucking business. Saying that, at the very least,
I do think if you're purchasing from a company as
soulless and as ruthless as Amazon often is, the very

(18:46):
least you should be aware of what they're really up to.
With this series, I've tried my best to cover all
of that with as much detail as possible. Outside of
being aware of Amazon's theft, spying, worker mistreatment, and tax dodging,
I'd suggest supporting any Amazon workers union you can. Don't

(19:07):
worry too much about are you represented politically within it.
These are workers that are coming together and they want
a better future and a better working environment. That is
definitely worth supporting in my opinion. Also, I would say this,
but also spread this series far and wide. I didn't
make this for other reporters. I didn't make this specifically

(19:28):
for people that want to be outraged. I made this
for everybody. If you are shopping at Amazon As, millions
and millions and millions of people do, I think again,
the very least you should do is be aware of
their bad practices. Also, I would suggest checking out the
works of the many reporters I've cited by name throughout
this series. If you ever happened to be in contact

(19:51):
with Jeff Bezos for any reason, tell him to look
after his workers. They're the most important facet of his empire.
Without them, he is fucked. This has been mega core
with me. Jake Hanrahan, thank you for listening. Mega Corp

(20:14):
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 Lichtmant. Music is by
some Black Graphics by Adam Doyle and sound engineering by

(20:35):
splicing block. If you want to get in touch, follow
me on social media at Jake Underscool, Hanrahan. That's h
a n a A h a n The Break
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