Episode

4/5 Amazon’s Union Busting In App Form w/ Ken Klippenstein

April 5, 2022

Emma hosts Ken Klippenstein, investigative reporter at The Intercept, to discuss his recent piece “LEAKED: NEW AMAZON WORKER CHAT APP WOULD BAN WORDS LIKE “UNION,” “RESTROOMS,” “PAY RAISE,” AND “PLANTATION”.  Ken and Emma begin by summarizing the incredible culmination of the Staten Island Amazon unionization effort, beginning back in April 2020 with a walkout for MINIMAL safety protocols in the middle of a pandemic, resulting in the firing of Christian Smalls, only for the fight to completely turn on its head as employees found inspiration and a drive to solidarity with Christian and his other co-workers turning their attention to the creation of a new, independent union for Amazon laborers, combatting wildly offensive and dismissive attempts at union-busting by the company, leading up to last weeks astounding success. After briefly touching on the incredible response to the successful union vote, looking at it as one of the biggest labor victories in half a century, Ken dives into a few of the other investigations he has held into Amazon’s poor safety regulation. They then get to the real reveal that Klippenstein discovered, as they dive into Amazon’s leaked internal messaging server and its exhaustive list of banned words ranging from the obvious (racial epithets, slurs) to the obviously exploitative (union, fire, accessibility, freedom, slave labor, living wage, identity, FREEDOM). Ken walks through both the original senior meetings that saw internal social media as a solution to their inability to keep employees, and the revelation that was realizing such a platform would also have to guard against the “dark side” of social media (worker solidarity). They wrap up the interview with a little compare and contrast between Amazon’s internal messaging and their external social media policy which is actual humans cranking out dissociatively positive tweets in support of management. Emma also dives into Howard Schultz’s return to the podium of Starbucks Town Halls as he dangles shiny tokens of the non-fungible variety in the eyes of his “partners” to distract from the incredible wave of unionization efforts occurring in his coffee shops throughout the country, before touching on the information coming in about Russian war crimes, what their retreat from Kyiv might mean, and insights into the UN’s new IPCC report.

And in the Fun Half: Emma is joined by Nomiki Konst as they show off their Elizabeth Holmes impressions, Justin from Georgia calls in to discuss the Amazon unionization victory, and how and WHY different media members tried to tie in AOC to the conversation. JD Vance discusses the bad hombres coming over the border, but just means the Sacklers, as Emma and Nomiki reflect on the absurdity of the liberal Hillbilly Elegy phase. Sarah Palin and Jesse Watters fantasize about AOC in a piece on the left just “pounding and pounding” ideas of sex and gender deeper and deeper into our heads, and Kenny from Berkeley discusses changing the conversation on electoralism. Evan from NJ talks about representations of Biden’s weaknesses, Prager U says “let us into your kids’ bed(times)” Kowalski talks about the YouTube channel “Knowing Better,” plus, your calls and IMs!

Check out Ken’s reporting here: https://theintercept.com/2022/04/04/amazon-union-living-wage-restrooms-chat-app/

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