Amazon workers threatened Ozark-style in leaked recording

A leaked recording from an Amazon mandatory anti-union meeting has brought Amazon’s yuck intimidation tactics into public view.

In a leaked recording that reads like an excerpt from Ozark, an Amazon union avoidance officer has told workers at the company’s JFK8 warehouse, during a mandatory anti-union meeting, that unionizing could result in lower pay as well as “significant” consequences for workers families.

In a leaked recording, the Amazon union avoidance officer explains the bargaining process: “The negotiation phase of the process is called collective bargaining, and in the negotiation, there are no guarantees. You can end up with better, the same or worse than you already have,” an employee interjects, “what does that mean? We could end up with worse?”

Photo by Irfan Khan

The officer responds, “we can’t promise what’s going to happen. Amazon can’t promise you that they’re going to walk into negotiations and that the negotiations will start from the same [pay and benefits workers have already. They could start from minimum wage for instance. I don’t think that will happen, but it’s a possibility.”

The worker asks, “so, you’re saying that Amazon’s going to say…”, the officer interjects, “I just said I’m not saying that”. The worker then said, “so why put that out there?”, to which the Amazon representative responded by changing the topic altogether.

Is the training module for union mitigation to watch Goodfellas and the Godfather back to back, or what?

Frank Kearl, the lawyer overseeing the workers at JFK8, told Motherboard, “the [union avoidance consultant] makes the threat and tries to walk it back but once you’ve poisoned the well you can’t take it back. Even though she realized she made a mistake in making the threat, it doesn’t mean the threat wasn’t made and heard by all the workers who were forced to sit in on that session. It’s against the law and an unfair labour practice to make a threat of reprisal.”

This is not the first time Amazon has squashed attempts at unionizing. In February 2021, an Alabama store attempted a union drive, but it ultimately failed.

The consecutive attempt at unionizing comes as no surprise, as workers kick back against Amazon’s cut-throat ethos of ‘productivity first, people second’.

The companies mind-blowingly exploitative business practice encourages high turnover, offering bonuses to employees who quit after three years on the job to bring in new employees who will operate at peak efficiency for lower wages.

In a bid to maintain productivity, Amazon installed conveniently coffin-sized “mindfulness” booths instead of dealing with the gruelling working conditions, system-mispaid wages and overt worker surveillance that preceded the need for the booths.

Hopefully, this leak tips the scales in favour of the successful formation of Amazon’s first worker’s union.

Listen to the full leaked audio below.