Report: “Amazon is using union-busting Pinkerton spies to track warehouse workers”

Business Insider reports:

  • Amazon has hired detectives with the infamous Pinkerton spy agency to monitor European workers’ labor union organizing efforts, per a Motherboard report.
  • Pinkerton spies have a history of busting up unions: Their involvement in a steelworker strike in 1892 eventually led to states prohibiting the use of third-party security in labor disputes.
  • The Pinkertons were used as a resource by 19th-century industrial bigwigs to spy on unions and to break up worker-held strikes. Steelworkers held a strike in 1892 that devolved into violence and the death of a dozen people when Carnegie Steel Company recruited 300 Pinkertons to act as armed guards, according to History.com. The event led to some states passing laws to prohibit the use of third-party security forces in labor disputes.
  • While CEO Jeff Bezos and his ecommerce giant have profited heavily from home-bound customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon workers have been advocating for better working conditions, staging strikes and protests. Christian Smalls, a former warehouse worker at Amazon’s New York fulfillment center, was fired after the company said he ignored social distancing recommendations during a walkout in March. Leaked documents, obtained at the time by Motherboard, revealed an internal effort to mount a PR campaign against Smalls. The documents reportedly revealed that Amazon’s top lawyer called Smalls “not smart or articulate” and said the company should “make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”