Amazon’s employee chat app would ban words like ‘union’ and ‘restroom’

Time to form an 'onion,' guys.

Ken Klippenstein reports for The Intercept that Amazon’s worker chat app blocks all sorts of words that could be used in labor organizing, like “union,” “pay raise,” “this is dumb,” and even “restrooms.”

According to internal company documents reviewed by The Intercept, Amazon’s internal employee platform — proposed in a November 2021 meeting — was designed to facilitate praise between employees in order to improve employee satisfaction and reduce attrition. The app, called “Shout-Outs,” would also dangle motivational tokens for workers that use it, gamifying compliments. But to Amazon, increasing employee connections, could come at a terrible cost: spurring labor organization.

Amazon union wins — After Staten Island workers voted to unionize last week, organizer Christian Smalls popped a bottle of champagne and toasted “the first Amazon union in American history.” The win may provide momentum for other locations to follow suit. Amazon, which was “disappointed” because it believes “having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” doesn’t want any more union organizing and appears to have preemptively stifled union talks on “Shout-Outs.”

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Banned words include the following:

I hate, Union, Fire, Terminated, Compensation, Pay Raise, Bullying, Harassment, I don’t care, Rude, This is concerning, Stupid, This is dumb, Prison, Threat, Petition, Grievance, Injustice, Diversity, Ethics, Fairness, Accessibility, Vaccine, Senior Ops, Living Wage, Representation, Unfair, Favoritism, Rate, TOT, Unite/unity, Plantation, Slave, Slave labor, Master, Concerned, Freedom, Restrooms, Robots, Trash, Committee, Coalition.

This is [REDACTED] — The fact that someone suggested “plantation” for the list, presumably to stop people from comparing the job to slavery, raises some alarming questions. And while “Shout-Outs” doesn’t seem like a prime spot for organizing, perhaps Amazon workers could get creative to circumvent its censored words. “I’m gonna need more condensation if I have to hold my pee-pee so long, and I think it’s time to form an onion.”