Reports of high injury rates and high turnover rates at Amazon warehouses around the US as a result of immense productivity pressures and quota rates on workers have been documented by numerous media outlets and organizations over the past several years and confirmed by OSHA logs. Amazon shareholders have recently called for an independent safety audit of the company.
On 1 January 2021, the state of Washington increased workers compensation premiums for Amazon due to higher injury rates at Amazon warehouses compared with other warehouses in the state.
In December 2021, the National Employment Law Project released a report on injury rates at Amazon’s six warehouses in Minnesota, revealing those facilities have injury rates twice as high as rates for other warehouses in the state, and more than four times the average for all industries in the state.
Amazon has been heavily expanding into areas that the government designates for special tax incentives, according to a new analysis that comes amid growing regulatory scrutiny of the e-commerce giant.
The company has located delivery stations, fulfillment centers and even an air hub in “opportunity zones,” regions across the country where investors can qualify for capital gains tax breaks under a 2017 law.
The initiative had bipartisan backing and was intended to incentivize investment in some of the most economically distressed regions of the country. But critics of the program have raised concerns that such programs further enrich wealthy investors and corporations for projects that would have happened without government assistance.
And because there aren’t requirements that investors and corporations publicly report how they are using the tax breaks, it’s difficult to measure impact. Experts say it’s impossible to know if the program is having the intended effect of creating jobs and affordable housing — or simply exacerbating economic divides.
As the Israeli military bombed homes, clinics, and schools in Gaza and threatened to push Palestinian families from their homes in Jerusalem this past May, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud executives signed a $1.22 billion contract to provide cloud technology to the Israeli government and military. By doing business with Israeli apartheid, Amazon and Google will make it easier for the Israeli government to surveil Palestinians and force them off their land.
We’re heeding the call from over 1000 Google and Amazon workers to rise up against the contract, known as Project Nimbus. Technology should be used to bring people together, not enable apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and occupation.
Following in the footsteps of those who fought to divest from apartheid South Africa and won, it’s our responsibility to rise up in support of Palestinian freedom. The Amazon and Google execs who signed this contract can still choose to be on the right side of history.
Click above to sign on to a letter to Amazon and Google to shut down Project Nimbus.
Courage Campaign announcement:
While Amazon is raking in billions of dollars off the backs of its employees, Courage California will be leading a conversation with representatives from grassroots and labor organizations across the state about how we are making gains in stopping the mega retailer’s exploitive worker practices.
Amazon is decimating the workforce it employs as well as small businesses.
More than 160,000 businesses have closed during covid, while Amazon uses algorithms to push small retailers down in search results and replicates their products to sell itself.
The warehouses that Amazon builds are environmentally hazardous, and the employees are held to unreasonable quotas that cause injuries at twice the rate of the industry average. And average worker wages sink where Amazon warehouses take hold.
That’s why we’ve joined a coalition of workers’ rights groups to stand up to Amazon. Our town hall attendees will hear from speakers from organizations including:
On Cyber Monday, you can join our Amazon boycott and get involved with a statewide movement to stop the mega retailer’s terrible practices. We hope to see you there!
A trove of internal Amazon documents reveals how the e-commerce giant ran a systematic campaign of creating knockoff goods and manipulating search results to boost its own product lines in India – practices it has denied engaging in. And at least two top Amazon executives reviewed the strategy.
Amazon.com Inc has been repeatedly accused of knocking off products it sells on its website and of exploiting its vast trove of internal data to promote its own merchandise at the expense of other sellers. The company has denied the accusations.
But thousands of pages of internal Amazon documents examined by Reuters – including emails, strategy papers and business plans – show the company ran a systematic campaign of creating knockoffs and manipulating search results to boost its own product lines in India, one of the company’s largest growth markets.
The documents reveal how Amazon’s private-brands team in India secretly exploited internal data from Amazon.in to copy products sold by other companies, and then offered them on its platform. The employees also stoked sales of Amazon private-brand products by rigging Amazon’s search results so that the company’s products would appear, as one 2016 strategy report for India put it, “in the first 2 or three … search results” when customers were shopping on Amazon.in.
Hundreds of Google and Amazon employees signed an open letter published in The Guardian on Tuesday condemning Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract signed by the two companies to sell cloud services to the Israeli military and government.
“This technology allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land,” the letter stated. “We cannot look the other way, as the products we build are used to deny Palestinians their basic rights, force Palestinians out of their homes and attack Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – actions that have prompted war crime investigations by the international criminal court.”
Gilliard began calling attention to Ring’s discriminatory potential soon after Amazon acquired it in 2018. He grew so preoccupied with the camera that he changed his Twitter name to “One Ring (Doorbell) to Surveil Them All,” a play on a line from “The Lord of the Rings.” He made himself available as an expert source to Vice, USA Today and the Associated Press, explaining how consumer surveillance tools such as Ring, along with social “neighborhood watch” apps such as Neighbors and Nextdoor, feed on people’s fears and amplify their biases.
“I think about what the effect is of law enforcement having easy access to cameras from everyone’s porch,” Gilliard said. “It makes nuisance crimes” — from stolen Amazon packages to an egged car — “available for escalation in a way that they weren’t previously.”
Gradually, Gilliard’s concerns were borne out. Stories began to emerge about Ring’s secret partnerships with police departments; its security vulnerabilities; the rampant racism on its neighborhood watch app, Neighbors; and how it trades on people’s suspicion of others who look like they “don’t belong.” (Ring says it doesn’t tolerate discrimination on the Neighbors app, and it encourages users to consider whether their suspicion is reasonable before sharing footage.)
Gilliard is “a true leading indicator,” said Rumman Chowdhury, an expert on artificial intelligence ethics who directs Twitter’s Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability team. “For anybody looking to understand the next narrative in tech, whatever tomorrow’s story is going to be, it would be smart to follow Chris and to listen to what he is saying.”
If Gilliard appears prescient about how tools of surveillance may be abused in the future, it might be because he’s intimately familiar with how they’ve been abused in the past.
Gilliard grew up in Detroit in the 1970s and ‘80s, a time and place associated with drugs and violent crime in the popular imagination. But Gilliard, one of eight children born to a washing-machine repairman and a cook, didn’t see it that way. To him, the perceptions of urban Detroit as a dangerous dystopia were more damaging than the reality. They meant that members of his community were viewed by White society primarily as a threat — a problem to be solved, or contained.
Recent disclosures of the revolving door between Amazon and the national security state have underlined the degree to which the company has been profiting from the “War on Terror”.
Tech giants made billions through contracts with the US military and other government agencies during the so-called “war on terror”, according to a report released ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
The main report, “Big Tech Sells War”, is available here:
Steve Pandelides, pictured above worked at the FBI from November 1999-March 2021, including at the National Counterterrorism Center and Operational Technology Division. He’s now the Director for Security at Amazon Web Services. Christine Halvorsen, above, also worked at the FBI, from March 2013-April 2019, including as Deputy Assistant Director for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. She is now
Amazon Web Services Senior Technical Business Development Manager, and a Mission Acceleration Team Strategic Account Executive, for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Jana Kay had two tours of duty at the Department of “Defense”, 2005-2007, and 2009-2018, including as a Strategist for the Global War on Terrorism; from 2007-2009, she was a Strategic Planner, at the National Counterterrorism Center. She has been with Amazon Web Services as a Cloud Security Strategist, 2018-Present.