Bernie Sanders applauds the ‘courage’ of Amazon workers for taking on the tech giant, says failed union vote will inspire other unionization efforts

sanders bezos amazon senate budget
Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, right. Getty Images

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders said Amazon workers will inspire other union-organizing efforts.
  • Workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon plant voted the union down 1,798 to 738.
  • Sanders has previously criticized Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for trying to stop unionization efforts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Bernie Sanders applauded Amazon workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, factory for taking on the company, even as a majority of votes were against unionizing.

“The willingness of Amazon workers in Bessemer to take on the wealthiest man in the world and a powerful company in an anti-union state is an inspiration,” Sanders said on Twitter, in response to news of the failed union attempt. “It takes an enormous amount of courage to stand up and fight back, and they should be applauded.”

The intense campaigning from union activists and Amazon ended with a decisive victory for the online retailer, as 1,798 workers voted against the union, and 738 workers voted for it.

In further tweets, Sanders said he agrees with calls for an investigation into the tactics the company used in its efforts to defeat the organizing attempt.

“The workers were up against a company that was willing to spend vast sums of money and use every kind of tactic there is to defeat them,” he said.

“The history of every struggle in this country tells us that we do not always win the first time out,” Sanders added. “But I believe, as a result of their courage, workers in Alabama will inspire significant growth in union organizing efforts around the country.”

Read more: Amazon employees blast the forced return to offices as unfair, and Facebook and Oracle appear to be trying to poach frustrated remote workers

Progressive International, a global organization that backs progressive ideas, said efforts to create an Amazon union, even as it was rejected, “planted powerful seeds to #MakeAmazonPay.”

In a statement, Amazon thanked employees for participating in the election, and said, “There’s been a lot of noise over the past few months, and we’re glad that your collective voices were finally heard.”

“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” the statement read.

Sanders had been sparring with Amazon in the weeks leading up to the union vote and even visited workers at the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse.

Prior to that, the Vermont senator criticized Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for not showing up to a Congressional hearing and said had the executive been present he would have said, “you’re the wealthiest person in the world. Why are you doing everything in your power to stop your workers in Bessemer, Alabama, from joining a union?”

The company later fired back at the senator, with Amazon Consumer Chief Dave Clark tweeting Sanders “should save his finger wagging lecture until after he actually delivers in his own backyard,” referencing minimum wage legislation.

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Amazon is hiring 5,000 new employees in Germany, with some roles paying up to $82,000 per year

This picture shows the logo of US online retail giant Amazon at the distribution center in Moenchengladbach, western Germany, on December 17, 2019.
The company recently expanded its logistics empire to cope with rising demand over the holiday season.

  • Amazon will hire 5,000 more permanent employees in Germany in areas from shipping to marketing.
  • In a press release, the company said it encouraged applications from those seeking job security.
  • Entry-level Amazon logistics wages range from $13.25 to $14.90 per hour but are location-dependent.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon already has 23,000 employees in Germany but is now looking to add more people to its workforce.

The delivery giant said in a press release on Friday that it would hire another 5,000 staff in areas from shipping to marketing.

Most Amazon employees work in logistics, where entry-level wages range from $13.25 to $14.90 gross per hour depending on the location. Germany’s current minimum wage is $11.14 per hour but will rise to $12.26 by July 2022.

At its logistics center in S├╝lzetal near Magdeburg, the minimum is $13.92 per hour; in Koblenz, it is $14.19; at the air freight handling facility in Leipzig it’s $15.83. Wages automatically rise after 12 and 24 months.

After two years, employees earned an average of around $3,500 gross per month including restricted employee shares, according to Amazon. There were bonus payments and other benefits.

It hasn’t been an easy year for the German branch of Amazon, with workers striking in June over rising COVID-19 infections at the company and again in October after their COVID-19 bonus payments were scrapped.

German trade union Verdi called for a four-day strike at Easter to demand a pay rise for workers in the retail and mail-order sectors. Amazon has also been subjected to an antitrust investigation over relationships with its third-party sellers in Germany.

In its press release, Amazon said it was calling for applications from those worried about the future of their jobs and was recruiting from a wide range of sectors.

Amazon Logistics Center
Amazon has 15 logistics centers spread across Germany.

“This is a great opportunity for career changers because we are open to a wide range of talents and qualifications,” said Amazon Germany country manager Ralf Kleber.

The company’s German headquarters are located in Munch while its research and development center is in Berlin. There are also a total of 15 logistics centers spread across the country.

Amazon itself does not provide any information about the salaries offered to employees in other sectors. According to employer rating portal Kununu, customer service employees earn about the same as their colleagues in warehouse and shipping.

Kununu’s data showed an account manager at Amazon earned almost $67,000 per year while a marketing officer earned around $62,000 and a human resources officer around $60,000.

According to Glassdoor, software engineers earn significantly more with a salary of over $82,000.

The company recently expanded its logistics empire to cope with rising demand over the holiday season and its delivery service could be worth up to $230 billion by 2025, according to Bank of America estimates.

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Leaked documents reveal how Amazon built a Twitter army to defend itself in a secret project codenamed ‘Veritas’

Amazon Jeff Bezos
Amazon’s Twitter army has defended it against criticism over the company’s labor practices.

Amazon is facing a fresh round of scrutiny over the army of warehouse workers it enlisted to defend the company and CEO Jeff Bezos on Twitter against criticism of the company’s grueling working conditions.

On Tuesday, The Intercept published leaked documents detailing the program, which Amazon launched in 2018 under the codename “Veritas,” revealing how Amazon recruited and trained employees to “set the record straight – leaving no lie unchallenged and showing that people who actually know what it’s like to work in our FCs love their jobs.”

Amazon required the “ambassadors” to “have a strong performance background and clean HR record, be authentic, have a great sense of humor, and be excited about speaking their mind and rebutting our critics in a polite, blunt way,” according to the internal documents obtained by The Intercept.

In a pilot test for Veritas, Amazon employees practiced pushing back against criticism that Bezos should be taxed higher, a post by Sen. Bernie Sanders interviewing a worker who said they experienced suicidal thoughts as a result of Amazon’s working conditions, and even reporting by Insider about workers urinating in bottles because they feared punishment for being “off task.”

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Amazon’s Twitter army came back under the spotlight this week amid a landmark effort by warehouse employees in its Bessemer, Alabama, facility to unionize – the largest such effort in the company’s history.

This week, dozens of Twitter accounts, portraying themselves as Amazon warehouse employees, began responding to new reports that warehouse and delivery staff still have to pee in bottlesor, in some cases, defecate in bags.

But Twitter shut down some of the accounts after Gizmodo reported that at least one was likely not a real person. (Amazon told The New York Times’ Karen Weise that the account was fake and that it had reported the account to Twitter).

Amazon’s top executives and public relations teams have also become increasingly confrontational on Twitter recently, sparring publicly with lawmakers including Sens. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Rep. Mark Pocan.

The tweets, which The Intercept reported were so antagonistic that Amazon’s security team even though the company might have been hacked, were sparked because “Jeff Bezos was pissed,” according to Recode.

In one instance, Amazon’s official PR account replied to Rep. Pocan, saying “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”

Amazon, which has been openly and aggressively anti-union, has deployed a range of union-busting tactics, from pushing company talking points during mandatory midnight “education” meetings to changing the timing of traffic lights near its facilities. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, under which Amazon employees are seeking to organize, said the move was a ploy to stop its members from talking to workers stopped at red lights.

The company also reactivated its Twitter ambassadors to respond to a recent wave of criticism about the “pee bottles” and other complaints workers have raised about working conditions.

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Amazon is using new AI-powered cameras in delivery trucks that can sense when drivers yawn. Here’s how they work.

amazon prime van delivery
  • Amazon has installed AI-equipped camera systems in all of its delivery vehicles.
  • The Netradyne system can be triggered by a yawn or a speeding.
  • The new system has sparked some backlash from workers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In February, The Information reported on an instructional video for Amazon delivery drivers announcing a new suite of artificial intelligence-equipped cameras to surveil drivers during the entirety of their routes.

The decision sparked some backlash, and one driver told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the policy change had driven him to quit, calling it an invasion of privacy. But how does it work?

In the introductory video shown to drivers, Amazon’s senior manager for last-mile safety Karolina Haraldsdottir, explains how the “camera-based video safety technology” works.

The camera system is called “Driveri” and manufactured by the AI and transportation startup Netradyne. Four cameras give 270 degrees of coverage: one faces out through the windshield, two face out the side windows, and one faces the driver.

The cameras do not automatically upload, Haraldsdottir stressed in the video. A live feed only comes after the AI detects a problem. There are 16 behaviors that an AI recognizes that trigger the upload, from distracted driving to speeding to “driver drowsiness.”

Amazon Driveri instruction video
A still from the instructional video on Amazon’s Netradyne camera system

Haraldsdottir also stressed that the camera system can be used to “exonerate drivers from blame in safety incidents” and that drivers can trigger a manual upload if there is a safety issue they want to report.

In the report about a driver quitting as a result of this new system, the former employee saw the system as a “sort of coercion.”

Amazon has faced controversy over claims of surveillance in the past. In January of this year, more than 200 workers signed a petition sent to the CEO Jeff Bezos asking for an end to what the employees called “labor surveillance” ahead of unionization efforts.

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