A leaked Amazon document reveals what its army of warehouse workers are and aren’t allowed to say on social media

Amazon warehouse staff
  • Amazon’s army of warehouse employees trained to defend the company on Twitter is at it again.
  • The employee accounts follow a standard format, and tend to resurface amid negative press coverage.
  • A newly leaked Amazon document reveals what the workers are and aren’t allowed to discuss.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Amazon’s army of warehouse workers paid to be on Twitter is notorious for showing up in conversations with the intent of defending Amazon.

The workers are also notorious for having eerily robotic speech patterns.

“I can assure you that I’m a real account,” a recent response from one such worker said. “I’m part of a program that lets me come on here & have conversations about what working for Amazon has been like for me. I’d like to know why you feel we are treated/paid bad. I’ve been so happy here & the pay/benefits are great.”

There’s a good reason for those speech patterns, according to a leaked Amazon document obtained by The Intercept. Amazon has a set of guidelines for what those employees can and cannot say, and even offers examples of how to respond.

First and foremost is that “FCAs,” or “Fulfillment Center Ambassadors,” cannot respond to anything regarding unionization, according to the document.

That’s particularly notable given this week’s unionization vote at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. If it passes, it would be the first major union of Amazon workers.

Additionally, they can’t respond to direct media requests without approval from Amazon’s public relations department. They are also barred from responding to “compound” criticisms, or a tweet that also contains a topic that Amazon PR has not approved the FCAs to comment on.

The document offers an example of a tweet that FCAs should not respond to based on such criteria: “@Amazon why are you still advertising on breitbart?! Between that and barely paying your employees, I’m ready to quit shopping with you,” the example said.

Similarly enlightening, the document offers a variety of examples of the type of social media posts that FC Ambassadors should interact with – and the kind of responses the company finds appropriate.

The first example directly addresses the years-long reports from Amazon workers that they have to pee in bottles during shifts to save time: “Example: ‘Daily Sun: Amazon employees forced to urinate in bottles during their shift’.”

Amazon driver thumb pee bottle
An Amazon driver shared this photo with Insider of a bottle of pee inside a delivery van last week.

The example response in the document reads almost exactly like some of the responses from FC Ambassadors.

“No, that’s not right,” the example says. “I worked in an Amazon FC for over four years and never saw anyone urinate in a bottle. There are easily accessible bathrooms in every one of our buildings I’ve ever been in.”

Amazon’s FC Ambassador program isn’t new.

Back in 2018, Amazon admitted to paying a small army of employees to tweet positive things about the company. The document obtained by The Intercept is from 2018, when the program was formed under the code name “Veritas” (Latin for “truth).

It established the foundation of the program, and its purpose: “To address speculation and false assertions in social media and online forums about the quality of the FC associate experience, we are creating a new social team staffed with active, tenured FC employees, who will be empowered to respond in polite – but blunt – ways to every untruth,” the document says.

FC Ambassadors are paid the same hourly rate they get for their warehouse work, Amazon says, and it’s an “entirely voluntary” program.

Since the program started in 2018, a variety of accounts originally associated with it have been deactivated. And in the last few weeks, a handful of new FC accounts have sprung up as reports surfaced once again of employees having to urinate in bottles to preserve work time. The vast majority of FC Ambassador replies on social media specifically address these reports.

When reached for comment, Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski said: “FC Ambassadors are employees who work in our fulfillment centers and choose to share their personal experience – the FC ambassador program helps show what it’s actually like inside our fulfillment centers, along with the public tours we provide. We encourage anyone who wants to see for themselves to sign up for a tour at www.amazonfctours.com.”

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon is sending employees into the trenches on Twitter as it battles its first union vote and reports about workers peeing in bottles

amazon warehouse
  • Amazon’s paid army of employee Twitter users is at it again, this time criticizing unionization.
  • The employee accounts follow a standard format, and popped up previously amid negative press coverage.
  • A major union drive and reports of delivery drivers peeing in bottles are the primary target.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As new reports surface of Amazon warehouse and delivery staff still having to pee in bottlesor, in some cases, defecate in bags – the company’s employee-powered Twitter army has resurfaced.

“So glad to be on Twitter! Feel free to ask my anything about my experiences as a member of the Amazon family, I’m an open book!” an account tied to an employee named Darla tweeted last week. The account, like several others reviewed by Insider, was started in March 2021.

Back in 2018, Amazon admitted to paying a small army of employees to tweet positive things about the company.

The move was in response to the first revelations that some Amazon warehouse and delivery staff were peeing in bottles to save time due to the demands of their job. The employees paid by Amazon were easy to identify, as they all shared the same “Amazon FC” naming convention on their profiles (FC for “fulfillment center,” the name of Amazon’s shipping warehouses).

After Darla’s cheerful intro written in late March, the second tweet on the account reflects the grim reality of being an Amazon FC ambassador. “One thing that’s become obvious to me in my short time on Twitter is how willing people are to shout down and be cruel to a fellow member of the working class who disagrees with them, even when they think that person is ‘brainwashed.’ The cruelty I’ve had directed at me!!!” she tweeted.

Darla’s only other tweets reflect her anti-union position – a tweet that was published the same day that employees of an Amazon fulfillment center were scheduled to vote on the company’s first major union.

“What bothers me most about unions is there’s no ability to opt out of dues!” she said on Monday. “As a single mother with two boys I’m barely scraping by as it is, and now unions want to come to Amazon and make pay them a piece of my salary. No thanks!”

Several other Amazon FC ambassadors kept their main tweets to a minimum, choosing instead to reply to ongoing Twitter threads about working at the company. The majority of those responses are specifically regarding bathroom breaks, per the reports of employees peeing in bottles.

Amazon driver thumb pee bottle
An Amazon driver shared this photo with Insider of a bottle of pee inside a delivery van.

“My [fulfillment center] lets me to take (2) 20min breaks and (1) 30min lunch. On overtime days, we get three 20min breaks, which is also pretty nice as well,” one such response from an employee identified at Gary reads. “Before the pandemic, our breaks used to be only 15min. Being an essential worker is dignifying for me.”

Another such response to a thread, from an employee named Yola, also addresses the repeated reports of employees peeing in bottles to save work time.

“Although the facility is big, there are numerous bathrooms to use,” she wrote on March 28. “My building has 12. Each bathroom can have 3-6 toilets. That’ plenty. Plus with 20-30 [minute] breaks that’s more than enough time.”

Like Gary and Darla, Yola’s account was also started in March 2021 and didn’t become active until late in the month – just as Amazon began publicly pushing back on unionization at its Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center and reports of workers peeing in bottles resurfaced once again.

A Twitter account run by the company, Amazon News, recently got into public arguments with several politicians. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Mark Pocan, have all gotten into public spats with the account.

The tone of the account became combative enough that an Amazon engineer reportedly flagged the tweets as potentially suspicious behavior.

And Amazon consumer chief Dave Clark also got involved in those public spats, even going after Sen. Sanders’ record directly. “I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers,” he said, “but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace for our constituents: a $15 minimum wage, health care from day one, career progression, and a safe and inclusive work environment.”

According to a report from Vox, Amazon cofounder and CEO Jeff Bezos specifically directed executives to push back harder on critics of the company. Amazon representatives did not respond to a request for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Boston Dynamics unveils Stretch, a new robot designed to move boxes in warehouses

stretch Boston Dynamics
Stretch robot.

  • Boston Dynamics just introduced Stretch, a new robot for moving boxes in warehouses.
  • The company is best known for creating Spot, the robotic dog.
  • Stretch is in a pilot program now, and will make a commercial debut in 2022.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Boston Dynamics, the robotics firm behind Spot the robot dog, just unveiled a new robot. Stretch is designed to work in warehouses moving boxes, with a long robotic arm for moving objects.

It’s a “box-moving robot designed to support the growing demand for flexible automation solutions in the logistics industry,” Boston Dynamics says. It is the company’s first entrance into warehouse automation, although Spot has been used in some warehouses.

Read more: How to ace the job application and hiring process Amazon’s billion-dollar self-driving startup

The new robot is optimized for any tasks that require moving boxes, including unloading trucks and eventually building orders. The base can move in different directions to navigate loading docks and maneuver around tight spaces and changing layouts.

stretch fast_0 Boston Dynamics
Stretch robot.

Boston Dynamics says Stretch’s robotic arm is lightweight and custom-designed with a “smart gripper” that can handle different types of boxes and coverings. Computer vision technology enables Stretch to identify boxes without need specific training for each customer.

The company is looking for pilot customers to test Stretch before it is commercially available in 2022.

Take a look at the new robot in action here.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Here’s what Costco looked like when it opened in 1983 and the annual membership was $25

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Costco is one of the most popular big-box stores in the United States. It’s known for selling everything in bulk from toilet paper to seafood.

Jerry Seinfeld: Look at this can of tuna. 

Narrator: Although the members-only wholesaler first opened in 1983, today’s stores don’t look much different than they did almost 40 years ago.

Before the first Costco warehouse opened, there was Price Club, which opened in 1976.

The first location was in a converted airplane hangar in San Diego, California. At the time, it served only small businesses.

Its executive vice president of merchandising, distribution, and marketing, Jim Sinegal, played a big role in its initial success.

After leaving Price Club, Sinegal and Jeff Brotman worked together to co-found Costco Wholesale, which they basically modeled after Price Club.

The first Costco Wholesale store opened in 1983 in Seattle. Annual club membership was just $25 at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about the same annual fee today.

Stores quickly expanded across the Pacific Northwest. 200,000 people held Costco memberships by the end of 1984 and another year later, the company filed for an IPO. Soon, it became a $1 billion company.

Ten years after the first Costco store opened, Price Club and Costco merged to form PriceCostco.

In 1997, PriceCostco changed its name to Costco Companies, Inc. Today, it goes by Costco Wholesale Corporation – or as most people know it, just Costco.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in April 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

More than 400 Amazon workers have been infected with COVID-19 at Canadian facilities, where working conditions are described as ‘hell’

Amazon warehouse staff
Amazon shipping boxes leaving a warehouse.

  • More than 400 Amazon workers in Canada reportedly have tested positive for COVID-19, and some are blaming workplace conditions.¬†
  • The cases occured at four facilities near Ontario. “The working conditions are hell,” an employee who left prior to the pandemic told The National Post.¬†
  • “There is no social distancing, there is no sanitation,” an unnamed employee told The Post.¬†
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

More than 400 Amazon workers in Canada reportedly have tested positive for coronavirus, with some blaming workplace conditions. 

“The working conditions are hell,” a former Amazon worker told The National Post.

The spread occured at four facilities near Ontario, according to the Post, which quotes former and current employees at the facilities. 

Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.¬†

The company has previously said new hires are being trained to follow strict health and safety rules. It said it invested more than $800 million in new pandemic safety measures in the first six months of 2020, according to an October press release.  

“Our top priority is ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and we expect to invest approximately $10 billion in 2020 on COVID-related initiatives to keep employees safe and get products to customers,” the company said on a page dedicated to its COVID-19 improvements.¬†

But employees at the Canadian facilities have placed some blame for the spread on the fast-paced culture at Amazon facilities. 

“There is no social distancing, there is no sanitation,” an unnamed employee told the Post.¬†“Many of them, 99 per cent of them, are scared of working there, but they have no choice.”

According to the unnamed employee, workers at the Canada facilities are told not to use their own N95 masks. Employees reportedly said they’re timed as they fill boxes, and their bathroom breaks are monitored.

Amazon and Walmart have been locked in battle over which can make shipping and returns easiest. The emphasis on speed makes it difficult for some workers in Amazon warehouses to follow COVID-19 rules, according to the report. 

Ontario on Monday announced a province-wide shutdown, which will begin at 12.01 am on December 26. 

“The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk,” said Doug Ford, premier, in a statement.¬†

Amazon’s footprint is ever-growing. In the US this month, it announced new fulfillment centers in Louisiana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and several locations in Texas.¬†

As the company expands, some lawmakers are asking questions about workplace policies and pay. Last Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called warehouse employment a “scam” because thousands of workers were reportedly on food stamps.¬†

The US National Labor Relations Board last week said it had found merit in claims that Gerald Bryson, who worked at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center, was fired in retaliation for protesting health and safety policies in the warehouse.

In Alabama, workers are expected to vote in January on whether to unionize, according to The Hill. A vote to unionize would be a first for Amazon’s US facilities.¬†

In a statement issued to The New York Post,¬†Amazon said: “We don’t believe this group represents the majority of our employees’ views. Our employees choose to work at¬†Amazon¬†because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire.”¬†



Read the original article on Business Insider