Amazon has gone on the attack against the press and critics by sending out abrasive tweets from an official account and an executive’s account.
March 29th is the deadline for 6,000 Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama, to decide whether to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. If it passes, Amazon may face more union votes across the country. They employ over 500,000 people in more than 800 warehouses.
The Twitter verified account @amazonnews account has gone on the attack. The account tweeted that Senator Elizabeth Warren is “going to break up an American company so that they can’t criticize her anymore.” This was tweeted after a back-and-forth with the senator where Warren tweeted that Amazon exploits “loopholes and tax haves to pay close to nothing in taxes.” Amazon tweeted in response to Warren, “If you don’t like the laws you created, by all means, change them.”
Dave Clark, the CEO of Amazon worldwide consumer, went after Senator Bernie Sanders on Twitter. Clark tweeted a news article about Sanders planning to travel to Alabama to meet with union organizers. Clark included a statement that Amazon is “the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace.”
Journalist Lauren Kaori Gurley tweeted that Amazon drivers in the US had to sign a consent form by March 22nd, allowing Amazon to collect their biometric data and use artificial intelligence (AI) cameras to monitor location and movement. Gurley alleged that drivers would be fired if did not sign the consent.
The account @amazonnews hit back by tweeting, “Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety.”
Amazon has run two anti-union ads on Amazon-owned Twitch, with one employee stating, “We really don’t need anyone coming in and telling us what they want to give us because we basically have everything we need here.” Another employee states of unions, “They don’t do nothing but take your money. They just take your money, and they don’t do anything for you.” Twitch is a video streaming platform
Amazon has had a history of allegations regarding union-busting. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers accused Amazon of threatening, interrogating, and monitoring pro-union employees . Amazon settled with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board in 2016 where they did not admit to labor law violations but agreed to inform workers in a Virginia warehouse that it would not intimidate or fire pro-union employees.
However, the National Labor Relations Board cannot impose fines and has limited powers to enforce settlements. The settlement was not publicized, and since then, there have been no further efforts at that warehouse to form a union.
It is unusual to see a corporation like Amazon strike out directly against the press and critics through company and individual social media accounts. Usually, the public relations go-to strategy during a crisis is to refrain from going on the attack. Amazon may feel they have a lot to lose, and at the same time, nothing to lose.