Amazon Is Banning Certain, Work-Related Words In Their New Employee Chat

By Vic Medina | 1 month ago


Amazon fancies itself as one of America’s most progressive companies, but a new report from The Verge suggests otherwise. According to their report, the online retailer is seeking to censor certain words on a planned internal messaging app used by employees. Those words, it is reasoned, could allow employees to use the messaging app to complain about working conditions or attempt to unionize.

The messaging app, which has not yet been released, would allow employees to communicate with each other at work or home, blending a social media experience with work communication tools. The thinking behind the concept was initially to improve efficiency and boost employee morale, but Amazon reportedly had concerns about the app being used against them, according to documents obtained by The Intercept. Their solution now has Amazon employees furious, and taking to social media to complain.

Allegedly, Amazon’s corporate leadership was worried about employees using the app to find common ground to complain about their work environment or even unionize. To combat this, they proposed adding a content filter to the potential app, which would screen and block certain words that could be used against the company. The report may remind some of comedian George Carlin and his “seven dirty words” that couldn’t be used on television. In the case of the Amazon app, however, it appears far more words would be banned, blocked, or flagged, many used in every day language. They include words that could be used to discuss working conditions or in discussions to unionize. The banned words include “union,” “slave labor,” “grievance,” “living wage,” and “restroom,” after reports that employees were forced to pee in bottles at their work station, and not allowed to have a bathroom break.

Among other proposed banned words are more common terms that would indicate dissatisfaction with the corporate culture at Amazon. They include “unfair,” “master,” “slave,” “injustice,” “ethics,” “diversity,” pay raise,” and “fairness.” Even certain phrases would be reported to Amazon, including “This is dumb” or “This is concerning.” The app would also allow Amazon management to monitor individual messages, which raises privacy issues under the guide of corporate well-being.

Attempts to unionize intensified in December of last year, after six workers were killed when a tornado hit an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois. Workers claim that Amazon did not allow workers to evacuate the facility as the storm intensified, and supervisors told them to keep working. Those allegations remain unproven, and Amazon denies any wrongdoing. Even so, the parents of 26-year-old Austin McEwen, who was killed in the tornado, are suing Amazon over the incident. McEwen was killed as he sought shelter in a bathroom at the warehouse.

Amazon recently raised its Prime membership fee for the first time in four years, from $119 to $139 a year, indicating that despite billions in revenue, inflation has taken a toll on the bottom line. It blames higher wages, among other factors, for the raise. Even as it promotes its $15 an hour starting wage, it appears the company is making efforts to stop unionizing, which could raise wages even higher, as well as benefit costs. The company is also facing troubles overseas. It was recently fined over $800 million by the European Union after violating privacy laws in its advertising practices.

Because of the controversy, Amazon may not even release the messaging app. The unionization concerns, however, appear to be moot. On April 1, Amazon employees voted to form its first-ever workers union. The unionization efforts were led by Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee who was fired when he complained about unsafe working conditions.