New Amazon Employee Chat App Bans Terms Like ‘Grievance’ and ‘Living Wage’

from the making-things-worse-for-yourself dept

Despite a massive amount of spending and tactical maneuvering to derail the effort, Amazon factory workers just successfully voted to form the company’s first union on Staten Island, New York.

Much like Starbucks, years of grueling working conditions, weak benefits, and low pay directly contributed to the workers’ feeling they needed to organize. And, much like Starbucks, Amazon took a lot of the money it could have spent on raising employee wages and improving working conditions, and instead threw it at union-crushing firms and ideas that don’t make a whole lot of sense.

Case in point: much like Starbucks, Amazon doesn’t want the unionization movement to expand beyond these initial beachheads. So as the company rolls out a new employee chat app and internal social networking system, documents obtained by The Intercept indicate they’re banning a large number of common words and phrases company leadership deems problematic:

In addition to profanities, however, the terms include many relevant to organized labor, including “union,” “grievance,” “pay raise,” and “compensation.” Other banned keywords include terms like “ethics,” “unfair,” “slave,” “master,” “freedom,” “diversity,” “injustice,” and “fairness.” Even some phrases like “This is concerning” will be banned.

Whatever you think about unions, the employee desire to create them is based on valid grievances. At Amazon, that has included anger over the fact that factory employees and drivers have been forced to sometimes urinate in bottles to ensure they meet grueling quotas. Given recent coverage and complaints, Amazon brass has also contemplated banning any employee use of the word “bathroom”:

“An automatic word monitor would also block a variety of terms that could represent potential critiques of Amazon’s working conditions, like “slave labor,” “prison,” and “plantation,” as well as “restrooms” — presumably related to reports of Amazon employees relieving themselves in bottles to meet punishing quotas.”

Amazon brass continually seem to enjoy making their own problems worse. You might recall the company also thought it was a good idea to pay some employees bonuses if they spammed positive things about Amazon on Twitter (its since-discontinued and widely ridiculed “brand ambassador” program), something that wouldn’t be necessary if employees had an improved working experience.

Again, some of the planet’s wealthiest human beings could easily pre-empt unionization efforts by improving employee pay and working conditions. Instead, numerous companies feel compelled to prove angry workers’ points by embracing heavy-handed approaches that only seem to advertise how afraid they are of workers standing up for themselves, or even having candid conversations about reality.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , ,
Companies: amazon

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “New Amazon Employee Chat App Bans Terms Like ‘Grievance’ and ‘Living Wage’”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:


You have the right to smash your hand with a hammer but that doesn’t stop someone from calling you an idiot if you do so.

‘Can do’ does not always equal ‘should do’, and it most certainly doesn’t in this case where their actions likely just stoked the fire of employee discontent and left the company worse off than if they’d just gone with a standard swear filter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Four words that doom

“Amazon owns the app”

That right there is enough to cause anyone with any sense of history to run screaming for the hills. Or, likely, to Twitter, Signal, Telegram, WhatsApp (or FaceBook), Slack, Discord, ….

I mean, it’s not like there are a dearth of social media apps. If Amazon thinks they can put people into a walled garden and keep them there, perhaps they should come into the 21st century.

Ranks right up there with “Working for Enron, my 401(k) is limited to Enron stock”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Again, some of the planet’s wealthiest human beings could easily pre-empt unionization efforts by improving employee pay and working conditions.

And then they should unionize anyways. For real. Another example from super recently: Activision/Blizzard is trying to head off unionization efforts by giving their QA staff full time jobs (bumping them up from contractors) and better pay. They should still push for unionization to maintain a seat of significant power against the abusive shithead execs.

jvbattlewood (profile) says:

Maybe I’m not getting something here (wouldn’t be the first time.),but wouldn’t the simplest course be to just not use it?
Might as well give them the passwords to your social media accounts at the same time.
The app would serve no purpose,other than a tool for spying. If I have something private to say, I’m sure as hell not going to say it on a company controlled app.
Either they’re desperate or they have an even lower opinion of their employees intelligence than I thought possible.
Perhaps both.

nasch (profile) says:


“In November 2021, Amazon convened a high-level meeting in which top executives discussed plans to create an internal social media program that would let employees recognize co-workers’ performance with posts called “Shout-Outs,” according to a source with direct knowledge. The major goal of the program, Amazon’s head of worldwide consumer business, Dave Clark, said, was to reduce employee attrition by fostering happiness among workers — and also productivity. Shout-Outs would be part of a gamified rewards system in which employees are awarded virtual stars and badges for activities that “add direct business value,” documents state.”

I doubt I would use such a thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

For the likes of those who started with nothing, getting companies like Amazon, ebay, Google etc to the dizzy heights they are now, worth the amounts they are now, why is it so important to be able to say ‘im worth more than you’? Why is there never taken into consideration what changes were made when those companies became super successful and mega rich, changes like introducing postage charges if there were none to start with or making the charges x2 or x3 and extra amounts had to be spent as well! These types of changes were brought in just to be more rich, quicker than the competitors, not because by not doing so would have meant the collapse of the companies. Good old fashioned greed roared in! Just think though how many schools, hospitals, extra drs and nurses, extra teachers could have been trained, how many extra operations could have been carried out. The greater esteem these companies would have been showered with is unbelievable and immeasurable but they aren’t $ in accounts and having these accounts bursting at the seams is much more important! And dont forget that it’s more important to sue other companies and people because they all use the same word somewhere in their products or services name, or ingredients or whatever but even that isn’t as important as making sure that research, inventing, producing, manufacturing, development, food production, preservation of everything and everyone are nowhere near as important as ensuring that the entertainment companies, MPAA,RIAA, DISNEY, HOLLYWOOD and every offshoot are the most important industries going, because we cant survive if we dont use them instead of kicking out things like food, drink, medicine and all other essentials for sustaining life!

Anonymous Coward says:

Hmm somehow I missed this article. Good thing the ‘Funniest/Most Insightful Comment’ article referenced it.

Also: I’m pretty sure my high school history classes better prepared me manage Amazons warehouses than their current team. Did they not graduate (or maybe US schools generally are just terrible?), Or is this a will full “Lets the the worst things history has already taught us will go poorly for us” decision?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...