While around 5,800 Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama vote on whether to unionise, Amazon has been trying to win over hearts and minds with a slew of ham-handed anti-union propaganda in their warehouse bathroom stalls, on their phones, and now on the Amazon-owned streaming service Twitch. Earlier this week, More Perfect Union tweeted the Amazon brand-paletted spots, featuring workers talking up management and parroting Amazon’s claims that unions only want your money.
In an amusing twist, Twitch has removed the ads and said they should never have run in the first place.
“Twitch does not allow political advertising, and these ads should never have been allowed to run on our service,” a Twitch spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email. “We have removed these ads and are evaluating our review processes to ensure that similar content does not run in the future. We are grateful to our community for bringing this to our attention.”
As Kotaku has reported, several Twitch streamers tweeted that they would stop allowing ads on their channels until the anti-union ads were removed. They also told Kotaku that it sends the message that Twitch would oppose streamers in their own efforts to unionize.
The ads, reported to More Perfect Union by an Alabama resident, show workers extolling the Amazon workplace.
“We at the Birmingham team have great leadership,” one worker says. “We really don’t need anyone coming in and telling us what they want to give us because basically we have everything we need here.”
NEW: Amazon is running glossy anti-union ads to combat the organizing drive by workers at their Bessemer, AL, warehouse. An Alabama resident said this spot is one of several that Amazon is now running on Twitch. pic.twitter.com/6WlojetvzY— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) February 23, 2021
Other workers, who started organising a union drive just months after the warehouse opened in April 2020, characterise the workplace as a panopticon where they’re forced to work to their physical limits. An organiser told the Guardian that Amazon has let people go “for no reason.” They’ve also reported that Amazon has aggressively tried to prevent workers from organising, and Motherboard published leaked documents showing that the company hired Pinkerton agents to monitor employees. Amazon told Gizmodo vaguely that it does hire third-party companies but “to suggest Amazon or the third party companies we work with are doing something nefarious is irresponsible and incorrect.”
Another worker featured in an ad claims that unions “just take your money, and they don’t do anything for you.” This echoes Amazon’s deceptive suggestion that forming a union means everyone will be forced to pay dues. Alabama is a right-to-work state, meaning that even workers do unionize there will be under no obligation to join.
“Amazon feels that it has to go to extremes like this in order to gaslight its workers about the dreadful working conditions at its Bessemer warehouse,” Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said in a statement shared with Gizmodo. (The RWDSU will represent Bessemer workers if the vote succeeds.) “Amazon is leaving no stone unturned – including ads on Twitch – in its efforts to deceive and intimidate their employees into voting against the union.”
The election, which is currently underway, will be finalised on March 29th, and the NLRB will begin counting ballots on the 30th.
Amazon was not immediately available for comment.