As Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama near a ballot count for their union election, Amazon is engaged in another sweep of last-ditch efforts to salvage the company’s reputation as a GREAT workplace and it made another thwarted attempt to micro-monitor the ballot count. All around, it’s a bad look for Amazon, but this is a company that’s screaming at its critics through a bullhorn to prove how great it is. And the C-suite is decidedly going through some stuff.
First, a plot twist in the squadron of super-enthusiastic Amazon “ambassador” Twitter accounts. Today, in a statement shared with Gizmodo, Amazon has said that it did not create a new crop of egg accounts extolling great working conditions in Amazon warehouses. It’s true, Amazon has admitted, that it does have a long-standing army of fulfillment centre (FC) employee called “ambassadors” who work in “FCs and share facts based on their personal experience,” but these particular Amazon ambassadors tweeting the same messaging in the same tone are fake.
Today, Twitter user “Robby” took credit for the now-famed “Darla.” We’re not sure whether Robby actually created Darla, but Darla was a creation of Amazon, anyway. The point is that it’s hard to tell the real ambassadors from the fake ambassadors in a hall of mirrors of ambassadors. And not even Twitter can seem to keep on top of them. “Frants,” who joined in March 2021, has been temporarily restricted for “unusual activity” but is still live. Frants enjoys linguistics and jumping to Amazon’s defence in the company’s replies.
The latest Amazon ambassadors, like real ambassadors, stylize names with the very real-person convention “AmazonFC[FirstName].” These, as my colleague Matt Novak noticed, display photographic avatars with subtle, classic tells of AI-generated photographs — mainly, wisps of hair smudged against mushy backdrops. They share the same backdrop of a generic Amazon fulfillment centre. Many joined Twitter as Bessemer, Alabama’s union election got underway.
Some, like @AmazonFCJadeyn, who joined in March 2021, remain live with tweets like this:
I’m Jadeyn (:
I work at amazon in Washington and I joined this team where i can answer your questions about what its like to work at amazon! I’m here to be real and spill the tea! Hit me with your questions friends
For comparison, Hannah, an official “ambassador,” tweeted in 2019:
Been a fun and CRAZY first day for Prime day! Leslie started things off this morning and I’ve been here all night! Expect more shots from all the fun!
In an email to Gizmodo, Amazon said that many of the accounts appear to be fake and violate Twitter’s terms. “We’ve asked Twitter to investigate and take appropriate action.”
Curious. Lately, there’s been some confusion over official messaging inside the company itself. On Sunday, Recode reported that Jeff Bezos urged underlings to attack. Soon after, an Amazon News tweet refuting the widespread reports that Amazon workers have been forced by fear of reprisal to urinate in bottles — a claim that’s been repeated many times over by drivers who deliver packages for the company. A security engineer, who apparently was not informed of the order, flagged the tweets as potential hacks “risking Amazon’s brand.”
Twitter’s rules deem that unaffiliated mock accounts will be suspended if they don’t clearly disclaim themselves as fakes. A spokesperson said that Darla was suspended for “impersonation.” In Darla’s defence, the ambassadors generally do a pretty bad job of impersonating Amazon employees.
In other news, the National Labour Relations Board has denied Amazon its request to install a surveillance camera in a regional office where ballots will be counted for its Bessemer, AL union vote. It’s also denied the alternative request to change the locks on the door where ballots will be stored. Amazon and the union will already have an observer on site, and a portion of the count will be livestreamed.
We’re likely far out from the end of the union drive. If a clear winner isn’t declared, there might be a lengthy process of adjudicating contested ballots. There could also be an investigation into whether either side has created an atmosphere of fear or confusion. Something to keep in mind.