Discover more from Fred Klonsky in Retirement
Cell phones and Amazon spying on workers.
When I was a teacher our school had the typical intercom system.
It was used for morning announcements and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It was also a source for annoying interruptions of instruction or activities by the principal.
There was one in the staff lounge. We often wondered whether administration could use it to hear us.
It seemed more than a coincidence that Principal Marcy would always seem to walk through the door a few minutes after her name had come up in conversation. The principal’s office shared a wall with the staff lounge.
Even among unionized teachers there can be a sense that we are always being spied on by our bosses.
I remember that in the wake of the first of the horrible mass shootings at schools, doors were locked and cameras installed and you had to be buzzed in the front door. If we came across a stranger in the hallway we asked if we could direct them to where they were going and often accompanied them to to make sure that was where they were going.
We started wearing a photo ID on lanyards around our neck.
I jokingly taped a picture of God from the Sistine Chapel on mine. I think Matthew taped Bart Simpson to his.
We took the threat of violence seriously, but we were a small school where everyone knew everyone anyway.
That was several decades ago. Following the tragedy of the tornado at the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois we are learning that things have changed about workplace security and even a photo ID on a lanyard.
That photo ID on an Amazon warehouse worker is a tracker so Amazon can keep a digital eye on every place an Amazon worker goes and every other Amazon worker they talk to.
But no personal cell phones are allowed.
At the time of the tornado those cell phones could have saved lives.
Amazon claims cell phones interfere with profit and production.
You and I know that a rule that cell phones that aren’t controlled by management is one more tool Amazon and Walmart can use to limit union organizing.
Surveillance often introduced in the name of safety and productivity is meant to have a chilling effect on organizing and allow companies to sidestep labor law.
After all, two workers on a cell phone can turn into a conference call of three.
Meanwhile in Edwardsville, Amazon workers had to rely on directions from floor managers about the danger coming from the impending tornado. They were directed to the south end of the warehouse where there was no safe room.
The Tornado directly hit the south end of the warehouse, killing six.
Companies can install commercially available software from firms like ActivTrak, HiveDesk and Teramind to track keystrokes, take periodic screenshots of employees' desktops and monitor email. "To some extent these surveillance technologies are a little harder to spot, [which] arguably allows them to engage in surveillance that's more hidden and maybe less known," says Wilma Liebman, former chair of the NLRB, and can potentially give companies an advantage during tense union elections. "To the extent that they're able to track employees' emails, they would be able to [know] what the communications are and the substance of them, giving them insight into pre-union activity, employee discontent."
Meanwhile workers must leave their cell phones at home.