Why do we need a petition? Shouldn’t we go through official company channels?
Official company channels have not worked. We have already escalated:
- To multiple VPs and SVPs. Even other VPs have escalated to the Books team in support of trans workers on their teams.
- Via high-severity tickets with hundreds of +1s.
- Via the Glamazon Affinity Group, who advocated on our behalf.
All of these efforts were ignored. Amazon policies and corporate tools are structured so that upper management has the final say—but in the real world, it doesn’t work like that. We have power too.
Is the demand for an elected workers’ oversight board too ambitious?
The demand is very ambitious, but workers involved in our movement feel it’s the right one for three reasons.
- It’s the only thing which will fix the root cause and prevent this from happening again. These books and the anti-trans hate movement they are a part of are doing real damage, right now. We need worker oversight managed by workers like you and me from populations that this hate affects, because we’re only the ones at Amazon capable of making these crucial decisions responsibly.
- It resonates with a wide base of our coworkers. Worker oversight is a common-sense demand—especially at Amazon, where “Ownership” is a core tenet. Amazon is an incredibly demanding place to work. We deserve input on the products and content that our hard work puts out into the world. Worker oversight will also alleviate issues faced by all marginalized groups at Amazon, not just the trans community.
- It will force Amazon to act. Amazon is terrified of giving up more power to its workers. Upper management has spent millions of dollars on union-busting campaigns in Amazon warehouses because they know that workers uniting together in solidarity gets results.
How exactly would an elected workers’ oversight board work? What if Amazon makes promises it doesn’t keep?
No matter how many specific implementation details we add, Amazon could find loopholes to technically follow our demands without making meaningful change.
We must back up our demands by staying organized. Amazon upper management have shown that they are unable to hold themselves accountable. No one but us can make sure that Amazon doesn’t go back on the promises they make us due to new leadership, additional public backlash from the anti-trans movement, or just hoping we’ve all forgotten about this issue and have stopped paying attention. The oversight board is not the source of our power. Our power stems from our organized, collective struggle.
Workers involved in the movement will collectively vote on whether a proposal from Amazon to implement such a board (e.g. the mechanism used for electing workers to the board, how and when the board meets to make recommendations, and SLAs for enacting those recommendations) satisfactorily addresses the root cause of the problem. We already have a few ideas about what sort of board will and will not satisfy our demands, such as:
- An appointed board which is accountable to Amazon upper management and not to workers is unacceptable. Upper management have already shown themselves not up to the task of removing hate speech from Amazon marketplaces.
- A board that is under a gag order is unacceptable. The board cannot represent us if it is not accountable to us. It is not accountable to us if we cannot review its actions.
- A toothless board whose recommendations aren’t acted upon is unacceptable. The board must have the power to influence the roadmaps and S-Team goals of the product and content teams, and those teams must receive adequate funding to implement their recommendations.
Isn’t Amazon keeping these books up because they support free speech?
Amazon has never had a policy to sell all content regardless of intent or impact, so appeals to the “marketplace of ideas” are particularly disingenuous. Amazon has removed transphobic books in the past, and continues to monitor for and remove other hateful products, such as neo-Nazi mechandise, antisemitic conspiracy theories, and the Confederate flag. On the Amazon Web Services side, the company suspended the social network Parler after it was used to coordinate the January 6th 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Amazon already has the power to reject and reclassify content. The company makes decisions every day about what content is acceptable to provide a platform for, but impacted groups have never been part of the process. Instead, upper management has made decisions unilaterally, and they have demonstrated repeatedly that they cannot be trusted with that power. The recent politically-motivated change of course on selling harmful transphobic books described in our petition is just one example.
Can you tell me more about the “pattern of hate” and books or products that affect other marginalized groups?
Our petition highlights a pattern of platforming hate. Case in point: it had only been launched a week when trans workers discovered yet another incredibly hateful and offensive book on Amazon. “The Abolition of Sex” crosses even more lines and denies that trans people even exist.
In the past, Amazon has been called out for selling racist costumes which stereotype Asians and Native Americans and use imagery from blackface minstrelsy as well as for selling Holocaust denial, white supremacist propaganda, and violent misogyny.
We want to hear from workers who are members of marginalized and oppressed groups about how they and their communities have been harmed by books and other products sold by Amazon. Reach out to us if you have a story or concern to share, and watch this space for updates!
I learned about this via an email or message from someone who is no longer with the company. What’s up with that?
In the past, Amazon has retaliated against employee activists and organizers specifically for sending mass communications letting others know about petitions, walkouts, and other worker-organized events that aren’t sanctioned by the company.
We have reason to believe that this is safer now because of a recent settlement which barred Amazon from inconsistently enforcing its solicitation policy to target workers engaging in legally protected activities. The text of this settlement notice can also be viewed on-corp at w?NLRB_Settlement_Notice_2021.
That said, safety for everyone involved in our movement is a top priority for us. Out of an abundance of caution, we ask allies who are leaving the company to send communications on our behalf to avoid putting a target on any current workers for breaking the solicitation policy.