Worker Organizations and Allies Respond to White House Request for Input on Automated Worker Surveillance and Management Systems
Amazon workers are leading the way for White House action on the growing threat of worker surveillance and automated management. Coalition worker organizations and allies submitted this statement to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) making the case for aggressive accountability.
June 29, 2023
Overview: The Biden-Harris administration can stand with working people and stop corporations like Amazon from using automated surveillance and management to undermine worker safety and dignity.
In its request for information, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) seeks input from the public on “the prevalence, uses and purposes, and deployment of automated worker surveillance and management systems.” In this response, we describe the use of
automated surveillance and management within Amazon warehousing and logistics, provide Amazon worker testimonies on the use and impacts of these management methods, outline requested remedies from workers and civil society, and include supplemental materials from workers and civil society organizations.
We focus on Amazon in this response because its model is at the heart of understanding how surveillance and automated management can be used by corporations to enrich themselves to the detriment of workers, their families, and communities. We also focus on Amazon because it uses a combination of surveillance, monopoly, and leverage over workers to defend and expand its power and wealth. If Amazon’s model is allowed to set the standard in warehousing, logistics, and beyond, it risks undermining working conditions and wages for all working people.
Over the past decade, Amazon has grown from a company with 88,400 workers to one with 1.54 million.¹ ² Amazon is now the second largest private employer in the United States, and relies on thousands more third-party contractors to complete its distribution network.³ Recently, Amazon surpassed FedEx in parcel volume and is behind only UPS and the USPS in terms of American package delivery services.⁴
Amazon grew its warehousing and logistics empire using automated surveillance and management to exert a dangerously high level of control over warehouse workers and delivery drivers.⁵ This level of control enables Amazon to enforce a dangerous pace of work, undermine worker organizing, and benefit from offloading risks onto small businesses and delivery drivers. The result is an unsafe, retaliatory, discriminatory, and highly insecure workplace.
Amazon, like other corporations, uses this dangerous, surveillance-driven management model without consequence because our weak laws and enforcement enable it to do so. Corporations like Amazon are also emboldened by a political and economic system that has left over 20 million workers trapped in low-wage jobs.⁶ For years, Amazon workers have organized and advocated for lawmakers and regulators to address these gaps and protect their rights.
In response to this request for information, coalition worker organizations The Awood Center, Missouri Workers Center, and Warehouse Workers Resource Center submitted testimony on behalf of Amazon workers fighting for safe working conditions, including: Yesenia Barrera,
Mohamed Farah Hassan, Khali Jama, and Jennifer Crane.
By listening to workers and aggressively targeting the worst offenders and practices, the Biden-Harris administration has the opportunity to stand with working people over corporate interests and address the ways surveillance and automated management are further eroding
working conditions for low-wage workers.
We submit this response on behalf of our 50+ member organizations who are working together to break the dangerous stranglehold of Amazon over our democracy, economy, and planet. We cannot have a thriving economy or democracy when the most powerful corporations in the world profit, grow, and outcompete other businesses by finding innovative ways to exploit workers. When employers are allowed to rely on low-road labor practices, then workers, communities, and responsible businesses are undermined and left facing the consequences.
Attached to the comment are documents reflecting years of advocacy against Amazon’s surveillance and automated management practices.
Comments in Full:
AI Now Institute
The Awood Center
Center for Popular Democracy
Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law
Demand Progress Education Fund
For the Many
Human Impact Partners
Jobs With Justice
Missouri Workers Center
National Black Worker Center
Make the Road New Jersey
United for Respect
Warehouse Worker Resource Center