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The live-streaming platform Twitch has removed anti-union ads that its parent company Amazon ran on the platform targeting its workers in Bessemer, Alabama. The ads encouraged workers to vote no on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Voting is due to run until March 29, and marks the first official attempt by a US Amazon warehouse to form a union.

The main messages of the ads were that Amazon is providing enough as it is, and that unions will only take away from workers' pay. In addition to the advertisements, the company even resorted to put anti-union signs in the warehouse's bathrooms. One Amazon warehouse worker told The Washington Post that the anti-union messaging in bathroom stalls felt ‘like I'm getting harassed’. According to Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU president, ‘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’.

These practices are somewhat reminiscent of how the company dealt with unionization pushes in Europe. Last year, more than two dozen of leaked internal reports revealed Amazon’s obsessive monitoring of organized labor and social and environmental movements. The reports, obtained by Motherboard, were written by Amazon intelligence analysts working for the company's security division and included the exact date, location and number of participants of the event together with a description of what happened, such as ‘strike’ or ‘distribution of leaflets’. At one point, the company even hired detectives from Pinkerton spy agency to monitor European workers' labor union organizing efforts.

Amazon's approach of dealing with its own workforce as a threat has grave implications for workers' privacy and ability to collectively organize. Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, all workers have the right to freedom of association and so to unionize for the protection of their economic and social interests. ‘It is not enough for Amazon to abuse its dominant market power and face antitrust charges by the EU; now they are exporting 19th century American union-busting tactics to Europe’ said Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union.

Without naming Amazon, President Joe Biden appears to have lent his support to the unionization vote in Bessemer. In a video, the President said: ‘Let me be really clear: it's not up to me to decide whether anyone should decide to join a union. But let me be even more clear: it's not up to an employer to decide that either. The choice to join a union is up to the workers - full stop’. The Verge highlights that it is rare for a sitting president to publicly support a union drive, even if the statement is careful enough not to direct workers to vote yes.

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