Dot-commies | Front Porch | Indy Week
Pin It


When I heard that there were no unions at, I immediately rushed to their Web site to see if it was really true. I typed in the word "union" and did a search. There was a book on "Union and Confederate Submarine Warfare in the Civil War"; State of the Union, a 1948 Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn movie; a "Union Underground" CD with explicit lyrics; and a five-tine razor-back manure fork from the Union Tool Company.

There were plenty of unions at So what had I read in The New York Times (Nov. 29) about the company's internal Web site telling employees that unions are a "greedy, for-profit business" and giving managers tips on how to suss out groups of workers trying to form a union? Could it really be true? I struck deeper into the Amazon Web site, to the section entitled, "What are we really like?"

Here I learned that everyone at works "hard, long and smart." They "make history." They like people who "think out of the box and articulate their ideas." But what if they articulate the idea of forming a union? Amazon's internal Web site, says the Times, advises that "unions mean strife and possible strikes; that while unions are certain to charge expensive dues, they cannot guarantee improved wages or benefits."

Amazon's public site invites college and MBA students to work in "small teams with the best and the brightest." Amazon's internal site warns that "small group huddles" which break up in silence "on the approach of the supervisor" are a sign of nascent union organization. Note to small teams: don't huddle. You've got an MBA; you figure out the difference.

A "Holiday Delight-O-Meter" on Amazon's public site revealed that 14,243,067 units had been ordered worldwide since November. Amazon's internal site revealed "warning signs" of union organization including "an increase in complaints, a decrease in the quality of work, growing aggressiveness and dawdling in the lunchroom and restrooms." But aren't those also the warning signs of working your employees to death?

Not for Paul. He's an Amazon employee who tells it straight in a testimonial on the Amazon public site: "My mind has rarely been more stimulated in my life," he writes. "The vibe within the production group can be so strong: Conversations switch between Web site architecture to Rogerian psychoanalysis, from object-oriented Perl to pickup trucks, and the stream of Simpsons quotes can percolate for days. It's like a family, where we give each other rides to the airport, help each other move, and go for weekly bowling outings."

So that's why doesn't like unions: They're a family! But: Families don't lay you off when business goes bust; they're not supposed to tell you lies and ignore your complaints; they don't spy on you when you huddle in small groups; and they don't consider it a "warning sign" when you dawdle in the bathroom. Maybe workplaces are not families. And maybe, that's why people form unions in the first place.

A version of this essay aired on Pacifica Network News

Latest in Front Porch

More by David Potorti


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Front Porch

  • One vote

    • Nov 12, 2014
  • Box of one

    Was I paying to be helped or to feel important, a bona fide expert on only myself?
    • Sep 24, 2014
  • The Old South (Hills)

    The Old South (Hills)

    • Sep 17, 2014
  • More »

Twitter Activity


'Anna Lee' is a truly beautiful song, Ms Dossett. And I love Levon Helm's rendition. You are blessed with a …

by Byron Miller on A song for Levon (Front Porch)

Just now seeing this....Liz and I were super close friends in the early 80s. She was so special. I had …

by RoBert 1 on In memoriam: Liz Holm, 1959–2013 (Front Porch)

Most Read

  1. The Myth of Gender (Back Talk)
  2. Hair Don't (Peripheral Visions)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation