Via America’s Lawyer: Coronavirus has completely warped the modern career landscapes, and large corporations like Amazon are jumping at the opportunity to implement stricter surveillance and union-busting tactics during this transitional period. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio: Major corporations will do almost anything to prevent their workers from starting a union, even if it means violating the most basic human rights. That’s exactly what’s happening in this country right now and I have Farron Cousins from the trial lawyer magazine to talk about it. I saw this article, it’s remarkable. We, we, we go back to the days of Henry Ford and put it on steroids. Lay this story out for us.

Farron Cousins: Well, it is interesting because what we’re finding out now is that this practice of surveilling workers has not only been continuing over the years, but it’s evolved and one of the more disgusting things that we’re seeing happening right now happens to be of course, with Amazon at Whole Foods, which Amazon now owns. They’re using heat map technology to try and determine if their workers are meeting in, in large groups while they’re working. To see if they’re possibly unionizing, because any time Amazon believes you have workers congregating together, that could be potential union talk and that of course is dangerous. Of course, that’s crazy that Amazon thinks that anytime three, four workers are together is a bad thing, and that it’s automatically a union. But that is what’s happening in these 510 Whole Food stores you have across the country.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. So just for example, this, this Whole Foods story, there’s 95,000 employees, okay. There’s over 500 stores that they have. So they’re not just tracking their own employees. They’re tracking their employees that then go about, go out into the neighborhoods and they’re looking for demographics. What are the economic problems look like in that? I mean, what is, what does poverty look like? Who’s going to come in and buy food from us. But the ugly thing is, is your point. Are there five people meeting? Well, then there must be a conclusion that these people are trying to form a union and then they send in the union busters. This goes all the way back to Henry Ford. Doesn’t it? This, he did it without this technology, but he did it with, by bringing in minorities. Didn’t he?

Farron Cousins: Right. Henry Ford, you know, he did have this company that would surveil the workers and try to make sure there was no talk of unions, even though there was huge talk of unions. But, and so what he’d do at a time when nobody was hiring African American workers, he would bring in all these workers who would work for less. So it would scare the white employees saying, well, gee, I can’t talk about a union anymore because if I do, they’re just going to replace me with somebody who’ll worked for half as much. And that is how he busted unions and to an extent that practice is still in place today. What we see these corporations doing, like you just pointed out with Whole Foods. They’re looking at the demographics of the area. And if they say, okay, well, this area is pretty poor. You know, we’ve got a lot of minorities here. Let’s reach out and bring them into the store because they’ve found when there’s more minorities, there’s actually less talk of unionization. Less chance of a union forming.

Mike Papantonio: Well, first of all, the salaries are less. The benefits are less. They treat minorities in a way that Henry Ford did. He’d bring them in and I’m going to pay him very little. This, this story though, is it, there’s something called a Mac address, Mac address, and every, every phone has it. Every iPad has it. They’re using this Mac address to do this. Explain it just a little bit. It’s, it’s, it’s actually fairly elegant kind of process.

Farron Cousins: It is and this is crazy sneaky here. What it is is if you’re working at a store, sometimes even if you’re just a customer, if you have your Bluetooth turned on your phone or your wifi turned on, you don’t even have to connect to the store. The store has already pinged your phone and gotten the address. And so then what they do, they have their own data analytics companies that they use, they subcontract, or they do it in house and they then track where you’re going. Who you’re talking to. Where do you live? Do you live in a good neighborhood? Do you live in a poor neighborhood? Do you live, you know, with other people? Is there talk, are you congregating with people from work outside of work? And also while you’re at work, are you walking around and are you doing your job? Are you standing around too much? Every movement of these workers, both on and off the clock is being tracked from that Mac address that they don’t even know they’ve given to this company. They did it just from having Bluetooth turned on.

Mike Papantonio: They’re also adding facial recognition to it, by the way. Now, who are these people? I mean, who are these people coming up with this? RetailNext, RetailNext is one of the companies that develops this technology. It’s just no different than SpyWorks.

Farron Cousins: Right.

Mike Papantonio: And at SpyWorks it not only affects them at their job, it affects them at home, and their, in their daily life as well.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.