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Amazon Fires Security Firm With Neo-Nazi Ties

Amazon Fires Security Firm With Neo-Nazi Ties

Internationally famous retailer Amazon found itself embroiled in a scandal last week as a documentary accusing the company of working with a security firm linked to Neo-Nazi organizations aired on German television (you can watch it here, although you’ll have to brush up on your German skills first). The documentary highlighted abusive working conditions at three of the company’s distribution centers in Germany, putting Amazon on the carpet with a damning recitation of the human rights and legal violations committed by the company.

Employees of the firm, Hensel European Security Services (HESS — an acronym the documentary suggested was meant to be a reference to the infamous Rudolf Hess), wore black uniforms supplied by a company known to have connections to the Neo-Nazi scene and military-style haircuts clearly designed to frighten. In addition to walking the floor and performing routine tasks that fell under their job descriptions, they also searched the belongings and living quarters of temporary employees, many of whom were immigrants.

Herein lay some of the major concerns with the revelations about the company. Germany, like much of Europe, is experiencing a backlash against immigrants and people of color, in part because of economic contraction, and in part because of vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric from commentators who previously occupied the fringe, but are moving into the mainstream. Germany’s Neo-Nazi movement has been growing in size and aggression, a particularly loaded issue in a nation with very complex and draconian laws about displays of Neo-Nazi sentiment in light of the Holocaust. Many Germans were shocked and outraged by the conditions shown in the documentary, and their anger spread around the world.

In addition to the intimidation tactics designed to make workers feel uncomfortable and uneasy, Amazon may have engaged in direct labor violations as well. One worker claims she was fired after complaining about the security firm’s treatment of her and other employees, and Amazon may be paying seasonal workers less than it advertises. These violations merit closer investigation, especially in light of the fact that Amazon has been accused of labor violations at other European distribution and operating centers as well. Cheap goods can come at a high cost for workers, as this documentary illustrates, but it’s rare for the public to get a chance to see those costs.

In response to the bad publicity, Amazon hastily severed its ties with HESS and attempted to distance itself from the firm by saying it was a subcontractor hired by an employment agency, rather than a company Amazon worked with directly. Amazon also said it had a “zero tolerance” policy for harassment and intimidation, working hard to rehab its public image. It may have been successful, especially in light of the fact that many consumers would be very reluctant to give up the convenience and low prices at Amazon, but it highlights a growing issue across Europe as immigrants work as seasonal laborers in conditions that can be intimidating, unsafe, and certainly not comparable to those offered to white Europeans.

This story should be viewed as a warning bell, rather than an outlier incident.

Related articles:

Greek Neo-Nazis Gain Parliamentary Seat

Amazon Price Check App “Kind of Evil”

Neo-Nazis In Germany Get Tricked By Trojan T-Shirts

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Photo credit: hirotomo t

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102 comments

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11:09AM PDT on Mar 12, 2013

i wonder if that's the reason nectar dropped amazon as one of it's partners in online shopping?

12:03PM PST on Mar 1, 2013

Why didn't they know this before the documentary?

4:59AM PST on Mar 1, 2013

Thank you for the article.

4:34PM PST on Feb 28, 2013

Noted.

6:00AM PST on Feb 27, 2013

ty

8:21AM PST on Feb 26, 2013

WHO IN THIS WORLD CAN BE TRUSTED TODAY????? @#4%^&*

7:12AM PST on Feb 26, 2013

So now AMAZON is as corupt as WALMART?
Support LOCAL businesses.

2:27PM PST on Feb 25, 2013

What Amazon has done is terrible and they should have known better. They should have screened these idiots. What is happening in Germany is beyond disturbing, for a nation who should know better, and need to do something to counter the neo-nazi idiots. It seems like a lot of people are hiding behind the excuse that they didn't know what was going on until it was too late. Look what happened the last time that occurred in Germany.

12:41PM PST on Feb 25, 2013

"In response to the bad publicity, Amazon hastily severed its ties with HESS and attempted to distance itself from the firm by saying it was a subcontractor hired by an employment agency, rather than a company Amazon worked with directly. Amazon also said it had a “zero tolerance” policy for harassment and intimidation, working hard to rehab its public image."

Yes, I agree this should not be seen as an outlier, I see this as standard practice for American businesses, all goes back to "plausible deniability". Pull off whatever you can for as long as you can, child labor, horrible working conditions, then when the stuff hits the fan, deny it all and blame it on someone else, while mentioning your own saintly clean hands. Anyone who thinks Amazon is the only company guilty of this kind of behavior really needs to read a newspaper, even if only online, because it is far more common than you think. Profit before people is standard procedure for business - and always has been, that philosophy is what led to unions being created in the first place. They'd do better to 'fess up and promise to do better. Pointing fingers and denying they knew anything about it will only cause enterprising reporters to continue digging. Some businesses, and people, never learn.

11:45AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

Well as long as the shit is posted on time who cares? ;)

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