Friday, April 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

'Neo-Nazi' guards at Amazon?

German film alleges. Amazon: "We do not tolerate discrimination..."

'Neo-Nazi' guards at Amazon?

Amazon.com has won local approvals to build a "fulfillment center" thatwill employ 850 full-time workers on 78 acres in Middletown, Del. (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)
Amazon.com has won local approvals to build a "fulfillment center" thatwill employ 850 full-time workers on 78 acres in Middletown, Del. (Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

"Amazon is at the centre of a deepening scandal in Germany as the online shopping giant faced claims that it employed security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers," reports Britain's Guardian here.

"Germany’s ARD television channel made the allegations in a documentary about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff from across Europe to work at its German packing and distribution centres." See the documentary, in German, including footage at Amazon sites, interviews with workers, and what look to me like intentionally inflammatory promotional images, here.

"The film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms, boots and with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed...

 

"Several guards were shown wearing Thor Steinar clothing – a Berlin-based designer brand synonymous with the far-right in Germany. The Bundesliga football association and the federal parliament have both banned the label because of its neo-Nazi associations. Ironically, Amazon stopped selling the clothing for the same reasons in 2009.

"ARD suggested that the name “HESS Security” was an allusion to Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess. It alleged that its director was a man, named only as Uwe L, who associated with football hooligans and convicted neo-Nazis who were known to police...

"ARD said Amazon’s temporary staff worked eight-hour shifts packing goods at the company’s logistics centres in Bad Hersfeld, Konstanz and Augsburg. Many walked up to 17 kilometres per shift and all those taken on could be fired at will. On arrival in Germany, most were told their pay had been cut to below the rate promised when they applied for jobs at Amazon...

"HESS Security did not respond to the allegations made by ARD.  Amazon employs 7,700 full-time staff at seven distrubution centres in Germany."

Amazon's response to the Guardian: “Although the security firm was not contracted by Amazon we are, of course, currently examining the allegations concerning the behaviour of security guards and will take the appropriate measures immediately. We do not tolerate discrimination or intimidation.”

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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