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Forum Post: Amazon’s Thuggish Security Force in Germany Shows How Corporations Get Their Way

Posted 5 years ago on Feb. 27, 2013, 12:11 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Amazon’s Thuggish Security Force in Germany Shows How Corporations Get Their Way

Sunday, 24 February 2013 10:04 By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism | News Analysis


One of the canards libertarians like to sell is that the state has a monopoly on violence.

They need to get a handle on some basic economic concepts, for starters:

Economies of scale

Network effects

Barriers to entry

Those three alone, which operate in many fields of commerce, means that the natural of that industry will be towards fewer and more powerful players, unless something intercedes (such as disruptive technology that changes industry boundaries or regulation). Fewer and more powerful players means oligopoly or monopoly pricing, which even neoclassical economists will admit happens and depict as a Very Bad Thing. This reason alone is why the overwhelming majority of economists that say they are in favor of “free markets” favor regulation to make them work properly. This is one of the many reasons we describe “free markets” as an oxymoron. Concentrated power allows companies to behave thuggishly, sometimes in a literal rather than figurative manner. It is remarkable how, in the US, the story of the physical risks that early labor organizers and protestors took has been virtually airbrushed out of the record. For instance, from Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth Century by Stephen Harlan Norwood:

Don’t kid yourself into thinking that this was an isolated incident. This was what the NLRB later described as Henry Ford’s war on unions. Bennett built the world’s largest private army. And it was not as if he was wanting for competition. GM and Chrysler also had their hired goons, but they worked through intermediaries to keep their hands cleaner.

Consider this Wikipedia description of Pinkerton:

At its height, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency employed more agents than there were members of the standing army of the United States of America, causing the state of Ohio to outlaw the agency due to fears it could be hired as a private army. Pinkerton was the largest private law enforcement organization in the world at the height of its power.

During the labor unrest of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, businessmen hired the Pinkerton Agency to infiltrate unions, to supply guards to keep strikers and suspected unionists out of factories, and sometimes to recruit goon squads to intimidate workers. The best known such confrontation was the Homestead Strike of 1892, in which Pinkerton agents were called in to enforce the strikebreaking measures of Henry Clay Frick, acting on behalf of Andrew Carnegie, who was abroad; the ensuing conflicts between Pinkerton agents and striking workers led to several deaths on both sides.

And powerful employers intimidating workers with the threat of violence is hardly a thing of the past. As the Independent reports (hat tip Richard Smith):

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. 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.

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. “Many of the workers are afraid,” the programme-makers said.

The documentary provided photographic evidence showing that guards regularly searched the bedrooms and kitchens of foreign staff. “They tell us they are the police here,” a Spanish woman complained. Workers were allegedly frisked to check they had not walked away with breakfast rolls.

Another worker called Maria said she was thrown out of the cramped chalet she shared with five others because she had dried her wet clothes on a wall heater. She said she was confronted by a muscular, tattooed security man and told to leave. The guards then shone car headlights at her in her chalet while she packed in an apparent attempt to intimidate her.

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. The programme-makers, who booked in at one of the budget hotels where Amazon staff were housed, said they were arrested by HESS Security guards after being caught using cameras. They were ordered to hand over their film and, when they refused, were held for nearly an hour before police arrived and freed them. The film showed HESS guards scuffling with the camera crew and trying to cover their lenses.

Notice that the goons held the filmmakers and the police “freed” them? That’s unlawful detention.

For German-speakers, here is the program for your viewing pleasure, and a local report, with lots of reader comments. So, Virginia, businesses can get too powerful and inflict violence to get its way. But you’ll never hear that from libertarians.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 5 years ago

TSA Now Traumatizing Disabled Toddlers in Strollers

Monday, 25 February 2013 14:56 By Thom Hartmann, The Daily Take | Op-Ed


After the attacks of 9/11, it was only natural that our government would put in place new policies to help prevent future terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, thanks to the Bush Administration and its "fear everything" doctrine, we went nuts. As a result, what we have today is a system that is badly broken, that does very little to actually protect the lives of Americans, and that is in need of some serious reconsideration.

Since 9/11, the focus has been on airport security, or the lack thereof. Because airport security had been privatized and airport screeners were about the same caliber and pay as Burger King workers, the Bush Administration established the TSA in November of 2001. According to the agency's website, the mission of the TSA is to, "protect the nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce."

But there's always been a dynamic tension between freedom and security, as Ben Franklin identified after the Constitutional Convention. And when security is overdone, it can sometimes end up somewhere between an oppressive institution and a clown show. That's where 3-year-old Lucy Forck comes in.

Earlier this month, TSA officials at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in St.Louis, Missouri detained 3-year-old Lucy, on her way to a family vacation in Disney World.

The agents threatened the frightened little girl with an invasive pat-down. Little Lucy is confined to a wheelchair, and her mother took cell phone video of the entire traumatic experience, and put it up online for the world to see. In the video, you can clearly see a scared Lucy, and hear her mother questioning why such invasive security techniques need to be performed on a wheelchair-bound toddler. But Lucy's story is just one of many tragic and unnecessary acts in America's modern security theater.

In October of 2012, Michelle Dunaj, a terminally-ill cancer patient, was on her way to visit friends and family in Hawaii, for what would likely be her last time seeing them. When Dunaj arrived at Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport, TSA agents forced her to lift up her shirt in public, so that they could check underneath her bandages. Dunaj had asked for privacy, but the agents wouldn't allow it. The whole situation started after a TSA agent had seen tubing connected to Dunaj's torso, a result of her medical condition. Dunaj was eventually allowed to proceed, only after being hurt and humiliated.

Earlier in 2012, TSA agents at Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida pulled 18-month-old baby girl Riyanna off of a flight, because her name was on the federal government's no-fly list. Her family believes they were being profiled due to their Middle Eastern name, and because Riyanna's mother was dressed in a traditional hijab.

Rewind two years, and America's security theater rears its ugly head yet again. Three-year-old Rocco Dubiel was traveling with his family, and was in a wheelchair with a broken leg. As his family passed through the security checkpoint, Rocco was detained by TSA agents, and swabbed for explosive residue. Again the incident was posted to the web, and again the TSA was forced to issue an apology.

All of these incidents took place at our nation's airports. But that's not our only mass transit system. And, at least so far – thankfully – there are no pat-downs or public shamings in our nation's other transit systems. That's because, ever since the Bush Administration created the TSA, all security focus has been placed on the skies, and not on the ground.

Is that because they just haven't gotten around to busses, trains, and cars? Or because the whole thing is more theatre than reality. Back in the 1970s, after numerous aircraft hijackings to Cuba, legislation was introduced in Congress to require airlines to harden their cockpit doors. El Al, the Israeli airline, had been doing that since they started flying. Virtually all the European airlines had hardened cockpit doors. But the US airlines didn't want to pay the one-time cost – which would have been around $100,000 per plane. It would have cut their quarterly profits. So they lobbied Congress hard, and the legislation died.

If United and American Airlines had had hardened cockpit doors, 9/11 never would have happened. It's part of why it hasn't happened ever in Israel. And, in the ultimate example of locking the barn door after the horse is out, those doors are hardened today.

But we behave like they're not, and like we're all terrified. And this security theatre, like the military-industrial-complex it's become a part of, just keeps growing and growing without ever being questioned. From Chertof Porno X-Ray machines to groping kids in wheelchairs to humiliating cancer patients.

This nation used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but since Bush and Cheney, we've become the land of the frightened and the home of the sheep. It's time we changed that. It's time for sensible security in the United States that protects the lives, and, frankly, even more importantly, the rights, of all Americans.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 0 points by nomdeguerre (1775) from Brooklyn, NY 5 years ago

Just wait until your only retail options are Amazon and Walmart. We'd all have to toe the line.