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Delivery drivers put a stop to surveillance efforts by Seattle company

Employees say cameras took footage of the road and the drivers themselves.

SEATTLE — Worker tracking is a trend being seen more and more across the American workforce. It's a practice where companies use technology to monitor productivity levels from their employees. 

For workers that spend much of their time on the road, that vehicle can turn into an office, a cafeteria and personal space. That's why delivery driver Manya Janowitz said it was so invasive when in August, surveillance cameras were installed in the white Ford transit cargo vans she drives. She works for the Seattle-based wholesale sandwich company Homegrown. 

The surveillance cameras recorded the road and inside, at the drivers. 

"They were recording us, tracking our movement and notifying our bosses of our activity," said Janowitz, describing how it was uncomfortable being recorded doing a job she'd done well for the past two years. 

"All day, this camera would be focused on you, like you your face constantly. It was hard to think about anything else honestly," said Janowitz.

Workers have been organizing since June with Unite Here Local 8. They are still trying to be recognized as a union. 

A recent New York Times investigation revealed many major U.S. companies, including Amazon, track productivity metrics of their workers. On Aug. 17, Janowitz and her co-workers at the Renton Warehouse decided to take action.

"We didn't know how we were going to be tracked in terms of productivity or idle time. We had no idea. So we also became nervous to take water breaks," said Janowitz.

They went on strike for one day, which was all they needed. Janowitz believed it was the first strike against surveillance.

"We won," Janowitz said. "We were very thrilled to come into work days later and won the right to cover the cameras with the privacy screening."

Janowitz said she and the 250 employees at Homegrown are still trying to unionize and request better pay, benefits and workplace safety. This recent win gives them hope. 

KING 5 reached out to Homegrown and is still waiting on a response. 

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