Amazon Workers In New York Say They Were Fired For Union Organizing
In charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board, four workers say Amazon illegally terminated them for protesting job conditions.
An independent worker group, Amazonians United, is alleging that Amazon illegally fired four workers who “supported a labor organization” at a delivery station in Queens, according to charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board last week and obtained through a public records request. The four employees, whose names are redacted in the document, were terminated for “protesting terms and conditions of employment” in order to “discourage union activities,” the worker group states in the charges.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Amazon workers at the Woodside and Long Island City delivery stations walked off the job in March, demanding a $3-an-hour pay increase and rest breaks, Vice reported at the time. Previously, in December, workers at that facility circulated a petition in coordination with five other warehouses demanding heightened safety protocols after six Amazon workers were killed by a tornado in Kentucky.
A lawyer representing Amazonians United did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The new charges, filed April 14, are being brought by what’s known as a rank-and-file union, a type of worker organization that acts collectively to pressure management and improve working conditions without holding an official union election or bargaining a contract. Branches of this group, Amazonians United, have won workplace policy changes in Sacramento and a pay raise in Chicago in recent years. Previous unfair labor practice charges brought by Queens workers and Amazonians United leader Jonathan Bailey resulted in the labor board filing a complaint and ordering Amazon to post signage regarding workers’ rights.
The charges come on the heels of a victory for another independent group, the Amazon Labor Union, which won a union election at a warehouse in Staten Island last month. Amazon has filed objections to the results of that election, which will be reviewed by the National Labor Relations Board. The Amazon Labor Union has also organized workers at a second Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, with a union election scheduled for Monday.
Earlier this week, a judge ruled that Amazon wrongfully terminated employee Gerald Bryson in spring 2020, and ordered the company to reinstate him to his job at the recently unionized Staten Island facility. Previously, the company has settled multiple charges of retaliatory firings, including with two Seattle-based tech workers and a warehouse worker in Pennsylvania.
The labor board will also review the outcome of a union election in Bessemer, Alabama, where the number of challenged ballots in a March vote could potentially overturn Amazon’s victory there against the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
Given the recent wave of labor organizing at Starbucks stores across the country, some have predicted that Amazon Labor Union’s win in Staten Island will have the same impact on ongoing organization efforts at Amazon facilities. One tool that Amazon and other employers have used to dissuade workers from unionizing, called captive audience meetings, is currently being challenged by the labor board’s general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, who argued in a memo earlier this month that the tactic is actually illegal under US labor law.
Amazonians United, the group that filed the charges in Queens, eschews union elections, arguing instead that any group of workers working together to improve a workplace is functionally a union.
The National Labor Relations Board will review Amazonian United’s charges of retaliation and determine whether the allegations have merit.