Workers at JFK8, the first Amazon fulfillment center to vote to unionize, allege that the company is violating a judge’s orders to stop anti-union retaliation.
On Nov. 18, US district judge Diane Gujarati issued a 30-page ruling in a case regarding the termination of Gerald Bryson, a JFK8 warehouse employee who was reportedly fired for protesting health and safety measures in April 2020. The judge denied Bryson’s reinstatement but barred Amazon from terminating employment over organizing efforts in the future. Gujarati specifically tasked Amazon with reading out a public notice, within a week, to all 8,000 employees at the warehouse in Staten Island, New York, stating it will “cease and desist” from retaliating against people involved in union organizing.
But in a Nov. 30 motion, the National Labor Relations Board alleged that the steps taken by Amazon “make a mockery” of the order. The company hasn’t posted the public notice where in customary locations like break rooms or inside bathroom stalls, where visibility is high. Also, Amazon tried to schedule meetings at times when attendance would be minimized instead of being maximized, such as at the start of a shift. Amazon also used pre-recorded audio and video instead of reading the order live, as the judge had ordered.
Quotable: Why Amazon must read out the cease and desist order
“The judge’s order in this case recognizes Amazon’s unlawful conduct and provides the full force of a federal court injunction to prohibit Amazon from further discharging employees for engaging in protected concerted activity. This relief is critical to ensure that Amazon employees can fully and freely exercise their rights to join together and improve their working conditions, including by forming, assisting, or joining a union.”
- Teresa Poor, regional director for the Brooklyn office of the NLRB
Amazon workers are rallying to be recognized
The Amazon Labor Union’s (ALU’s) landmark win at the JFK8 facility came in April, but Amazon has refused to officially recognize the grassroots organization, pushing back on the vote.
Yesterday (Nov. 30), union members protested outside the DealBook Summit in New York, which was attended by Andy Jassy, Amazon’s CEO. On stage at the summit, Jassy, who has repeatedly argued workers are “better off” without unions, said that the Staten Island vote had a “lot of irregularities” in it, and that the ongoing tussle “has a real chance to end up in federal courts.”
Amazon’s objections were rejected by an NLRB hearing officer in September. In response to Jassy yesterday, Christian Smalls, the president of ALU, emphasized the corporate giant “lost” and must “come to the table” to bargain.
The union is fighting for “better pay, better benefits, and better working conditions.” The mismanagement of health and safety has especially been top of mind because employees have repeatedly been made to work as fires broke out. In mid-November, a disgruntled employee at JFK8 attacked co-workers with fire extinguisher fumes for an hour before they could leave—and that too just a minute before their shift ended.
Is Amazon anti-union?
Before the Staten Island vote, Amazon apparently interrogated and surveilled workers, complaints with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) show.
After JFK8, two votes to unionize—one at another fulfillment center in Staten Island and another in Albany—failed. Union workers argue that many voted negatively because of intimidation tactics by Amazon, including calling the cops on union leaders, putting up anti-union messaging, and threatening termination for those who participate.
One more thing: Amazon’s sales keep soaring
Undeterred by rising inflation on the outside and mounting agitation on the inside, Amazon recorded its best-ever Thanksgiving sales. In the five days between Thursday’s Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday’s online sales extravaganza—Amazon generated more than $1 billion in sales for small businesses alone.
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