Amazon is charged with illegally firing staff
Environmentalists protest outside Amazon’s shareholders’ meeting
Paayal Zaveri | CNBC
The National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing on Sept. 28 to review allegations that Amazon was on file illegally reciprocating two of its fiercest internal critics when it fired them last year.
Amazon fired Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, both user experience designers at the company’s Seattle headquarters, in April 2020 for “repeated violations of internal guidelines.” Cunningham and Costa said they were fired in retaliation for their continued criticism of Amazon’s climate policies and labor practices.
The NLRB found validity in April of Cunningham and Costa’s complaint about unfair labor practices, which was filed last October. In their complaint to the NLRB, Cunningham and Costa alleged that Amazon violated federal labor law by firing them “for discriminatory enforcement of its solicitation and communication policies,” which prohibits employees from doing business without the manager’s consent to speak.
These guidelines have also resulted in the prohibition and restriction of workers’ right to participate in activities protected by federal labor laws, they argued.
In May, the NLRB’s Seattle regional office filed a complaint in the case of Cunningham and Costa. The complaint will now be heard by an administrative judge in a virtual hearing scheduled for September 28th.
A spokesman for the NLRB confirmed the hearing to CNBC but declined to comment on the case. Cunningham declined to comment. Costa did not respond to a request for comment.
Amazon officials did not respond to a request for comment. The company previously said it disagreed with the NLRB’s decision and found it agrees with employees’ right to speak up, but “that does not come with blanket immunity to our internal policies, all of which are lawful are”.
Amazon could reach an agreement with Cunningham and Costa before the hearing or during the trial. If the trial continues, either party will be able to appeal the judge’s judgment to the NLRB board of directors in Washington.
Amazon is facing a growing number of complaints from employees who claim the company turned against them for speaking up. The number of complaints has reached such a high level that the NLRB is considering pooling its efforts into a national investigation, NBC News reported in March.
The coronavirus pandemic has created increasing pressure among Amazon warehouse and delivery workers to advocate better working conditions, which has sparked a series of actions such as protests and organizing attempts. At the same time, an increasing number of employees have filed complaints with the NLRB, many of which allege unfair labor practices.
Amazon recently rallied with Jonathan Bailey, an Amazon employee who went on strike over Covid-19 concerns at a warehouse in Queens, New York, and later accused the company of violating federal labor laws when it hit him after the strike interrogated the New York Times.
Amazon also reached a settlement with Courtney Bowden, a Pennsylvania warehouse worker who alleged she was wrongly fired after advocating for part-time sick pay, NBC News reported.
Amid rising warehouse and delivery worker activism, Costa and Cunningham’s openness was a rare example of Amazon technicians advocating change in the business.
Costa and Cunningham were members of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, which urged the company to do more to protect its environmental impact. In an open letter in 2019, the group wrote to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to adopt a comprehensive climate policy signed by more than 8,700 employees. Later that year, more than 1,500 Amazon technicians went out to protest climate policies.
They have also pressured Amazon to change the way they respond to workers who speak out against its policies. After Amazon threatened to fire them for speaking out against their climate position, the AECJ organized hundreds of employees to speak up and risk being fired for deliberately violating the policy.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Costa and Cunningham raised concerns about the safety of warehouse workers. Both shared a petition from warehouse workers who stood up for more protection and offered to donate up to $ 500 to support the cause.
SEE: Check out CNBC’s full interview with Amazon CEO Andy Jassy