Technology

Amazon settles with 2 staff who mentioned they had been fired for activism

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Environmentalists protest outside Amazon’s shareholders’ meeting

Paayal Zaveri | CNBC

Amazon reached an agreement with two former employees who, according to the National Labor Relations Board, were illegally fired for speaking out publicly about the company’s carbon footprint and labor policy.

As part of the deal reached between Amazon and two employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, the company is required to pay their wages arrears and “notify all engineering and warehouse workers across the country that Amazon cannot lay off workers for.” organize and exercise their rights, “the workers said in a statement. They did not reveal how much Amazon will pay them.

“This is a win for the protection of workers’ rights and shows that we are rightly standing up for one another, for justice and for our world,” said Cunningham and Costa in a statement.

The settlement was announced by NLRB Administrative Judge John Giannopoulos at a virtual hearing at which Giannopoulos was asked to examine the NLRB’s complaint. NLRB spokeswoman Kayla Blado confirmed that a private settlement had been reached between the parties.

An Amazon spokesman told CNBC in a statement: “We have reached a mutual agreement that resolves the legal issues on this case and we welcome the resolution of this matter.”

Earlier this year, the NLRB found that Amazon had illegally fired Cunningham and Costa when it fired them in April 2020. Amazon previously said it disagreed with the NLRB’s findings, claiming it fired Costa and Cunningham for “repeated violations of internal policies.”

In their complaint to the NLRB last October, Costa and Cunningham alleged that Amazon violated federal labor law by firing them “for discriminatory enforcement of their solicitation and communication policies.”

By completing a settlement, Amazon avoids a potentially lengthy process of witnessing and analyzing the treatment of employees. If the NLRB had sided with the employees, Amazon could have been forced, among other things, to reinstate Cunningham and Costa or to grant them back wages.

Cunningham and Costa worked as user experience designers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters for 15 years. In 2018, they became vocal critics of Amazon’s climate policy and formed an employee advocacy group calling on the company to reduce its impact on climate change. The Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group received the support of more than 8,700 employees and drove more than 1,500 employees to resign in protest against Amazon’s climate policy.

During the pandemic, Cunningham and Costa raised concerns about Amazon’s treatment of warehouse workers. Both shared a petition from warehouse workers campaigning for more coronavirus protection, and their staff council was planning an internal event where Amazon technicians and warehouse workers could discuss workplace conditions.

Amazon is facing increasing scrutiny by employees and outside groups over its work practices. Warehouse and delivery workers have publicly voiced their concerns about the safety of frontline workers during the pandemic. At the same time, an increasing number of employees have filed complaints with the NLRB, many of which allege unfair labor practices.

The sacking of Cunningham and Costa last April sparked an immediate backlash. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., And Vice President Kamala Harris, then a California Senator, joined other lawmakers in asking Amazon for more information about the layoff.

Tim Bray, a prominent engineer and former vice president at Amazon, resigned in protest last May. Bray said he “caught” after learning of the layoffs, adding that staying with the company would be “signing actions I despised”.

SEE: California Governor Newsom signs law to strengthen the protection of warehouse workers

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