Warren and Sanders question Amazon CEO over Whole Foods anti-union video

Getty Images

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday pressed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for information over a video allegedly sent to Whole Foods employees that warned against unionization and urged supervisors to report efforts among workers to organize.

In a letter to Bezos, the two senators write that the video first reported by Gizmodo could have violated labor laws if employees were warned that stores could close as a result of unionization.

{mosads}”The video reportedly tells supervisors, ‘you might need to talk about how having a union could hurt innovation which could hurt customer obsession which could ultimately threaten the building’s continued existence,'” the two senators wrote.

“It is unclear how this statement could be reasonably interpreted as anything other than a threat that an employee’s workplace may close if he or she supports a union or engages in union activity,” Warren and Sanders continue, noting that such a statement would be a clear violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The letter goes on to request information from Bezos on the contents of the video no later than November 1, and warned that a recent move by the company to raise its company-wide minimum wage to $15 per hour would not shield it from pressure to follow labor law.

“It is important to recognize that workers’ rights do not stop at the minimum wage, and raising the pay of your lowest-paid workers, while important, does not give you a free pass to engage in potentially illegal anti-union behavior,” wrote the two senators, who both may run for president in 2020.

The letter comes following reports that employees would lose monthly stock rewards and other bonuses as a result of the company’s plan to increase its minimum wage, while Amazon representatives have maintained that overall wages will still increase for workers once the benefit loss is factored in.

Sanders in particular has hammered Amazon and Bezos for months over issues of low worker pay and wealth inequality, and has noted that despite Bezos’s status as the richest man on Earth, many of his lowest-paid employees rely on government benefits.

An Amazon spokeswoman told The Hill in an email that the company complies with the NLRA and employment laws at all levels of government.

“We comply with all Federal, state, and local employment laws – which includes the National Labor Relations Act,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email.

“We respect the individual rights of associates to join a union or to choose otherwise. Amazon has an open-door policy that encourages employees to bring their comments, questions, and concerns directly to their management team. We firmly believe this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce,” she added.

This article was updated at 7:28 p.m. with Amazon’s response.


Tags Amazon Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Warren Jeff Bezos NLRA organized labor unionization
See all Hill.TV See all Video