Amazon illegally fired workers who spoke out, labor board finds

Amazon illegally retaliated against two of its workers when it fired them after they publicly criticized the company’s climate policies and supported workers protesting warehouse conditions, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found. 

The NLRB found the allegations in the case had merit, and a regional director will issue a complaint if the case does not settle, according to the board. 

The board’s determination about the firing of Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa was first reported by The New York Times

“It’s a moral victory and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law,” Cunningham told the Times. 

Cunningham and Costa were outspoken critics of Amazon and publicly supported workers pushing for better warehouse conditions, especially better safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic. They were also part of a group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, which is pushing the company to do more to address its impact on the climate. 

Cunningham and Costa accused the company of firing them for speaking out

A spokesperson for Amazon denied the allegations that the employees were fired for speaking out.

“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against our internal policies, all of which are lawful,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We terminated these employees not for talking publicly about working conditions, safety or sustainability but, rather, for repeatedly violating internal policies.”

The case is one of many allegations of unfair labor practices Amazon is facing. The NLRB has filed more than three dozen charges against Amazon across 20 cities since February 2020, NBC News reported last week, citing NLRB filings. 

A spokesperson for the board told NBC it is considering creating a consolidated effort between the regions based on the number of similar charges against the company. 

The NLRB is also in the process of counting up ballots in the unionization vote at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. If successful, the effort would create the first Amazon union in the U.S.

“Today is a reminder that Amazon will break the law to silence its own workers who speak out about the dangerous work conditions frontline workers are facing during this pandemic,” United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International President Marc Perrone said in a statement.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is leading the campaign to unionize Amazon workers in Alabama, is affiliated with UFCW.

“Amazon’s illegal retaliation against these whistleblowers makes the Amazon union election in Alabama even more urgent as Bessemer employees exercise their right to make their voices heard,” Perrone added.

—Updated at 4:25 p.m.

Tags Amazon Criticism of Amazon National Labor Relations Board NLRB Unfair labor practice

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