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The NLRB accused Amazon of illegally threatening, surveilling, and interrogating workers over union organizing at a New York warehouse

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/28/2022 insider@insider.com (Isobel Asher Hamilton)
An employee scans packages at Amazon's JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island, New York, US November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid © REUTERS/Brendan McDermid An employee scans packages at Amazon's JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island, New York, US November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
  • An NLRB complaint has accused Amazon of illegally trying to stop workers from joining a union.
  • It alleged that Amazon brought in a consultant who told workers union organizers were "thugs."
  • Amazon can now either settle with the NRLB or go to trial, Motherboard reports.

Amazon has been accused of deploying illegal tactics to stop workers at a Staten Island warehouse from supporting a union drive, in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint, as first reported by Motherboard and Bloomberg.

Organizers for the Amazon Labor Union have been openly campaigning for a union vote at the Staten Island JFK8 warehouse since April. 

"The NLRB issued a complaint against Amazon alleging that the company repeatedly broke the law by threatening, surveilling, and interrogating their Staten Island warehouse workers who are engaged in a union organizing campaign," NLRB Region 29 Regional Director Kathy Drew King said in a statement sent to Insider.

"The complaint seeks to stop and remedy this unlawful conduct to ensure that Amazon's employees can freely and fairly exercise their rights under the National Labor Relations Act," King added.

The NLRB's complaint accused Amazon of bringing in a union avoidance consultant in May, who told employees the union drive would fail because its organizers were "thugs," Motherboard and Bloomberg report.

The consultant promised to address workers' concerns if they didn't support the union, according to the complaint, per Bloomberg.

Motherboard reports that the complaint also alleged that a security guard confiscated union literature from a worker and "surveilled employees."

As a result of Amazon's alleged illegal union-busting, the NLRB is calling for the company to be made to run "mandatory training sessions" for its supervisors, managers, security guards, and consultants on workers' rights to unionize.

The NLRB also wants Amazon to read workers their rights out loud in the warehouse and hand out notices outlining their union rights, per Motherboard and Bloomberg.

ALU president Chris Smalls tweeted on Thursday about the complaint, calling it a "huge huge victory."

 

Amazon has the option either to settle with the NLRB or to take the complaint to trial, Motherboard and Bloomberg report.

"These allegations are false and we look forward to showing that through this process," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to Motherboard and Bloomberg. Amazon did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider.

The NLRB confirmed Thursday that the union at JFK8 had collected enough signatures to hold a union vote.

A warehouse in Alabama is also set to hold a re-run of a union election it held in Spring last year. Workers at Amazon's warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against forming a union but the NLRB ordered the election to be re-held after it ruled Amazon had illegally pressured workers into voting against unionization.

The second election in Bessemer will be held next month.

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