Amazon again accused of breaking labor laws at unionized warehouse

The NLRB says the company changed policies without negotiating with unionized workers.

Brendan McDermid / reuters

Amazon has been accused again of illegal anti-union behavior. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint Monday, saying the company changed its policies to squash union support at its only unionized warehouse in Staten Island, as reported by Bloomberg. The complaint says Amazon changed policies to prohibit onsite union meetings while bypassing labor negotiations for providing paid leave for COVID-19 cases, among other violations. The accusations paint a picture of a corporation essentially dismissing the union, which voted to organize in 2022, as illegitimate — an image that lines up with its CEO’s public comments.

The NLRB accuses Amazon of changing a policy to prevent unionized workers from accessing the Staten Island warehouse during their time off. In addition, the agency says the company terminated two employees because of their association with the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) and changed its paid-leave policy for COVID-19 cases unilaterally — without negotiating with the workers’ organization.

The complaint also alleges that Amazon CEO Andy Jassy broke federal labor laws by saying unionized employees would be less empowered and have difficulty enjoying direct relationships with supervisors in an interview at The New York Times DealBook Summit in December. “That has a real chance to end up in federal courts,” Jassy added about the workers’ establishment of “bureaucratic” unions. Amazon has argued that the union’s establishment should be overturned because of “misconduct.”

The NLRB complaint describes Jassy’s comments as “interfering with, restraining and coercing employees,” saying his quotes about losing access to managers were an illegal threat. The NLRB filed a previous complaint in October following similar anti-union comments from Jassy. “All these Succession-style billionaires should be held accountable for unlawful actions, and that’s what we’re doing,” said ALU attorney Seth Goldstein. “[The complaint] is going to send a strong message to the union-busters and to CEOs like Jassy who think that they can say whatever they want to and they won’t be held accountable.”

In cases like this, NLRB prosecutors’ complaints are sent to agency judges, whose rulings can be appealed to labor board members in Washington and, if it stretches beyond that, to federal court. But, unfortunately, although the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows the independent agency to make employers reinstate wrongly terminated workers and change policies, it can’t issue fines to them (or individual executives like Jassy). So don’t be shocked if this saga makes its way through the courts as Amazon flexes its muscle to try to avoid meaningful consequences and prevent the lone unionized warehouse from sparking a broader movement within the corporation.

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