Anti-union comments made by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy in interviews earlier this year constituted a violation of federal labor laws, labor officials have alleged in a complaint filed on Wednesday.
As first reported by The Washington Post, the allegedly unlawful comments were made in two interviews in April and June, shortly after Amazon Labor Union (ALU) successfully unionized an Amazon warehouse for the first time in history.
In April, Jassy said on CNBC that unions are a “more bureaucratic” and “much slower” method of affecting change than speaking directly with management — a common anti-union talking point that ignores that Amazon workers have repeatedly brought issues to management, to no avail. He also said that workers are “better off” without a union, a comment that was widely criticized.
During a Bloomberg tech event in June, Jassy once again said that the company believes that workers are better off not unionizing and that it would be harder for workers to have a relationship with management if they were in a union.
Through these comments, Amazon “has been interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed” under federal labor law, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional director Ronald Hooks said in the complaint. The company has denied wrongdoing, claiming that the comments were covered under labor laws.
The NLRB requests that the company be forced to post a notice and send an email to employees informing them of their rights. If the company chooses not to settle the case, a hearing over the comments has been set for February.
ALU applauded the NLRB’s filing. “These plutocrats will no longer threaten workers in interviews with the media,” ALU attorney Seth Goldstein, who filed the charge against the company, told The Washington Post. “They’re being held accountable.”
Amazon has repeatedly broken the law during its workers’ union campaigns, according to the NLRB, by holding captive anti-union meetings directed toward unionizing workers, threatening union organizers with racist remarks, interfering with the union election in Bessemer, Alabama, last year, and more.
The charge comes a week after workers at a warehouse near Albany, New York, voted against unionizing by a two to one margin, according to an NLRB count. After a breakthrough win earlier this year in Staten Island, New York, the union has been seeking its second victory, having suffered two losses since then.
After the win last week, ALU President Chris Smalls vowed to keep fighting, saying, “When workers are empowered to take on a greedy uncaring company with a poor safety track record and a high churn rate of workers, it isn’t a loss, it’s an ongoing battle.” The union has another election in the pipeline; earlier this month, workers at a warehouse in Moreno Valley, California, filed to join ALU.
And, indeed, even if the union votes fail in the face of fierce opposition from the company, ALU’s independent union movement has inspired countless other workers, like those at Trader Joe’s and Home Depot, to embrace an unconventional technique in organizing their workplaces — a model that has led to some groundbreaking wins in the past months.
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