The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined that Amazon retaliated against two activist employees when it fired them in April of last year, as first reported by The New York Times.
The determination is part of the board’s ongoing response to a labor complaint against Amazon, although it’s not a legal ruling in itself. Still, the determination indicates the NLRB is prepared to accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices in connection with the case, and that puts the company under significant pressure to settle the case with the fired employees.
The two employees at the heart of the case, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, organized the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group in 2020 to protest the company’s partnerships with the oil and gas industry. The group went public with an open letter that January, undersigned by more than 350 employees.
Amazon fired Cunningham and Costa three months later, after they used the same Medium account to raise concerns about coronavirus protections at Amazon warehouses. At the time, Amazon said the women had been fired for “violating internal policies.”
It is unclear how the Seattle case will be resolved, but both women are being encouraged to settle with the company by the NLRB.
“It’s a moral victory,” Cunningham told the Times, “and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law.”
The new determination is part of a growing pattern of labor violations at Amazon, which has been accused of violating workers’ rights to protest labor conditions in a growing number of cases. In March, the NLRB made a similar determination about retaliation against organizers at a warehouse in Queens, as well as a separate retaliation case connected to a warehouse in Chicago. Six Pennsylvania warehouse workers are also pursuing a retaliation case against the company in federal court. An NBC News analysis counted 37 separate labor rights cases against Amazon filed with the NLRB since February 2020.
Amazon has exacerbated the issue by publicly feuding with a number of prominent progressive lawmakers, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). On Friday, the company publicly apologized for a series of tweets denying that Amazon drivers are sometimes forced to pee in bottles, a phenomenon subsequently confirmed by multiple Motherboard reports.
“This was an own-goal,” Amazon said in its apology. “We know that drivers can and do have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic or sometimes rural routes.”
Originally published at https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/5/22367672/amazon-employees-climate-justice-nlrb-case-wrongful-termination on .