Amazon Illegally Interrogated Worker
An NLRB investigation found the company violated the law after two walkouts last year in Queens
As COVID started to spread in March of 2020, warehouse workers in Queens, New York staged two walkouts to protest Amazon’s handling of the outbreak. This walkout spurred a number of COVID-related protests and strikes at Amazon facilities across the country, including one that has led to a union vote in Bessemer, Alabama.
Now a year later, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that following those walkouts, one of the organizers of the walkouts, Jonathan Bailey, was illegally interrogated and threatened. The case against Amazon was settled before it could go to trial. However, since the NLRB investigation had found that Amazon broke the law, they decided to release the investigation's findings to the public.
According to Bailey’s testimony, on March 18th, 2020, Amazon warehouse workers shut down the Queens facility after one of their coworkers tested positive for COVID. Two days later, Bailey led a second walkout with 13 coworkers. It was planned during a lunch break after a second worker was sent homesick. The following day, Bailey was brought into the regional manager’s office. The regional manager, who was a former FBI agent, interrogated Bailey about his role in the walkout, told him his behavior might be harassment and demanded that Bailey contact him before any future walkouts.
According to the NLRB documents Bailey said "Amazon did its best to keep everybody working while simultaneously crushing our effort to fight back.”
"He interrogated me for an hour and a half," Bailey told Motherboard. "A week later I was called into the office again and they wrote me up for harassment, saying people felt hurt by what I did." Motherboard obtained an audio recording of that meeting.
Amazon reached a settlement agreement on March 3, 2021, that requires Amazon to post information about workers' rights to organize at the entrances to break rooms. This includes a message saying "WE WILL NOT ask you whether or not you support employee walk-outs, or about any other protected concerted activities."
“Amazon fabricated false and unjust disciplinary measures to build bogus cases against workers leading the fight to be treated as more than grist in Amazon’s profit mill,” Amazonians United New York City told Motherboard in a statement. “We thank the NLRB for putting in countless hours and validating what we already knew to be true. Ultimately, it is our solidarity that protects us and will win us a better world.”
While Amazon has cleared up NLRB charges in the case, they are still facing an investigation by the New York State Attorney General. In that investigation, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Amazon over its failures to provide adequate health and safety measures for employees at the company’s New York facilities and Amazon’s retaliatory actions against multiple employees amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While Amazon and its CEO made billions during this crisis, hardworking employees were forced to endure unsafe conditions and were retaliated against for rightfully voicing these concerns,” said Attorney General James. “Since the pandemic began, it is clear that Amazon has valued profit over people and has failed to ensure the health and safety of its workers. The workers who have powered this country and kept it going during the pandemic are the very workers who continue to be treated the worst. As we seek to hold Amazon accountable for its actions, my office remains dedicated to protecting New York workers from exploitation and unfair treatment in all forms.”