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NY Times

NLRB Finds Amazon Illegally Fired Workers

Two women were fired for highlighting the dangerous working conditions at Amazon warehouses

Kris LaGrange's picture
Apr 05, 2021

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been on a hot streak over the last few weeks. After finding Tesla guilty of union-busting and settling a similar case with Google, they have now determined that Amazon violated labor law when they fired two workers last April.

The two women, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were fired after they organized a group called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ). The group had held a walkout in 2019 at the company’s headquarters in Seattle to pressure one of the world’s largest companies to improve their environmental practices and to push them to develop a policy to tackle climate change at its annual board meeting for investors. Cunningham and Costa’s firings were part of three high-profile firings last April that included firing a Staten Island warehouse worker, Chris Smalls. Cunningham and Costa were fired just days after Smalls and just a few days after AECJ planned a video conference between their group, Smalls, and activist Naomi Klein. At the time, Amazon claimed the women were being fired for “violating internal policies” since they had previously been told that the company had an external communications policy that forbids workers from speaking publicly about the business. 

According to the New York Times, Cunningham and Costa have been told by the NLRB that the board has enough evidence to accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices and formal charges would be brought against the company if they did not agree to settle like they did in a similar case last month.

“It’s a moral victory and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law,” Ms. Cunningham told the NY Times.

Unlike many of the other people who have spoken up about the terrible working conditions at Amazon, especially during the pandemic, Cunningham and Costa didn’t work in a warehouse or as delivery drivers but rather worked in the Seattle Headquarters as UX designers. At Amazon, there has often been a divide between the better paid and compensated tech workers and the warehouse and delivery workers who are making $15 an hour. By firing Costa and Cunningham, Amazon shined a spotlight on the fact that they will do everything in their power to stop workers on either side from organizing and gaining a voice in the company.

According to an NLRB filing, there are currently 37 charges filed with the board against Amazon. They were filed in 20 cities just since February 2020. These complaints include accusations of interfering with workers’ right to organize a union. Those 37 charges are more than triple the number that was filed against Amazon in 2019 and six times the amount filed in 2018. That number could also increase as charges could be filed for the company’s actions in attempting to prevent workers in Bessemer Alabama from forming a union. In comparison, Walmart which is the only company that has more employees in the United States than Amazon only had eight charges filed against them in that time period.

NLRB spokesperson Nelson Carrasco told NBC that the number of similar charges filed against the company over the last year was significant enough that it might warrant a consolidated national effort. That would take the charges out of the 26 regional offices and combine them into one national case against the company.


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