Amazon Illegally Threatened Workers Over Union Push, U.S. Labour Board Claims

Amazon Illegally Threatened Workers Over Union Push, U.S. Labour Board Claims
People hold placards during a protest in support of Amazon workers in Union Square, New York on February 20, 2021. (Image: Kena Bentancur, Getty Images)

Amazon warehouse workers in New York are in the middle of a drive to create the company’s first unionized workforce, an effort Amazon has no interest in it succeeding. Though Amazon’s no stranger to fighting union efforts, a new complaint filed by the National Labour Relations Board revealed on Thursday claims the e-commerce juggernaut crossed the legal line.

In the complaint, first spotted by Bloomberg and Motherboard, U.S. labour board prosecutors accused Amazon of interrogating and surveilling workers at its New York fulfillment centre in Staten Island. An Amazon consultant allegedly referred to union organisers there as “thugs” and promised employees Amazon would fix their problems if they oppose the union. Amazon also allegedly confiscated union literature and told employees not to distribute pro-union literature without the company’s permission. That same consultant involved in the above schemes was also hired by Amazon to dissuade workers from organising in Bessemer, Alabama, last year as well, Vice notes

The complaint also reportedly lays out remedies that would require mandatory training of Amazon’s managers, consultants and security guards, (as well as union avoidance consultants) to inform workers about their rights to form a union.

Gizmodo reached out to the Amazon Labour Union, the independent group organising workers at the New York warehouses, but did not immediately hear back. However, in a statement to Bloomberg, ALU leader Chris Smalls said he hopes “other union-busters as well learn their lesson and that workers are encouraged to speak up.”

Amazon is refuting the accusations in the complaint. “These allegations are false and we look forward to showing that through this process,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, said in an email.

The complaint comes just hours after the NLRB confirmed workers in the Staten Island fulfillment centre had garnered enough signatures to officially ask for a union election. Workers at the site are expected to take part in a union election in the coming months. The NLRB complaint also arrives just one week after labour board prosecutors told Bloomberg they planned to formally accuse Amazon of illegally firing an activist worker back in November.