Amazon just can’t seem to catch a break, at least in its efforts to keep employees in line.
Gerard Bryson, who was part of the original protests at the company’s Staten Island JFK8 warehouse at the beginning of the pandemic, is now allowed back on the job. He’ll also be getting two years-worth of compensation for his trouble.
The National Labour Relations Board had already announced it agreed that Bryson was illegally fired from the company, but, as The Hill reported last month, it has taken much longer for Bryson to get reinstated, in part due to what Bryson’s attorney said was Amazon stalling the process by not complying with evidentiary requests. Amazon denied any wrongdoing in the procedural process.
Benjamin Green, an administrative law judge, agreed with the board’s assessment, according to court docs, and ordered that Bryson be reinstated and paid two years of lost earnings as well as compensation for the time he spent looking for other employment. Amazon must also remove any mention of Bryson’s firing from its records.
It’s another black eye for Amazon after the Staten Island facility voted to unionize earlier this month, becoming the first location to do so in the online retail giant’s history. Amazon has since announced it would appeal against the union vote. Bryson told The New York Times that this ruling “changes everything,” and that “It will show that Amazon can be beat. It will show you have to fight for what you believe in.”
In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said that they are looking to appeal the judge’s decision, adding they were “surprised the NLRB would want any employer to condone Mr. Bryson’s behaviour,” and that Bryson “was fired for bullying, cursing at and defaming a female co-worker over a bullhorn in front of the workplace.”
Amazon did not reveal how much compensation Bryson would be receiving for the two years he wasn’t at work. The company had originally claimed that Bryson was fired because he had harassed and used “vulgar language” against fellow employees, arguing he used racially and sexually charged words in the argument.
In the court documents, Green refers to the April 6, 2020 protest when around 10 Amazon employees stood in the facility parking lot that Bryson and others argued to shut down the facility for cleaning. The judged emphasised employees “protested on their own time.” During that protest, reports say Bryson got into a heated, recorded argument with a coworker who told Bryson “it’s the only fucking job open, so appreciate it.”
The judge took issue with Amazon’s continuity of events. The company claimed that the Amazon employee Bryson had argued with was not confrontational, whereas Bryson was. Green said that was not “entirely accurate.” The judge further stated that Amazon’s depiction of events was inaccurate compared to video evidence where Bryson wasn’t heard using “the n- or c-word” when arguing with his fellow employee.
The NLRB has previously filed complaints against Amazon for what it said was interrogating and surveilling workers at the Staten Island facility. Despite that, the union vote went organiser’s way — 2,654 to 2,131.
That union vote has further inspired other retail workers to form worker collectives. The Apple Store in Manhattan’s Grand Central Station announced yesterday it would be also looking to form a union.