A federal judge ordered Amazon to stop retaliating against union organizers in a ruling which could have nationwide implications.
In a statement this week, National Labor Relations Board Region 29 Brooklyn Director Teresa Poor championed the judge’s ruling — the latest development in years of simmering tensions between workers on Staten Island and the $879 billion corporation.
“The judge’s order in this case recognizes Amazon’s unlawful conduct and provides the full force of a federal court injunction to prohibit Amazon from further discharging employees for engaging in protected concerted activity,” she said. “This relief is critical to ensure that Amazon employees can fully and freely exercise their rights to join together and improve their working conditions, including by forming, assisting or joining a union.”
The order stems from the termination of union organizer Gerald Bryson at the JFK8 Warehouse, the company’s only unionized warehouse. But attorneys for the Amazon Labor Union, which represents workers there, argue it could potentially protect workers across the country.
U.S. District Judge Diane Gujarati warned Amazon to stop firing union organizers and to stop “interfering with, restraining or coercing employees” from organizing, the order read. If Amazon violates the order, it could be held in contempt of court.
“This is really a significant order,” said Seth Goldstein, an attorney representing the Amazon Labor Union. “In our opinion, it’s not limited just to JFK8.”
Amazon declined to comment.
Bryson was fired after he got into an argument with another worker during a walkout outside the JFK8 warehouse, where organizers were protesting workplace safety at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Current Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls was fired a few days earlier. In April, an administrative law judge ordered Amazon to reinstate Bryson, but the company refused and appealed that ruling.
Gujarati’s Nov. 21 order fell short of ordering Amazon to reinstate Bryson, but found protection against current organizing workers was warranted. She also ordered Amazon to post, distribute and read the order aloud to employees at JFK8 warehouse.
Since Bryson’s layoff, Amazon has fired several more Staten Island organizers and many others nationwide. Workers allege regular retaliation for union organizing and say they’ve faced suspensions and performance write-ups for union activity. They’ve filed around four dozen unfair labor charges at the Staten Island warehouse this year, National Labor Relations Board records show.
Though workers voted overwhelmingly to form a union this spring, contract negotiations have yet to kick off, as Amazon attempts to have the vote overturned. In September, a National Labor Relations Board ruling sided with the union and upheld their victory. Amazon appealed that ruling, and the case is still pending. The company has refused to bargain in the interim.
“It’s weaponizing due process against workers,” Goldstein said. “That’s what it is.”
On Wednesday morning, Ahead of a planned appearance by Amazon CEO and President Andy Jassy at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit (where tickets reportedly cost $2,499 a head), workers planned to rally outside the event demanding he stop retaliating against organizers and start bargaining with them.