Federal labor regulators sued Amazon Thursday for allegedly retaliating against and then firing a warehouse worker for his participation in protests and organizing in a Staten Island facility that will be embroiled in a union election next week.
National Labor Relations Board administrators Evamaria Cox and Matthew Jackson asked a judge to order Amazon to reinstate the fired worker, Gerald Bryson, as well as read and post notices to workers about their protected rights to talk about working conditions and to organize collectively. While Amazon argued that Bryson was dismissed for using crude and vulgar language in violation of company policy, the NLRB administrators argued in their filing that the company rarely punishes and often accepts the use of such language and instead fired him in retaliation for his participation in a protest over safety conditions.
Next Friday, the workers at the Amazon JFK8 Staten Island facility will become only the second group of Amazon employees to vote in a union election since 2014, following an unprecedented effort that began in a Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse two years ago and is still ongoing. Workers in Bessemer are currently in the midst of voting in a second election after Amazon's sweeping victory last year was thrown out by the NLRB.
Unlike Bessemer, the Staten Island union effort was organized by a group of Amazon workers unaffiliated with any major national union. The JFK8 warehouse will likely be the first of two Staten Island facilities to hold an election in the coming months; a second group of warehouse workers at a second facility filed a petition for an election shortly after the JFK8 workers.
“No matter how large the employer, it is important for workers to know their rights — particularly during a union election — and that the N.L.R.B. will vociferously defend them,” said Kathy Drew King, the agency director who oversees the regional office bringing the suit, in a statement to the New York Times about the filing against Amazon.
“It’s noteworthy that the N.L.R.B. is pursuing an ‘emergency injunction’ right before an election when they’ve known the facts in this case for over 18 months,” Amazon's Kelly Nantel told the Times. “And it’s confusing that they’re fighting to protect behavior that no employer or co-worker should have to tolerate: Mr. Bryson was broadcast live on social media, bullying, cursing at and defaming a female co-worker over a bullhorn.”