January 29, 2023

PRIME INJUNCTION: Amazon prevented from retaliating against union organizers

PRIME INJUNCTION: Amazon prevented from retaliating against union organizers

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A federal judge has issued an injunction against Amazon, seeking to prevent the online retail giant from engaging in union-busting activities.

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The injunction bars retaliation against employees who were organizing and prevents the company from firing those engaging in activities protected by labor laws at its Staten Island facility, JFK8.

Just a few weeks ago, District Court Judge Diane Gujarati issued an injunction against Amazon.com Services LLC, in response to a petition filed by the former Region 29 Director of the National Labor Relations Board, Kathy Drew King, citing Section 10 of the National Labor Relations Act.

“Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) authorizes the NLRB to seek injunctions against employers and unions in federal district courts to ensure that employees’ rights will be adequately protected from remedial failure due to the passage of time,” Labor 411, a Union research organization, wrote.

The petition was prompted by Amazon’s illegal firing of an employee at JFK8 for shining light on the company’s failure to protect its warehouse employees during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic and its lack of safety measures and protocols.

While Amazon hasn’t been ordered to rehire the employee, the injunction prohibits the company from further retaliating against those wanting to unionize.

In March of 2020, former warehouse management assistant Chris Smalls was fired by the company after leading a walkout to protest Amazon’s lack of protective measures during the coronavirus outbreak and demanding greater protection for its workers.

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According to Smalls, at least 50 employees joined the strike effort — though Amazon has downplayed that number and is accusing the JFK8 employee of violating social distance protocols and putting his co-workers in jeopardy.

The organizer pushed back on what he says are the company’s false claims.

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“Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe,” Smalls said in a statement. “I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe,” Smalls said, according to CNBC.

Smalls garnered nationwide attention and the support that came with it.

That attention shined an even bigger spotlight on Amazon’s archaic labor practices and led to the historic labor union victory at the facility two years later – but Amazon still hadn’t learned its lesson.

In May of this year, two employees tied to the Amazon Labor Union, Tristan Dutchin and Mat Cusick, were unceremoniously let go.

Cusick, who serves as ALU’s communications director, said he was fired last week after going on “Covid care leave,” which allows employees to care for family members sick with Covid-19.

Dutchin was let go for allegedly not meeting productivity goals.

At least half a dozen senior managers were let go shortly after.

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Judge King’s decision is a win for unionized workers – not just for Amazon, but everywhere.

The retail giant risks being held in contempt if it disregards the order. This may not seem like a big deal, but it signals recognition of the company’s egregious labor practices.

Region 29 Brookly Director, Teresa Poor applauded the court’s ruling, saying, “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.”

“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.”

Original reporting by Sahid Fawaz at Labor 411.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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