The New York Times reports that "federal labor regulators have moved to force Amazon to scrap a rule that governs employees’ use of nonwork areas, accusing the company of illegally singling out union supporters in enforcing the policy.
"A complaint issued on Tuesday by the National Labor Relations Board’s Brooklyn office said Amazon 'selectively and disparately enforced the rule,' which applied to distributing materials and to solicitation activities, 'by discriminatorily applying it against employees who engaged in union activity.'
"The complaint amounted to a finding of merit in a charge brought by the Amazon Labor Union, which mounted organizing efforts — one successful, one not — at two warehouses on Staten Island this year. The case will be litigated before an administrative law judge unless it is settled beforehand, and Amazon could appeal an adverse ruling to the national labor board in Washington.
"The complaint said the company applied the solicitation policy unlawfully when it prohibited workers from posting a pro-union sign in a nonwork area at one of the Staten Island warehouses, known as LDJ5. The company threatened discipline if the workers posted the sign or did not remove the sign, according to the complaint, which also said at least one worker was disciplined under the solicitation policy.
"The complaint also accuses the company of disciplining two workers to discourage them from engaging in union activity."
According to the Times, "The labor board’s complaint said Amazon could reinstate the policy only if it explicitly stated that the policy did not apply to organizing and related activity by workers, known as protected concerted activity. The complaint also seeks to require that all supervisors, managers, security personnel and outside consultants hired by Amazon receive training on workers’ federally-protected labor rights. It could affect most of the company’s roughly one million employees nationwide."
Amazon replied: "These allegations are completely without merit, and we look forward to showing that through the process.”
- KC's View:
I'm just not sure Amazon is doing itself any favors by how it is approaching unionization issues. It just seems likely that conditions in its warehouses are somewhat lacking (I'm being generous here) and that some workers feel that unionization is the answer. I'm not saying that it is the answer, just that the concerns and complaints seem credible.
There is a Los Angeles Times piece this morning that illustrates what Amazon is dealing with:
"As California prepared for what would be a record-setting heat wave this month, so too did workers at an Amazon air freight hub in San Bernardino.
"They distributed among a dozen colleagues handheld thermometers to covertly document workplace temperatures, then compiled the results in a first-of-its kind report about conditions at Amazon during extreme temperatures.
"According to the document, distributed last week by the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, their experience at the facility known as KSBD was defined by stifling temperatures, employee activism and in some cases concessions from the e-commerce giant. Its release is another sign of the mounting labor movement at Amazon, where unionization efforts and protests are growing commonplace — including a walkout at the same facility last month.
"Workers 'did not wait for Amazon to decide to take their health seriously,' the report said, and 'documented extremely high temperatures and grave inconsistencies with Amazon’s own temperature monitors.'
"Amazon spokeswoman Mary Kate McCarthy Paradis called the report’s findings 'misleading, or simply inaccurate.' In an email, she said the KSBD building is staffed with a team of trained safety professionals who monitor the temperature and take extra measures when necessary, including ensuring employees take additional breaks. Paradis said Amazon overall has more than 8,000 safety professionals across its work sites to support employees."
Does anyone - anyone - completely by what Amazon is selling here?
There's also a Substack piece by Matt Stoller in which he points out that Amazon recently named Dayna Howard to be head of training for warehouse workers.
And then, Stoller writes the following:
"Following Howard’s path is interesting for what it says about Amazon. She started her career at the private prison giant known as Corrections Corporation of America, which has since been renamed CoreCivic because it had such a toxic brand. (Some fun controversies involved letting private gangs run an Indiana prison to save costs, and stock manipulation.)
"At CCA, according to her LinkedIn page, Howard 're-vamped inmate admission process and revised all processing documentation. Resulted in a 20% reduction in inmate processing time and a reduced error rate.' Howard was apparently good at designing systems to herd prisoners. So naturally, she went to Amazon.
"At Amazon, she came to head their global security group, and then their loss prevention team, which is to say, she ran their efforts to stop employees and contractors from stealing. All of this is reasonable if distasteful; theft in retail is a problem and having internal security is a clear need for a firm like Amazon. But what is surprising is that Howard was then promoted to run their learning and development team, which is Amazon’s internal training program for all warehouse workers. There’s nothing illegal about any of this, but Howard’s career path does give us some perspective on how Amazon execs understand those who did not attend college and what they are good for."
And why did Stoller point this out?
"It’s always fun to keep an eye on Amazon’s internal personnel moves, because they speak to the general culture of the pacesetting firm in American retail and commerce."