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Amazon illegally fired 2 activist employees, labor board reportedly finds

Apr 5, 2021, 20:54 IST
Business Insider
Amazon and other tech employees walkout during the Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington.Karen Ducey/Getty Images
  • Amazon illegally fired two employees who had criticized it, the National Labor Relations Board found.
  • The employees had complained about working conditions and the company's impact on climate change.
  • Amazon maintains that the employees were fired for violating internal policies.
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Amazon acted illegally by firing two employees who publicly criticized it last year, the National Labor Relations Board found, The New York Times reported on Monday.

Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were fired in April 2020 after discussing their concerns about the company's impact on climate change and its treatment of warehouse workers during the pandemic. At the time, Amazon said they had violated internal policies.

The NLRB, an independent federal agency to protect the rights of private-sector employees in the US, said it would accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices if Amazon did not settle the case with the women, Cunningham told The Times.

Cunningham told the publication that the agency's finding was a "moral victory" that "really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law."

Amazon again denied that the women were fired for criticizing the company publicly, repeating its statement that they had violated internal policies.

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"We support every employee's right to criticize their employer's working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against our internal policies, all of which are lawful," Jaci Anderson, an Amazon spokesperson, told The Times.

"We terminated these employees not for talking publicly about working conditions, safety or sustainability but, rather, for repeatedly violating internal policies," she added.

NLRB complaints about Amazon have more than tripled in the past year, NBC News reported last week. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 37 complaints have accused Amazon of infringing on workers' rights to organize, the report said.

Last month, the NLRB accused Amazon of illegally intimidating and threatening a worker in New York City who led a walkout in March 2020.

The nearly 6,000 employees at an Amazon warehouse in Birmingham, Alabama, voted last week on whether to form the firm's first union. The employees have said the vote was prompted by difficult working conditions, long hours, and a lack of job security.

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Amazon has publicly opposed the campaign from the beginning with anti-union ads and signs.

The news rounds out a tough week for Amazon, which apologized on Friday for snarky tweets targeted at Rep. Mark Pocan that denied that its workers peed in bottles. After the firm's original tweets, Amazon drivers told journalists - including at Insider - that time pressure meant they peed in bottles, pooped in bags, and struggled to change menstrual pads in their vans.

Representatives for Amazon and the NLRB did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

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