The National Labor Relations Board said today it’s suing Amazon.com Inc., asking a federal judge to take action against what it said were “flagrant unfair labor practices” ahead of a union vote at one of its warehouses in Staten Island next week.
The case relates to the firing of a former Amazon employee, Gerald Bryson, who was fired by the company in 2020 following a protest at the warehouse over workplace safety concerns, according to the New York Times. While Amazon has said Bryson was sacked for violating the company’s policy against vulgar and harassing language amid a confrontation with a colleague at the protest, the NLRB claims he was fired for organizing workplace.
The agency is asking the judge at the Eastern District of New York Court to force Amazon to immediately reinstate Bryson, post notices about the case at the facility and read aloud a statement of workers’ rights at mandatory employee meetings. It’s pushing for the changes to be made immediately, given that the union election takes place next week and Bryson’s previous role in organizing. Should the judge fail to provide immediate injunctive relief, the NLRB said Amazon employees will conclude it is unable to protect their rights under federal labor law.
“No matter how large the employer is, it is important for workers to know their rights – particularly during a union election – and that the NLRB will vociferously defend them,” said Kathy Drew King, regional agency director.
Amazon has previously said that Bryson was not sacked in retaliation for the organization. In late 2020, the company said it had conducted a thorough investigation in good faith and that it was “witnessed by other employees bullying and intimidating a female associate in a racially and sexually charged way – a clear violation of our standards of conduct and harassment policy . ”
However, the NLRB argues that Amazon has disparately applied its policies against Bryson due to his role in protests. Its most recent filing with the court reveals that a recording captured much of the altercation between Bryson, who is Black, and the white female employee. While it shows that both employees used crude language, the NLRB said the woman appears to have initiated many of the comments and tried to encourage Bryson to fight her, which he refused to do.
While Bryson was fired as a result of the incident, the woman received a first warning.
The NLRB and Amazon have a history of legal clashes, the most recent of which was resolved in December when the retail giant agreed to grant employees at its warehouses greater flexibility to organize.