A National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that Amazon and the company’s consultants violated federal labor law by interrogating and threatening employees about their union activities and by racially slurring organizers seeking a union at a Staten Island warehouse.

The NLRB said Friday that Administrative Law Judge Lauren Esposito found that Amazon committed “multiple violations” of federal labor law at its largest warehouse in New York, JFK8, between May and October 2021, a period during which there was a spike the organizational activities came.

In April 2022, employees voted to join the Amazon Labor Union, a grassroots group of current and former workers, becoming the first unionized Amazon operation in the United States. Since that victory, the group has been fighting for a contract with Amazon.

The judge in New York heard testimony from Amazon employees, managers and labor consultants in virtual hearings that lasted nearly a year. Esposito found that Amazon unlawfully confiscated employee organizing brochures that were distributed in on-site break rooms and monitored employees’ organizing activities.

The judge found that Amazon also violated labor laws when it sent an employee at a neighboring facility home early from his shift to JFK8 and changed his work assignments because he supported the union. The employee, Daequan Smith, was sorting packages at a delivery station called DYY6, down the street from JFK8, and was later fired in November 2021. The union claimed Smith’s firing was in retaliation for his union activities.

Additionally, the judge found that Amazon violated the law when Bradley Moss, a “union avoidance” consultant hired by the company, threatened employees and told them it was “futile” to vote to join the ALU. Amazon and other companies often hire labor consultants like Moss, known as “persuaders,” to dissuade workers from unionizing. The company spent $14 million on anti-union consultants in 2022, The Huffington Post reported in March, citing disclosure forms filed with the Labor Department.

The ruling requires Amazon to post notices at its JFK8 and DYY6 factories reminding workers of their rights. The company must also compensate Smith “for any loss of earnings and other benefits,” the NLRB said.

In an exchange with a JFK8 employee, Natalie Monarrez, Moss discussed the union campaign at another Amazon facility, BHM1, in Bessemer, Alabama. Monarrez said Moss told her the Bessemer campaign was “not a serious union effort” but a “Black Lives Matter protest against social injustice.”

“Moss then pointed to the front of the JFK8 warehouse and said, ‘Just like these guys out here, they’re just a bunch of thugs,’” Esposito wrote in her ruling, quoting Monarrez’s statement.

Amazon spokeswoman Eileen Hards said in a statement that the company was reviewing the judge’s decision and considering its next steps based on the ruling.

“We disagree with certain decisions in the ruling, but are pleased that the judge agreed that the terminated individual should not be reinstated,” Hards added.

Moss did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

BHM1 employees voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in April 2021, but the election results were thrown out after the NLRB found that Amazon unlawfully interfered in the vote. A repeat election was held last year, but the results are still too close to predict.

Amazon’s labor record has come under intense scrutiny, particularly as unionization in its warehouse and delivery workforce increased during the Covid pandemic. According to the NLRB, the company faces 240 open or settled unfair labor practice charges in 26 states, relating to a range of allegations including its conduct in union elections.

The company has also clashed with Chris Smalls, a former Amazon employee and one of ALU’s leaders. A leaked memo obtained by Vice revealed that Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky had called Smalls, a Black man, “not smart or articulate” and recommended that he be made the “face” of worker organizing efforts close.

Amazon continues to challenge the results of the JFK8 election and the conduct of the NLRB and the union during the campaign. The agency confirmed the results of the election in January.

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Source : www.cnbc.com

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