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Judge to Amazon: Stop Reckless Firings

A New York district court judge found Amazon likely engaged in an unfair labor practice when it fired a former Staten Island fulfillment center employee, but stopped short of granting a request by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to allow the worker to return to the company. 

The judge’s order stops Amazon from firing employees for engaging in union or other protected activities and was signed last week.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the order Wednesday.

The matter stems from a complaint filed by NLRB regional director Kathy Drew King in March in which the agency sought a temporary injunction on multiple grounds against the e-commerce company. 

The order hands down a partial win for the labor agency, which is handling the original complaint against Amazon filed by Gerald Bryson. Bryson was fired from the company’s Staten Island fulfillment center, known as JFK8

Bryson contends his firing was a retaliatory move by the company after he and other employees in March and April of 2020 called on Amazon to improve health and safety measures at the facility in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Bryson was terminated from his position in April that year. 

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Amazon argued Bryson was fired for his role in a verbal argument with another employee in the facility’s parking lot. The other employee had been critical of Bryson’s role in the protest. 

Bryson later accused Amazon of firing him for engaging in labor activities protected under the law in a complaint filed with the NLRB in June of 2020. 

The labor agency’s move for a temporary injunction in U.S. District Court argued Bryson’s firing served as a “specter over the [Amazon Labor Union’s] efforts and [was] chilling employees’ willing to freely support the [ALU],” according to court documents. 

The agency further argued, without the injunction Bryson’s firing would “permanently end employee organizing around working conditions, irreparably harm the national policy protecting workers’ right to band together at work and seriously undermine the [NLRB’s] remedial power,” court documents said.

The district court judge ultimately found “reasonable cause to believe that an unfair labor practice has been committed by Amazon with respect to the termination of Bryson.” 

“Indeed, when viewed in light of the required deference, the record evidence before the court amply supports [NLRB’s] position that Bryson was engaged in protected activity, that Bryson’s protected conduct was a motivating factor in his discharge and that [Amazon’s] stated reason for discharging Bryson was pretextual,” the judge’s order said. 

Even with that finding, the judge denied the NLRB’s request Amazon re-employ Bryson. 

Amazon was ordered to post a copy of the judge’s order in areas of the JFK8 facility where employee announcements are typically made and make it available as the remainder of the NLRB case gets worked out. 

JFK8 employees were the first to successfully unionize under the Amazon Labor Union, following an election held earlier this year. Amazon is currently challenging the election’s results. 

The order in the NLRB case comes as a group called Unionize Amazon Northern Kentucky seeks union representation for employees at Amazon’s air hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. 

The group is not only looking to organize, but also demanding Amazon boost the starting wage to $30 an hour and offer 180 hours of paid time off.