Skip to main content

Amazon CEO’s Union Comments Ignite Probe

Comments made by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy in press interviews have come under fire by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) official, adding fuel to a labor movement underway in parts of the company. 

NLRB regional director Ronald Hooks, who is from the regulatory body’s Seattle office, served Amazon Oct. 25 with a complaint and notice of a hearing for an alleged violation of the National Labor Relations Act. 

Hooks accused Jassy of “interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed” under the law, according to the complaint.

The allegations are based on two interviews Jassy gave earlier this year in which Hooks characterized the general sentiment of those public statements to be “employees are better off without a union,” “it would be more difficult for employees to have direct relationships with management” and “employees would be less empowered in the workplace” among other sentiments listed in the complaint. 

The interviews were with CNBC’s Squawk Box in April and during the Bloomberg Tech Summit in June. 

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel called the complaint’s allegations “completely without merit” and said Jassy’s comments are protected under the National Labor Relations Act and NLRB precedent.

Related Stories

“The comments lawfully explain Amazon’s views on unionization and the way it could affect the ability of our employees to deal directly with their managers, and they began with a clear recognition of our employees’ rights to organize and in no way contained threats of reprisal,” Nantel said in a statement provided to Sourcing Journal Thursday. “We believe our employees, their families and other stakeholders benefit from a full understanding of the facts on important topics like this. We’re committed to ensuring everyone understands our perspective and to explaining it respectfully and transparently.” 

The company said as much in a statement provided by a spokesperson in September when roughly 1,000 Teamsters and other supporters held a rally outside Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, calling for an end to “union-busting tactics” and safer working conditions. The Teamsters said in September it was launching an Amazon Division as it eyes becoming a support system and resource for the company’s logistics workers.

Brad Glasser told Sourcing Journal at the time of the Teamsters rally the decision to unionize is left to employees. However, as a company, “we don’t think unions are the best answer for our workforce and our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work,” Glasser said in that same statement.

Amazon’s response to the NLRB complaint is due by Nov. 8, with a hearing set for Feb. 7. 

The company has locked horns with labor, which is being led by the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), as parts of its warehouse workforce make demands for higher pay and better working conditions. 

ALU was the first domestically to successfully organize workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse. The overall results in the push to unionize other facilities have been mostly mixed. 

Workers at a warehouse near Staten Island and, most recently, those at the company’s facility near Albany, N.Y. voted against union representation. Meanwhile, workers in the company’s Moreno Valley, Calif. warehouse petitioned with the NLRB for unionization earlier this month and then reportedly withdrew that filing last week. 

Moreno Valley is located in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, where workers at Amazon’s San Bernardino, Calif. air hub staged a walkout this month to protest wages, working conditions and alleged union-busting tactics. The walkout was part of several held at Amazon facilities that same week in an attempt to make an impact during the company’s Prime Early Access two-day event where sales were estimated to reach $8 billion.