Amazon took revenge on climate organizers, the labor council finds


The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined that Amazon retaliated against two activist workers when it fired them in April last year, as first reported by The New York Times

The finding is part of the board’s ongoing response to an employment complaint against Amazon, although it is not a legal ruling in itself. Still, the finding indicates that the NLRB is willing to accuse Amazon of unfair working conditions in connection with the case, and that puts the company under great pressure to settle the case with the laid-off workers.

The two employees at the center of the case, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, organized the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group in 2020 to protest the company’s partnerships with the oil and gas industry. The group went out with it an open letter signed in January by more than 350 employees.

Amazon fired Cunningham and Costa three months later, after using the same Medium account to cause concern about coronavirus protection at Amazon warehouses. Amazon said at the time that the women had been fired for “violation of internal policy.”

It is unclear how the Seattle case will be resolved, but both women are encouraged by NLRB to join the company.

“It’s a moral victory,” said Cunningham Time, “And really shows that we are on the right side of history and on the right side of the law.”

The new determination is part of a growing pattern of labor violations at Amazon, accused in a growing number of cases of violating workers’ rights to protest working conditions. In March, NLRB made a similar decision on retaliation against organizers in a warehouse in Queens, as well as a separate retaliation case related to a warehouse in Chicago. Six warehouse workers in Pennsylvania are also pursuing a case of retaliation against the company in federal court. A NBC News analysis counted 37 separate labor rights cases against Amazon that have been filed with NLRB since February 2020.

Amazon has compounded the problem by publicly arguing with a number of prominent progressive lawmakers, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The company will arrive on Friday apologized publicly for a series of tweets denying that Amazon drivers are sometimes forced to pee in bottles, a phenomenon subsequently confirmed by multiple Motherboard reports

“This was an own goal,” Amazon said in its apology. “We know drivers can and will have trouble finding toilets because of traffic or sometimes rural routes.”