Lodi News-Sentinel

Labor officials claim Amazon threatened workers over union vote

- Josh Eidelson

U.S. labor board prosecutor­s plan to accuse Amazon.com Inc. of threatenin­g staff that if they unionized it could propose paying them minimum wage and of punishing an employee for seeking a paid Juneteenth holiday.

Unless the company settles, the National Labor Relations Board will issue a complaint, agency spokespers­on Kayla Blado said Thursday. An Amazon spokespers­on didn’t immediatel­y respond to a request for comment.

The allegation­s are among many taken to the labor board by the Amazon Labor Union, the upstart group that scored an upset election victory last month at a warehouse in New York’s Staten Island.

The NLRB’s Brooklynba­sed regional director has determined that, prior to that election, the company held mandatory “captive audience” meetings at the warehouse in which it threatened that if workers chose the union to represent them, Amazon could use minimum wage pay as the starting point for negotiatio­ns. The company also said they might take years to get an actual union contract, or never get one, and that while those contract talks were going on, Amazon couldn’t make improvemen­ts to their working conditions, according to Blado.

The labor board official also found merit in the union’s claim that when an employee used Amazon’s “Voice of the Associate” board at the warehouse to advocate for a paid Juneteenth holiday, the company retaliated by barring that worker from posting there again.

Amazon has previously denied wrongdoing, and said that its “informatio­n sessions” are meant to ensure employees understand the facts about unions and elections. The company has formally challenged ALU’s election victory, alleging the union broke election rules and that the NLRB violated its duty to be impartial, including by suing Amazon to try to get a fired activist reinstated. The agency’s general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, dismissed that allegation in an interview last week. “But for Amazon’s unlawful labor practice, we would not have had to go into district court to seek an injunction,” said Abruzzo, a Biden appointee.

ALU’s attorney Seth Goldstein said he hopes the labor board will use the warehouse allegation­s to overrule existing precedents that allowed companies to hold mandatory antiunion meetings and to mislead employees about their rights.

By trying to get the election overturned rather than commencing contract talks, Amazon is “making good on the threat,” Goldstein said in an interview.

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