The struggle between Amazon and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken another turn after the company reached a nationwide settlement with the agency. Amazon has agreed to remind current and former US employees of their employment rights on workplace and employee mobile app and website notices. Amazon will also send a copy of the notice to the email addresses it holds for all employees who worked at its facilities between March 22 and December 22.
The notice informs employees that they have the legal right to join, form or assist in a union. They can select a representative to negotiate with Amazon on their behalf and “act with other employees for your benefit and protection”.
In addition, employees have more leeway to organize themselves in company facilities. In the notice, Amazon states that it will not tell them to leave a property or threaten disciplinary action “when you exercise your right to participate in unionized or protected coordinated activities by talking to your colleagues in remote non-work areas during non-working time.” Nor will it ask employees about union activities, or why they talk to colleagues, according to the report.
It will be easier for the NLRB to sue Amazon if the agency believes it has violated the agreement. In such cases, the company agreed to let the NLRB waive an administrative hearing, which could take a long time.
“This settlement agreement provides a critical commitment from Amazon to millions of its employees in the United States that it will not interfere with their right to act collectively to improve their workplace by unionizing or taking other collective action,” NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo told The New York Times. Engadget has contacted Amazon for comment.
The agreement covers six cases raised by employees who complained that Amazon was hindering their efforts to organize. The company previously settled NLRB cases on an individual basis, but this is a broader agreement. The agreement includes references to employees, but not contractors, who make up the bulk of Amazon’s delivery staff. It is unclear whether they will receive the same rights and protection under the deal.
The NLRB and Amazon have been at odds lately. In November, the labor council ordered Amazon to repeat a union election at an Alabama warehouse. It said Amazon was interfering in the process. Workers at other facilities have been trying to get organized — trying to re-union at a fulfillment center in New York after failing to get enough signatures last time.
Amazon has long been criticized for its working conditions. Lawmakers this week asked for answers from the company about whether its policies contributed to the deaths of six people after a tornado hit an Illinois warehouse. Amazon recently warned its employees that an even heavier workload than usual during the holiday season can have a significant impact on their mental health.
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