NLRB judge rules that Amazon broke labor laws in Staten Island (again)

A judge for the National Labor Relations Board has determined that Amazon broke labor laws in the run-up to union elections at its JFK8 and LDJ5 facilities in Staten Island, New York. According to the judge, the company threatened workers by saying they wouldn’t get raises or additional benefits during a potential collective bargaining period and discriminated against union organizers while enforcing its solicitation policies.

According to the decision, posted in full by Bloomberg Law, Amazon removed a post from an internal forum that called for workers to sign an Amazon Labor Union petition to get holiday pay for Juneteenth. Amazon allegedly cited its solicitation rules, but the judge says the company didn’t take the same action against a very similar post encouraging employees to pick up anti-union “Vote No” shirts.

It also says that Amazon representatives made statements during meetings that could be considered threats. During a meeting at LDJ5, employees were allegedly told that they might not get raises for over a year because everything would freeze during collective bargaining. At JFK8, during a discussion of the same topic, employees were allegedly asked, “contracts typically take months or years and typically there are no changes in wages or benefits, and what happens if the parties can’t agree to a contract?”

Amazon has been quick to point out that there were other parts of the complaint that the judge dismissed. “We’re glad that the judge dismissed 19 — nearly all — of the allegations in this case and correctly called the 3 remaining ones ‘not obvious or clear cut,’” said Mary Kate Paradis, a spokesperson for the company, in a statement to The Verge.

The judge made the “not obvious or clear cut” statement in the section of the decision dedicated to the consequences Amazon will face for engaging in unfair labor practices. Here’s that quote in context:

The General Counsel has requested certain atypical remedies, including a notice reading and supervisor training by a Board agent. I deny these requests. I have not found many unfair labor practices and the ones I did find were not entirely obvious or clear cut. Accordingly, I find that the Board’s traditional remedies are sufficient to effectuate the policies of the Act in this matter.

Those traditional remedies include Amazon having to stop discriminatory enforcement of its solicitation rules and threatening to withhold raises and benefits, along with any other violations of employees’ legally protected rights. The company will also be required to post conspicuous notices informing workers of their rights at both JFK8 and LDJ5, something it’s had to do before.

In the decision, the judge points out that NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo is attempting to overturn previous NLRB decisions in a way that could make some of Amazon’s tactics illegal. Perhaps the most notable is its forced anti-union meetings, which Abruzzo has been trying to get rid of since last year. (These types of meetings are where the alleged threats about pay and benefits occurred.) And while this week’s ruling is based on labor law as it currently stands, Bloomberg points out that the case is now in the hands of the board, which, unlike the judge, has the power to overturn precedent.

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