Amazon is in the NLRB’s crosshairs for its retaliation against protesting workers.
“In April 2020, as the world was coming to terms with the new coronavirus pandemic, workers at an Amazon sorting facility in Chicago launched a series of safety strikes to demand Covid-19 protections for all staff. It was one of several organized protests by Amazon workers nationwide, and the actions in Chicago, at the DCH1 delivery station in Pilsen on the south side of the city, came after management announced in late March that a worker had tested positive for the virus.
‘We decided to take a stand,’ said Shantrece Johnson, a worker who was involved. ‘Most of us, we don’t mind working, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and we had the potential to bring this [virus] home.’ Johnson ultimately contracted Covid-19 in mid-April, before Amazon agreed to provide personal protective equipment to workers at the warehouse.
Roughly 70 to 80 workers participated in the four safety strikes. Among other things, the Chicago workers demanded that their warehouse be shut down for two weeks and cleaned; that Amazon cover the costs of any medical bills for workers who get sick on the job; that the warehouse pause processing nonessential items; and that management provide immediate transparency if and when anyone else got infected.
Following the strikes, DCH1 Amazon workers said they faced retaliation in the form of intimidation and disciplinary write-ups. Johnson herself was written up, she said, for ostensibly not obeying social distancing. The workers banded together and filed a charge with their regional National Labor Relations Board office. Their charge, known as an unfair labor practice, or ULP, included five allegations of National Labor Relations Act violations. The workers accused their site lead, Domonic Wilkerson, of unlawfully disciplining them for protected activities, unlawfully interrogating them, unlawfully engaging in surveillance, unlawfully breaking up their gatherings, and maintaining an “overly broad rule” that precluded gatherings on Amazon’s property outside their normal shifts.
In text messages reviewed by The Intercept, the NLRB regional agent assigned to the case informed the workers on February 24 that the federal agency had reached a decision and found merit to the workers’ claims. On March 10, the NLRB told the workers that “Amazon has stated its intent to settle” and that the agency was working with the company to clarify an agreement. (A settlement would lay out how Amazon will remedy the violations, but if Amazon does not ultimately agree to settle, then the NLRB would issue a complaint and schedule a hearing before an administrative law judge.) The timeline is not clear, but as redress, the workers requested that Amazon provide notice, both physically and electronically, to all relevant employees about what happened and make clear that their rights will not be violated again.
Neither Amazon nor Wilkerson returned requests for comment, and an NLRB spokesperson told The Intercept that the agency could not comment on the case until a final decision is released.”
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