Amazon Union Obtains a Favorable Warehouse Access Finding for the Organization
Federal labor regulators have found Amazon’s policy of restricting furloughed employees’ warehouse access to be illegal, backing a claim by the union, which has represented workers at a Staten Island warehouse since winning the elections last year.
In written communication sent to the union on Wednesday, a Brooklyn-area attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, Brent E. Childerhose, said the area office determined the company broke the law by adopting the access rule. last summer in response to union activity and that it had applied the rule in a discriminatory manner against union supporters.
The Amazon Labor Union argues that the access policy makes it difficult for workers to exercise their right to speak to co-workers about joining or supporting a union.
An Amazon spokeswoman, Mary Kate Paradis, said the company adopted the rule to protect employee safety and building security, and that it enforces the rule fairly and in a way that “has nothing to do with whether an individual supports a particular cause or group.” Employees continue to have access to non-work areas outside of company buildings, she said.
Parts of the case will go to trial before an administrative law judge unless Amazon settles it first. The losing party can appeal the judge’s decision to the Labor Board in Washington. A union attorney, Seth Goldstein, said if the labor board prevails, Amazon may have to roll back the out-of-service access policy at warehouses nationwide. The labor board did not immediately respond to a question about the potential impact.
The board also said the company unlawfully failed to negotiate with the union. An NLRB regional director certified the result in January, but the company is appealing the result to the labor board in Washington.
The Amazon spokeswoman said it would make no sense to negotiate changes to how the company operated on the site as Amazon continued to challenge the validity of the election.
Amazon has traditionally prohibited workers from staying inside its warehouses, including break rooms, unless they are within 15 minutes of their shift. But the labor board reached an agreement with the company to ease the policy nationwide at the end of 2021, as the union campaign at the Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, took momentum.
Union organizers attribute their election victory at JFK8 in part to the ability of furloughed employees to talk to co-workers and distribute food and union materials in break rooms. They say the loss of such access last summer, shortly after their victory, made it much more difficult to reach warehouse workers and try to enlist them in a pressure campaign to bring Amazon at the negotiating table.
Under the settlement, Amazon was allowed to reinstate a more restrictive policy after a few months, but the labor board argues the way it did so was discriminatory and therefore illegal.
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