Amazon Union Prevails in Ruling on Warehouse Access for Organizing

Amazon Union Prevails in Ruling on Warehouse Access for Organizing

Federal labor regulators have concluded that Amazon’s policy of restricting access to warehouses for off-duty workers is illegal, supporting a claim by the union, which represents workers at a Staten Island warehouse since they arrived there last year won an election.

In a written notice sent to the union on Wednesday, a Brooklyn-area attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, Brent E. Childerhose, said the regional office had found the company broke the law by last summer in response to the union’s activity and that it applied the regulation in a discriminatory manner towards union supporters.

The Amazon Labor Union claims access policies make it harder for workers to exercise their right to speak to colleagues about joining or supporting a union.

An Amazon spokeswoman, Mary Kate Paradis, said the company implemented the rule to protect employee and facility safety and that it applies the rule fairly and in a way that “has nothing to do with whether an individual has a specific Cause supported or group.” Employees continue to have access to non-work areas outside of company buildings, she said.

Portions of the case will go before an administrative judge unless Amazon settles it first. The losing side can appeal the judge’s decision to the Labor Board in Washington. A union lawyer, Seth Goldstein, said if the Labor Board prevailed, Amazon might have to withdraw access policies to warehouses across the country. The Labor Department did not immediately respond to a query about the potential impact.

The board also said the company unlawfully failed to negotiate with the union. An NLRB regional director confirmed the result in January, but the company is appealing the result to the Washington Department of Labor.

The Amazon spokeswoman said there was no point in negotiating changes to how the company operates at the site while Amazon continues to question the validity of the election.

Amazon has traditionally banned workers from staying in its warehouses, including break rooms, if they don’t show up within 15 minutes of their shift. However, the Labor Department reached an agreement with the company in late 2021 to ease policies statewide as the union campaign at the Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, gained momentum.

Union organizers attribute their election victory at JFK8 in part to the ability of off-duty employees to talk to colleagues and distribute food and union materials in break rooms. They say losing that access last summer, not long after their win, made it much harder to reach workers at the warehouse and try to engage them in a pressure campaign to bring Amazon to the negotiating table.

As part of the settlement, Amazon was allowed to reintroduce a more restrictive policy after a few months, but the Labor Board claims the way it did so was discriminatory and therefore illegal.

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2023-03-23 18:18:50