Federal labor regulators have forced Amazon to rescind a rule governing employees’ use of non-work spaces, accusing the company of illegally singling out union supporters in enforcing the policy.
The complaint, issued Tuesday by the Brooklyn office of the National Labor Relations Board, said Amazon “selectively and inconsistently enforced the rule” that applied to the distribution of materials and activities related to the offer, “discriminating against employees who engaged in union activity.” .
The complaint amounted to a finding of merit in an allegation made by Amazon’s labor union, which has ramped up organizing efforts this year — one successful, one not — at two Staten Island warehouses. The case will be heard in administrative court if it is not settled in advance, and Amazon could appeal the unfavorable decision to the national labor office in Washington.
The complaint alleges that the company applied the harassment policy illegally when it prohibited workers from posting pro-union signs in a non-work area at one of the Staten Island warehouses, known as LDJ5. The company threatened disciplinary action if workers posted the sign or did not remove it, according to the complaint, which also said at least one worker had been disciplined under the harassment policy.
The complaint also accuses the company of disciplining two workers to discourage them from engaging in union activity.
According to Amazon’s established policies, employees are prohibited from soliciting co-workers for, say, financial contributions on company property during work hours, or distributing non-work-related materials in work areas. The policy also prevents the unemployed from making any kind of solicitation on company grounds.
The labor board’s complaint said Amazon can reinstate the policy only if it specifically states that the policy does not apply to organizing and related worker activity, known as protected concerted activity. The complaint also seeks to require that all supervisors, managers, security personnel and outside consultants hired by Amazon receive training on workers’ federally protected labor rights. It could affect most of the company’s roughly one million employees nationwide.
(The complaint is unclear whether the training would be statewide or just in the New York area, and a spokeswoman for the Labor Department was not immediately able to clarify.)
“Amazon is committing flagrant human rights violations by unlawfully disciplining ALU supporters and banning union organizing in company break rooms,” Connor Spence, the union’s treasurer, said in a statement. “Union organizing during employer breaks is a protected right mandated by the National Labor Relations Board.”
Paul Flaningan, a spokesman for Amazon, said in a statement: “These allegations are completely without merit and we look forward to proving that during the trial.
The complaint comes at an important time for the Amazon Labor Union. This month the Labor Office Hearing Officer recommended rejecting Amazon’s formal challenge to JFK8 union victory. (Amazon has said it will likely appeal the ruling on the issue.) But defending the victory ate up time the union had hoped to spend pushing for a contract at the warehouse.
In October, a labor council will hold an election involving the union and roughly 400 workers at Amazon’s warehouse in AlbanyNY
Karen Weiss contributed reporting.