A US labor agency has reportedly found that Amazon illegally fired two employees last year who had publicly blasted the company’s employment and environmental policies.
The National Labor Relations Board informed the targeted employees — Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa — that their terminations a year ago amounted to retaliation and that the agency would take action against Amazon unless it settled their cases, according to documents cited in a New York Times report.
Cunningham and Costa had been looking to pressure Amazon over its environmental impact as part of a group — Amazon Employees for Climate Justice — that had secured the support of nearly 9,000 Amazon employees starting in 2018.
The women, who worked as designers at the company’s Seattle headquarters, later spoke out against Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers during the pandemic, citing safety concerns. Amazon fired them, saying they violated its internal policies.
Amazon did not immediately respond for comment on Monday.
“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against our internal policies, all of which are lawful,” spokesperson Jaci Anderson said in a statement to the Times. “We terminated these employees not for talking publicly about working conditions, safety or sustainability but, rather, for repeatedly violating internal policies.”
A number of high-profile politicians, including US Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and Kamala Harris, then a senator from California, spoke out on their behalf. A senior Amazon executive, Tim Bray, who worked for the company’s cloud computing group, resigned from the company in May after warehouse workers were fired for speaking out against the company’s safety protocols.
In a blog post he wrote, “Bye, Amazon” that he could no longer stand to work at a “chickens–t” company that fires dissenters in an effort “designed to create a climate of fear.”
The latest flap comes on the heels of an organizing effort at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., where thousands of employees cast their ballots last week on whether to secure a labor contract. The NLRB is counting those votes.
If the votes come out in favor of a labor contract it would be the first Amazon warehouse to be organized in the US.