Amazon Agrees to Let Warehouse Workers Organize in NLRB Settlement

According to The New York Times, respondent Amazon Services LLC has settled a dispute with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over warehouse worker rights. The settlement, obtained in part after the new outlet’s Karen Weise lodged a Freedom of Information Act request, the company will have to email more than one million past and current workers, notifying them of their now-greater rights to organize.

The agreement comes amidst turmoil over Amazon worker rights and workplace conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees have fought the company, including corporate workers, for alleged retaliation for their attempts to engage in protected workplace activities.

Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Letitia James requested a preliminary injunction on behalf of the state’s Amazon warehouse workers. The petition asked the court to find that the company’s practices violate state occupational health laws because of lax health and sanitization protocols.

That move followed Amazon’s defensive litigation against the attorney general, arguing that she had no authority to bring the state court suit. Last April, a federal court shut Amazon’s case down, finding that it had to abstain from review as the issue was clearly within the state court’s jurisdiction.

According to The New York Times, last week’s nationwide settlement resolved six Amazon worker cases claiming that the company curtailed their rights to organize. The news press said the settlement is unprecedented in scope. Weise’s article also said that the e-commerce giant has agreed to let the NLRB forgo an administrative hearing process if it finds that Amazon failed to abide by the settlement, enabling the labor authority to more easily levy penalties. 

The New York Times commented that Amazon, which has boomed during the pandemic, “has become a leading example of a rising tide of worker organizing as the pandemic reshapes what employees expect from their employers.” The article cited moves by workers of major corporations, such as Starbucks and Kellogg, who have recently made noise about worker rights and unionization.