Amazon is facing legal consequences for its history of firing protest participants. The New York Times reports that judge Benjamin Green has ordered Amazon to reinstate warehouse worker Gerald Bryson, who was fired from his role at Staten Island's JFK8 facility (the one that just voted to unionize) after allegedly violating language policies during a COVID-19 safety protest on April 6th, 2020. Green sided with a National Labor Relations Board argument that Amazon retaliated against Bryson for protesting, and reportedly used a "skewed" investigation to find pretexts for firing the employee.
Bryson (pictured above) had been protesting outside JFK8 and called for Amazon to shut down the warehouse for safety reasons. He got into a row with a female employee who said she was grateful for the work. Only Bryson was fired despite the two trading insults — the woman received a written warning. The people Amazon interviewed for its investigation provided "one-sided, exaggerated" versions of events, according to Green, including claims of racial slur use that weren't supported by video evidence. Amazon didn't interview the person who recorded the video.
The judge also found that Amazon had previously issued lighter punishments for more serious infractions (such as the use of violence). The company also didn't provide all the documents requested in a subpoena.
In a statement to The Times, Amazon said it "strongly disagree[s]" with Green's decision and claimed the NLRB wanted the company to "condone" Bryson's behavior. The tech giant planned to appeal the decision with the NLRB.
Amazon has been repeatedly accused of retaliating against staff who challenge its policies. Safety protest leader Chris Smalls accused the company of firing him for highlighting poor safeguards against COVID-19. Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, meanwhile, were supposedly fired for being vocal critics of Amazon's climate and labor practices. Amazon said these workers were dropped for violating policy, but opponents rejected those assertions.
Bryson's win comes as Amazon faces a growing backlash from workers. On top of the successful unionization vote at JFK8, the company is grappling with a close rerun election for unionization at an Alabama warehouse as well as a looming vote at a second Staten Island facility. Employees are increasingly demanding better treatment, and the company's attempts to quash dissent aren't always proving successful.