Amazon allegedly called union organizers 'thugs' to discourage workers from unionizing

The NLRB also said that Amazon threatened and interrogated workers at its New York facility.

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An employee fills a cart full of items at Amazon's JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island, New York, U.S. November 25, 2020.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.
Brendan McDermid / reuters

The National Labor Relations Board has accused Amazon of threatening, surveilling and interrogating workers at its JFK8 warehouse in New York to discourage them from unionizing. According to the board's complaint as seen by Motherboard, Amazon brought a union avoidance consultant to the facility and told employees that it "would be futile for them to select the Union as their bargaining representative." The consultant reportedly said that union organizing at the warehouse would fail anyway, because the organizers were "thugs."

NLRB's complaint also said that Amazon representatives interrogated workers about union activities and promised to fix their issues if they didn't support the union and didn't distribute union literature. Further, the labor board alleges that security guards confiscated union literature from workers and told them they couldn't distribute the materials without permission. If you'll recall, Amazon's warehouse workers in New York filed a petition to unionize with the board last year, but they had to withdraw it after failing to gather enough signatures to be approved. The JFK8 workers re-filed their application in December and recently reached union vote threshold.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel denied the allegations to Motherboard, telling the publication: "These allegations are false and we look forward to showing that through this process."

These allegations come from a series of unfair labor practice charges filed by workers in May and June last year. The board investigated the incidents and found merit that they occurred. It has given Amazon February 10th to respond to the complaint and has set a hearing for it on April 5th. In addition to detailing workers' allegations in its complaint, the NLRB has also outlined a series of remedies it wants the company to follow. In particular, it wants Amazon to train its managers, supervisors, security guards and union avoidance consultants on workers' rights to organize and form unions. 

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