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Amazon Must 'Cease And Desist' With Its Retaliation Against Unionization Efforts, Judge Says

The first Amazon warehouse to unionize is located on Staten Island.

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In mid-November, a judge in the Eastern District of New York ruled that Amazon must stop retaliating against employees engaging in protected labor activities, and must read a copy of the court's decision to workers at Amazon's first warehouse in Staten Island, The Guardian reported.

Bloomberg I Getty Images
Christian Smalls, president and founder of the Amazon Labor Union, after the warehouse voted to unionize in April.

"The Court concludes that issuance of an order directing [Amazon] to cease and desist from discharging employees because they engaged in protected concerted activity," related to labor organizing, Judge Diane Gujarati wrote in a 30-page opinion.

In a statement, Christian Smalls, founder and president of the Staten Island union, told Entrepreneur: "It's time that Amazon and the company's CEO respect the rights of workers and join ALU [Amazon Labor Union] in improving working conditions, rather than acting as an uncaring, BS-spouting, corporate law-breaker."

In April 2022, a warehouse on Staten Island in New York City was the first to unionize. Amazon has historically pushed back against labor efforts and faces various unfair labor practice complaints that are being looked at by the National Labor Relations Board, per The Guardian.

The petitioners contend that the company violated the labor rights of Gerald Bryson, a warehouse worker who was fired from the Staten Island JFK8 Amazon warehouse for advocating for coronavirus-related protections in April 2020.

Bryson filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the NLRB. Gujarati's ruling was made in response to the NLRB's attempt to obtain an injunction to get Bryson re-hired. (There is also a separate order from an NLRB judge to reinstate Bryson that Amazon is appealing, per Bloomberg.)

A few other efforts to unionize warehouses, in upstate New York and Alabama, have failed. It has also faced more informal worker agitation, such as workers in Joliet, Illinois walking out on Cyber Monday this week.

Related: 'It's Just A Poke in The Eye': Amazon Warehouse Workers Slam Small, Hourly Raises

In the legal document, Gujarati declined to order the company to re-hire Bryson, for reasons including that the petition did not make an adequate enough case that organizing efforts would be seriously hindered without him.

But Gujarati did take Amazon to task for what she called engaging in "animus toward his protected concerted activity," which went contrary to his labor rights.

Those rights are under Sections 7 and 8 of the National Labor Relations Act; Section 7 gives employees the right to organize and bargain collectively, and Section 8 makes it a violation to retaliate against employees for doing so.

"The Court concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe that an unfair labor practice has been committed by Respondent in connection with its termination of Bryson," the judge added.

She ordered Amazon to stop violating employee labor rights.

Further, Amazon must follow a couple of court-ordered, labor-related steps.

First, it must read the Judge's full, 30-page ruling to employees, post copies of it in the JKF8 warehouse, hold a meeting where it will be read at a time with the "widest possible employee attendance," and allow the NLRB "reasonable access" to the facility to "monitor compliance with this posting requirement," she wrote.

The NLRB's region 29 Brooklyn director Teresa Poor said in a statement related to the case that "the Judge's order in this case recognizes Amazon's unlawful conduct and provides the full force of a federal court injunction to prohibit Amazon from further discharging employees for engaging in protected concerted activity."

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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