Amazon suspends 50 warehouse workers after work stoppage in New York

Amazon on Tuesday suspended at least 50 workers involved in a work stoppage the night before at the company’s only unionized warehouse in the United States, union leaders said.

About 100 overnight warehouse associates at the Staten Island plant refused to work for several hours Monday night, shortly after a fire broke out at a used cardboard trash compactor, according to reports. Amazon union officials. Union leaders said the warehouse smelled of smoke and they couldn’t breathe. A worker went to the hospital, they said.

Seth Goldstein, labor attorney for the Amazon Labor Union, called the Staten Island workers’ suspensions a “violation of workers’ rights to join class action over the terms of their employment.”

“The workers did not feel safe to return to work. They were indulging in rights protected for 85 years under national labor relations law,” Goldstein said.

Amazon confirmed that business leaders suspended paid workers who engaged in the work stoppage on Monday as they investigate the events that unfolded. Company spokesman Paul Flaningan said while Amazon respects its workers’ right to protest, it is not appropriate for employees to occupy active workspaces, break rooms or lanes. circulation in its warehouses.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

The mass suspension came less than 10 days before workers at a segregated Amazon warehouse near Albany, New York, voted to become the second Amazon workforce to join the Amazon union.

This independent union made national headlines in April after winning an unprecedented victory for the labor movement at the Staten Island plant, signaling a new era for labor relations at Amazon, the nation’s second largest employer. However, the company has so far refused to recognize the union.

Amazon Labor Union organizers say Amazon’s Staten Island crackdown was intended to have a chilling effect on their organizing drives, including the upcoming election.

Labor board rejects Amazon’s objections to labor victory

Union organizers said 10 union leaders who led the action were suspended on Tuesday, along with 40 warehouse workers who refused to return to their shifts.

Video recordings of the action shared with The Washington Post show chaos in the warehouse cafeteria, with dozens of workers chanting “Send us home” and later confronting management.

Flaningan, the Amazon spokesman, said all employees were safely evacuated from the area of ​​the warehouse where the fire started and day workers were sent home with pay. . He added that once the fire department certified the building as safe, the company asked night workers to report for their scheduled shifts.

“While the vast majority of employees reported to their workstations, a small group refused to return to work and remained in the building without permission,” he said.

Amazon workers launch campaign to unionize in Albany

Union leaders dispute Amazon’s description of the event.

“It’s too bad that due to Amazon’s lack of safety protocols, workers had to take a stand because they didn’t feel like the company was taking [the fire] as seriously as they should have been,” said Christian Smalls, president of Amazon Labor Union. Amazon fired Smalls from the Staten Island facility, after going on strike during the height of the covid outbreak in 2020.

Chris Smalls’ Amazon uprising and the fight for a second warehouse

Amazon refused to work with the Staten Island union. Last month, a National Labor Relations Board hearing officer said he would overrule Amazon’s objections to the union’s victory, guaranteeing warehouse workers the chance to negotiate a contract. The union has not yet been certified.

Meanwhile, the company responded to the high-stakes labor campaign in Albany using tactics familiar from previous labor campaigns. They used union avoidance consultants to convince their staff to vote against unionization and sanctioned the main organizer of the campaign.

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