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NLRB Says Amazon Firing of Workers Who Demanded Better Climate, Labor Policies Was Illegal Retaliation

"It's clear that Amazon has been violating the law when it tries to silence workers who speak out," said Christy Hofmann, general secretary of UNI Global Union.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos speaks to the media on the company's sustainability efforts on September 19, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)

The National Labor Relations Board has determined that Amazon unlawfully retaliated against a pair of its employees by firing them after a vocal push for the technology and retail giant to improve worker conditions and do more to limit its contributions to the climate crisis, the New York Times reported early Monday.

"It's a moral victory and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law."
—Maren Costa, fired Amazon employee
According to the Times:

The employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, had publicly pushed the company to reduce its impact on climate change and address concerns about its warehouse workers. 

The agency told Ms. Cunningham and Ms. Costa that it would accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices if the company did not settle the case, according to correspondence that Ms. Cunningham shared with the New York Times

"It's a moral victory and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law," Ms. Cunningham said.

As Common Dreams reported in January of last year, climate justice advocates blasted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos after Costa, Cunningham, and others said they received threats from the company over their outspoken public lobbying.

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"This is not the time to shoot the messengers," Costa said at the time. "This is not the time to silence those who are speaking out."

As the Times notes, Amazon fired Costa and Cunningham in April of 2020, "not long after their group had announced an internal event for warehouse workers to speak to tech employees about their workplace conditions."

The Verge on Monday reported that the NLRB's determination over Cunningham and Costa's firing "is part of a growing pattern of labor violations at Amazon, which has been accused of violating workers' rights to protest labor conditions in a growing number of cases. In March, the NLRB made a similar determination about retaliation against organizers at a warehouse in Queens, as well as a separate retaliation case connected to a warehouse in Chicago. Six Pennsylvania warehouse workers are also pursuing a retaliation case against the company in federal court. An NBC News analysis counted 37 separate labor rights cases against Amazon filed with the NLRB since February 2020."

Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, welcomed the latest news.

Calling it an "important decision" for labor rights, Hoffman said, "It's clear that Amazon has been violating the law when it tries to silence workers who speak out."

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