Amazon violated workers’ rights at crucial air hub, labor regulators allege

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Workers at an Amazon air hub in Kentucky celebrated a victory Thursday after federal labor regulators found that Amazon violated labor law by trying to prevent workers there from unionizing.

The employees have been demanding higher pay, more flexible schedules and safer working conditions since 2022. After a months-long investigation, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Amazon last week, alleging the e-commerce behemoth illegally attempted to curtail those efforts by interrogating workers, threatening to call the police on them and demoting workers involved in union organizing.

The complaint is a victory for union organizers at a crucial air cargo hub in Kentucky who have been alleging that Amazon has been unfairly interfering with their unionization efforts there for months.

Seth Goldstein, a lawyer representing Amazon workers in a different case, said he was glad to see the labor board’s regional office moving swiftly to protect workers by requiring Amazon to read a notice to workers, among other instructions. “I think it fits in the pattern with some of the strong complaints that we’ve been seeing,” he said. “These are very significant penalties.”

Amazon said the labor board’s allegations are “without merit.”

“We will continue to defend our position as the legal process continues,” spokesperson Mary Kate Paradis said in an emailed statement.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Amazon workers at various sites around the country have been trying to unionize for years, with little to show for it. Many have accused Amazon of using illegal tactics to discourage workers from supporting unions — more than 240 such charges have been filed with the labor board, workers said.

At a news conference in Kentucky on Thursday, workers and local labor advocates sheltered under a tent as a thunderstorm passed overhead, holding signs saying “Bezos busted!” and “Back off Amazon.” Amazon employee Marcio Rodriguez said he was threatened with termination for his union organizing activity along with 10 co-workers. For two weeks, Rodriguez said, Amazon management would “show up to where I was working out on the ramp in front of my co-workers in a truck and take me to the HR office,” where they would interrogate him.

“This was just a way to try and intimidate me,” he said Thursday. “That’s why I’m standing up for our union. And I’ll continue to fight, especially now knowing that a federal investigation has found that Amazon broke the law.”

Amazon workers in Kentucky are seeking to form Amazon Labor Union, an independent but associated branch of the group that won a historic victory at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island in 2021. Lawyers for the union there are still battling Amazon, which has yet to come to the bargaining table and continues to argue that the NLRB unfairly sided with workers during that election.

More recently, the company has argued in another New York case that the National Labor Relations Board itself is structured unconstitutionally, following legal arguments set forth by lawyers for SpaceX and Trader Joe’s.

The independent Amazon Labor Union has also struggled internally as different factions have fought over leadership, leading a group of members to file a lawsuit against the union and its leadership in July.

The Amazon air hub is on the Kentucky side of the border near Cincinnati. Amazon flies cargo planes out of multiple airports, including its own air hubs, but the $1.5 billion Kentucky hub is the center of its air network, making it a prime target for labor actions.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has voiced support for the Amazon Labor Union campaign, speaking at a February rally, according to organizers.

At Thursday’s news conference, his office was represented by southwest regional director Joyce Powdrill, who said the senator was proud of the organizers at the air hub. “Organizing a workplace is not easy,” she said, “and it takes special guts to take on one of the biggest corporations in the world.”

Organizers at the Kentucky air hub said a vote on unionizing has not yet been scheduled. There are about 4,000 workers at the site, they said.

Amazon is scheduled to appear at a hearing before labor regulators regarding its alleged anti-union activities in Kentucky on April 22.



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