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Amazon Faces Workplace Challenges as Online Sales Remain Strong

Two employees who worked for Amazon were fired in April 2020 for violating internal policies. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was engaged and has ruled that these two employees were illegally fired. An Amazon spokesperson indicated that all employees have a right to criticize their working conditions, but that fact does not mean that they can violate workplace policies. Although Amazon's starting wages are $15 (nearly twice the federal minimum), there has been increased criticism of working conditions in Amazon warehouses. An analysis of the NLRB data by NBC News found roughly 37 retaliation charges filed against Amazon in 20 cities over the past year.

Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa have been leaders and founding members of 'Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.' The two also advocate for improvements in employee working conditions. Amazon had warned the employees that they were violating an external communications policy, and in response, the two organized 400 employees to speak out in violation of the company's policy. Jonathan Bailey, a co-founder of 'Amazonians United,' was interrogated by Amazon after organizing a walkout at a Queens, New York warehouse where he works. The NLRB upheld his complaint that the company violated the law in conducting such an investigation. The case with Mr. Bailey was settled, without admitting wrongdoing, and actions were taken to post materials in public areas informing employees of their rights.

In addition, there was recently an unsuccessful unionization vote by Amazon employees in Bessemer, Alabama, which would be the first U.S. Amazon union in its almost 27-year history. The concerns shared by the employees included intense scrutiny and monitoring coupled with aggressive quotas. Companies such as UPS have quotas for their delivery drivers, and with so many more Americans ordering online, many drivers have complained of being overworked. Amazon is experiencing a similar and significant spike in demand for its products, putting pressure on warehouse workers to keep up with the escalating demand. Unions have historically been key in resolving workplace conflicts between management and employees, as well as acting as representatives for workers in bargaining negotiations.


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