Amazon settles with employees who said they were fired over activism

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  • An NLRB judge said Wednesday that Amazon settled with two former employees who said they were fired for their workplace activism.
  • Earlier this year, the NLRB found that Amazon illegally retaliated against workers, Emily Cunningham and Maran Costa, after it fired them last April.
  • The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

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Amazon settled with two former employees who the National Labor Relations Board claimed were illegally fired for speaking publicly about the company’s climate record and labor policies.

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The terms of the agreement between Amazon and two employees, Emily Cunningham and Maran Costa, were not immediately disclosed. The settlement was announced at a virtual hearing by NLRB Administrative Law Judge John Giannopoulos, where Giannopoulos was expected to review the NLRB’s complaint.

Amazon declined to comment. Attorney James McGuinness, representing the Seattle chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, who filed the NLRB complaint on behalf of Cunningham and Costa, could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Earlier this year, the NLRB found that Amazon illegally retaliated against Cunningham and Costa after it fired them in April of 2020. Amazon previously said it disagreed with the NLRB’s findings, claiming it fired Costa and Cunningham for “repeatedly violating internal policies”.

In their complaint to the NLRB last October, Costa and Cunningham alleged that Amazon fired them “on the basis of discriminatory enforcement of its non-solicitation and communications policies” in violation of federal labor law, the latter of which fired employees. Barred from speaking about Amazon’s business without manager’s approval. .

By reaching a settlement, Amazon survives what could be a potentially lengthy trial, complete with witnesses and a dissection of its dealings with employees. Had the NLRB taken the side of the employees, Amazon could have been forced to redeploy Cunningham and Costa or pay them back, among other measures.

Cunningham and Costa worked as user experience designers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters for 15 years. In 2018, he became a vocal critic of Amazon’s climate stance and founded an employee advocacy group that has urged the company to reduce its impact on climate change. The group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, garnered the support of more than 8,700 employees and inspired more than 1,500 employees to quit in protest against Amazon’s climate policies.

During the pandemic, Cunningham and Costa expressed concerns about Amazon’s treatment of warehouse workers. both of them shared a petition Warehouse workers advocating for greater coronavirus protection and their employee advocacy group planned an internal program allowing Amazon tech workers and warehouse workers to discuss workplace conditions.

Amazon has faced increasing scrutiny from employees and outside groups over its labor practices. Warehouse and delivery workers have publicly expressed their concerns about the safety of front-line workers during the pandemic. Also, an increasing number of employees have filed complaints with the NLRB, many of them alleging unfair labor practices.

The shootings of Cunningham and Costa last April generated an immediate reaction. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Vice President Kamala Harris, who was a California senator at the time, joined other lawmakers in writing to Amazon to ask for more information about their firing.

Tim Bray, a lead engineer and former Amazon vice president, resigned in protest last May. Bray said he was “snapped” upon learning of the firing, adding that remaining at the company would be “signing frivolous acts by me”.

Watch: California Gov. Newsom signs bill to strengthen warehouse worker protections


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