Amazon settles allegations of illegal retaliation in dispute over firing of activist employees

Amazon designer and activist Emily Cunningham speaks at a rally organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice outside the company’s shareholders meeting in May 2019. (GeekWire File Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Updated with former employee billing and statement details.

Amazon reached a settlement with two former employees who criticized its position on climate change and the conditions in its warehouses five months after the National Labor Relations Board found the company was conducting illegal retaliation by firing.

Former Amazon employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, said in a joint statement that the settlement will require Amazon to pay them for lost wages and “to notify all engineering and warehouse workers across the country that Amazon does not have workers may be fired for organizing ”. and exercise their rights. “

“This is a win for the protection of workers’ rights and shows that we are right for one another, for justice and for our world,” the statement said.

The settlement was announced ahead of a hearing on the case this week. Originally scheduled for Tuesday, the hearing has been postponed to allow more time for settlement talks, the New York Times reported.

“We have reached a mutual agreement that resolves the legal issues in this case, and we welcome the resolution of this matter,” said an Amazon spokesman in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

Cunningham and Costa led the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group, which pushed the company to take aggressive action against climate change and raised public concerns about storage conditions at the start of the pandemic.

The NLRB ruled on the former employees in April, finding that the evidence supports their allegations of illegal retaliation. The NLRB has brought the case to an administrative judge for the hearing due this week.

Amazon had challenged the NLRB’s findings. The company claimed it fired employees for repeated violations of its external communications policy, but alleged it based on the content of their comments. An Amazon spokesman previously said: “We support the right of every employee to criticize the working conditions of their employer, but that does not go hand in hand with a blanket immunity to our internal guidelines, which are all lawful.”

In their NLRB complaint, Costa and Cunningham alleged that Amazon fired them “for discriminatory enforcement of policies or labor regulations,” CNBC reported.

The case brought new scrutiny of Amazon’s treatment of activists in its workforce, including a May 2020 letter to then-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos from Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Tim Bray, an Amazon vice president and respected engineer, resigned in protest of Cunningham and Costa resignations.

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