Amazonians United says Amazon has fired workers from Maryland for union activity

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An independent working group claims that Amazon illegally fired two employees at a facility in Prince George County to “assert the rights” of their colleagues, the group said in allegations made at the National Labor Council last week.

Amazonians United – a regular organization, which is also organized in warehouses in SacramentoChicago and new York – said that workers at the DMD9 delivery station in Upper Marlborough had been fired for their roles in collecting signatures for two petitions and encouraging others to take part in walk in March.

A spokesman for the company, Kelly Nantel, told The Washington Post that the allegations were baseless. “Whether an employee supports a particular cause or a group does not affect the difficult decision of whether to release someone or not,” she added.

However, the group’s accusations are the latest evidence of a growing movement of workers at Amazon’s facilities across the country, fueled by a historic union vote at one of the company’s Staten Island warehouses. Amazon – whose founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post – struggles to undo the results in these elections.

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The fight at Prince George’s takes place about 20 miles from Virginia, where Amazon is building its second corporate headquarters, and this push has at times followed an unorthodox book. While Staten Island, New York, vote was the result of a traditional union campaign – organizers tried to collect union cards to trigger elections – instead Amazonians United tried to put pressure on the company with petitions and departures in Maryland and elsewhere.

This is a strategy that can accelerate change within the company, given that no union vote – or months of bureaucratic struggle with Amazon over this vote – stands in the way of Amazonians United. But the group now claims that Amazon, the country’s second-largest private employer, is violating labor laws by firing some of the key leaders behind the protests.

“They want to separate us. They want us to be afraid. They don’t want the workers to get together, to talk about how they think some things are wrong, “said Jackie Davis, one of Prince George’s laid-off employees who wants to be hired again for pay. “If we are divided, there is no more unity.”

Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said the company would show “through due process” that Amazonians United’s claims were baseless. “Like any company, we have basic expectations of employees at all levels, and in these cases these expectations were not met,” she added.

Davis, 22, said she was first hired to sort packages in June 2021 at the DMD9 delivery station, which employs about 120 people and serves as a final stop for Amazon’s deliveries before being released. doors in the DC region. All entry level employees work in the morning shift, from 1:20 to 11:50

She soon joined the efforts of Amazonians United and quickly became one of the most effective agitators of the group in Maryland. Although she was excited about Amazon’s programs that would teach her to code and rise in the company, she was also disappointed with the facility’s problems, she said, such as the unavailability of managers and no HR to respond to her questions.

Large organizing campaigns of established unions, such as one in Bessemer, Alabama., drew attention to their efforts to get Amazon workers to sign union cards. In Staten Island, an independent group, the Amazon Labor Union, released a similar disc for official union elections, winning an upset victory in April.

Amazonians United expressed support for both campaigns. But instead of adopting the same tactics, Davis and other organizers focused on building relationships and gaining support in the workshop, sometimes in coordination with other warehouses across the country. She will come to work early to hand out union leaflets outside the delivery station, she said, or will call colleagues in her spare time.

Davis and the group submitted a petition with 50 signatures to the Maryland delivery station management last August, calling for healthier food in the rest room, at least one day notice of schedule changes and safety requirements, and greater flexibility in making of toilet breaks. “We are humans, not robots!” they declare in the petition.

The next meeting with the facility’s managers led to a number of concrete changes: in addition to healthier food, employees won a looser bathroom policy, ergonomic mats on some workstations and free shuttles from Largo Metro Station, organizers said.

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The petition is an example of how Amazonians United’s strategy has allowed it to make material gains. In another case, he gained access to paid sick leave for temporary workers in California.

By December, the group had come up with additional requests. Amazon provided an hourly pay increase of about $ 2 to $ 3 during the company’s busiest months at some other facilities, but not at DMD9. And although the company had extended breaks of 15 to 20 minutes during the coronavirus pandemic, delivery station managers reversed that move ahead of the holiday rush known as the “peak season.”

Amazonians United again sent a petition to the local leadership, simultaneously with five other warehouses in or around New York. When the company doesn’t move, they all staged coordinated walks in March: Dozens of workers left the facility during their lunch break before morning, leaving managers to cover.

Davis was fired a few weeks later. Although she claims that her managers did not give her a clear or justified explanation, Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said Davis “was suspended for stealing time and was not present even though he was involved.”

Her petition to the NLRB, which was filed on June 14 and shared with The Post, claims that Amazon “took revenge” on her by “firing her for participating in a secure concerted action and defending the rights of her colleagues.”

“Amazon is fully aware that their actions violate our right to organize ourselves in the workplace, so the company has resorted to false accusations and grim apologies to justify the dismissal of exit leaders,” Amazonians said in a statement. United.

The task force also has filed an “unfair employment practice” allegations of warehouse workers in the New York area who were fired after taking walks. The NLRB will review all allegations to determine whether they are justified.

In Maryland, Davis said her case was a stark contrast to white-collar corporate managers starting jobs in new offices in Arlington County, across the Metro blue line.

“I’m really sorry for them,” she said, “that they are so selfish that they don’t work with employees.”

Caroline O’Donovan of San Francisco contributed to this report.

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