Amazon Reaches Labor Deal, Giving Workers More Power to Organize

on Dec24
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SEATTLE — Amazon, which faces mounting scrutiny over worker rights, agreed to let its warehouse employees more easily organize in the workplace as part of a nationwide settlement with the National Labor Relations Board this month.

Under the settlement, made final on Wednesday, Amazon said it would email past and current warehouse workers — likely more than one million people — with notifications of their rights and give them greater flexibility to organize in its buildings. The agreement also makes it easier and faster for the N.L.R.B., which investigates claims of unfair labor practices, to sue Amazon if it believes the company violated the terms.

Amazon has previously settled individual cases with the labor agency, but the new settlement’s national scope and its concessions to organizing go further than any previous agreement.

Because of Amazon’s sheer size — more than 750,000 people work in its operations in the United States alone — the agency said the settlement would reach one of the largest groups of workers in its history. The tech giant also agreed to terms that would let the N.L.R.B. bypass an administrative hearing process, a lengthy and cumbersome undertaking, if the agency found that the company had not abided by the settlement.

With the new settlement, Amazon agreed to change a policy that limited employee access to its facilities and notify employees that it had done so, as well as informing them of other labor rights. The settlement requires Amazon to post notices in all of its U.S. operations and on the employee app, called A to Z. Amazon must also email every person who has worked in its operations since March.

In past cases, Amazon explicitly said a settlement did not constitute an admission of wrongdoing. No similar language was included in the new settlement. In September, Ms. Abruzzo directed N.L.R.B. staff to accept these “non-admission clauses” only rarely.

The combination of terms, including the “unusual” commitment to email past and current employees, made Amazon’s settlement stand out, Ms. Liebman said, adding that other large employers were likely to take notice.

“It sends a signal that this general counsel is really serious about enforcing the law and what they will accept,” she said.

The six cases that led to Amazon’s settlement with the agency involved its workers in Chicago and Staten Island, N.Y. They had said Amazon prohibited them from being in areas like a break room or parking lot until within 15 minutes before or after their shifts, hampering any organizing.

One case was brought by Ted Miin, who works at an Amazon delivery station in Chicago. In an interview, Mr. Miin said a manager had told him, “It is more than 15 minutes past your shift, and you are not allowed to be here,” when he passed out newsletters at a protest in April.

“Co-workers were upset about being understaffed and overworked and staged a walkout,” he said, adding that a security guard also pressured him to leave the site while handing out leaflets.



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