Amazon Labor Settlement Signals Shifting Seas?

Carissa Davis

There has been no shortage of news on labor drives at Amazon, the eCommerce giant with over 1.2 million employees. Earlier this year, we reported on one of Amazon’s most notable victories at an Alabama facility—a labor drive capturing national attention. However, just last week a very different story emerged when Amazon settled several complaints of unlawful interference with employees’ protected rights.

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), the agency tasked with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act (“the Act”), entered into a surprising settlement agreement with Amazon in response to several recent complaints that Amazon deliberately interfered with workers’ rights as set forth under the Act. According to Jennifer Abruzzo, NLRB General Counsel, the settlement requires that Amazon  not interfere with employees’ rights to organize and that it will not retaliate against employees for exercising those rights.  The settlement requires that Amazon notify current and former employees of their organizing rights via a direct email, which some describe as an extraordinary measure.  Amazon must also refrain from interfering with employees engaging in union activity on certain of its properties during non-working time. Abruzzo made clear the NLRB would be watching closely, explaining, “Working people should know that the National Labor Relations Board will vigorously seek to ensure Amazon’s compliance with the settlement and continue to defend the labor rights of all workers.”

While many news outlets have reported the settlement to signify a fundamental shift in Amazon’s approach to organized labor, this settlement mainly requires that Amazon notify employees of rights to which they were already entitled. Regardless of one’s take on the matter, the ongoing organized labor battles will certainly provide much to consider in the new year ahead.