Isaiah Thomas is a 20-year-old Amazon employee at Bessemer, Alabama, BHM1. He is also a vocal advocate of union warehousing associations. At a news conference Monday night, he described what he believed his employer was controlling and retaliation for, solely because of his support for collective bargaining efforts. The Union of Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores (RWDSU), which works to represent employees in BHM1, has filed two complaints of unfair work practices with the State Labor Relations Committee over the incident.
In a screenshot provided by the union, a letter sent only from “BHM1 management” Isaiah claims that the worker “advocated in work areas, during the working hours of associates”. The letter acknowledges that these activities “may have happened during your vacation,” but nonetheless claims that Isaiah “violated” the company’s tender policy.
RWDSU, however, believes this action in itself constituted a violation of a “settlement agreement recently entered into by the employer with the NLRB”. That agreement, which was reported late last month, referred to several cases of Amazon disrupting union activities. The union filed a separate ULP, stating that the company or its agents “created the impression that Mr. Thomas was under surveillance.” Amazon is known to hold closed-door public meetings to discourage union interest, and after one such meeting at BHM1 where Isaiah allegedly questioned the “employment manager,” RWDSU said in its ULP that “Mr. Thomas was watching the employer’s agents.” how they circled around his work area for nothing but to watch him work ”and later assigned him to another area where he could be“ easier to observe ”.
Although RWDSU described the letter as a “reprimand” in an email to Engadget, it is unclear whether it represents a formal writing. We requested a comment from Amazon.
The news comes two days after the NLRB ruled Amazon has illegally fired another union worker at its Staten Island facility. If the case is not resolved, the Board plans to file a formal lawsuit against the company.
BHM1 famously became the first major Amazon plant in the United States to hold a union vote. Although the vote swung strongly in favor of the giant in the cloud and e-commerce, RWDSU challenged it for procedural reasons. The NLRB found justification for the challenge, ruling that Amazon was, in fact, illegal disturbed with a union voice. In the end, the Committee decided to hold a new vote. It is scheduled to take place on February 4 (although the counting of ballots will not start until the end of March.)
Amazon, in addition to preferring an unionized workforce, is well known for the rate at which employees leave. It seems that the speed with which it is breaking through the workers would reduce the efforts to build a cohesive negotiating unit in BHM1. According to the RWDSU, the current voter list in the facility has 6,143 people, of whom just over half were present at a previous ballot held almost exactly a year ago.
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