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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that Amazon behaved illegally when it fired two of its most vocal employee-critics, who had "publicly pushed the company to reduce its impact on climate change and address concerns about its warehouse workers … The two women were among dozens of Amazon workers who in the last year told the labor board about company retaliations, but in most other cases the workers had complained about pandemic safety … Claims of unfair labor practices at Amazon have been common enough that the labor agency may turn them into a national investigation, the agency told NBC News. The agency typically handles investigations in its regional offices."

The Times puts the case of Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa in context:

"Ms. Costa and Ms. Cunningham, who worked as designers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, began criticizing the company publicly in 2018. They were part of a small group of employees who wanted the company to do more to address its climate impact. The group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, got more than 8,700 colleagues to support its efforts.

"Over time, Ms. Cunningham and Ms. Costa broadened their protests. After Amazon told them that they had violated its external communications policy by speaking publicly about the business, their group organized 400 employees to also speak out, purposely violating the policy to make a point.

"They also began raising concerns about safety in Amazon’s warehouses at the start of the pandemic. Amazon fired Ms. Costa and Ms. Cunningham last April, not long after their group had announced an internal event for warehouse workers to speak to tech employees about their workplace conditions."

Amazon responded to the NLRB ruling by saying, "“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against our internal policies, all of which are lawful.  We terminated these employees not for talking publicly about working conditions, safety or sustainability but, rather, for repeatedly violating internal policies.”

The Times reports that the NLRB plans to "accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices if the company did not settle the case … The case would then go before an administrative law judge."

KC's View:

Seems to me that Amazon is playing a lot of defense these days.  Not only is the NLRB taking it to task for past behavior, but Amazon even had to apologize the other day for denying that some of its delivery people had to urinate in bottles in order to keep to their schedules, and also apologize for the tweet that communicated its displeasure of even being accused of such a thing.

Amazon's defense that its denial concerned only its staff drivers, not contract drivers.  Yeah, right.

This is all happening as the NLRB supervises the counting of votes at Amazon's Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse, where workers have cast ballots on the matter of unionization.

And, as the Seattle Times writes, "Amazon is gearing up to defend itself against a mushrooming battle over the company’s alleged anticompetitive business practices, in arenas spanning Congress, federal agencies and state government.

"The commerce giant is expanding its legal team, hiring former federal prosecutors and regulators to fill roles that include defending the company against allegations that it unfairly dominates markets. The company has tweaked its public messaging to downplay its role as the world’s largest online retailer."

Mrs. Content Guy and I took Spenser for a long walk yesterday, and we found ourselves chatting about Amazon's current situation.  (I think I asked her to let me know if she saw a result in the Alabama vote count.)  And she asked me a really good question:  "Wouldn't it be easier for Amazon, instead of spending so much time defending itself and trying to change the conversation, to simply do things right?"

"Right," of course, is relative.  It isn't as easy as suggesting that Amazon is 100 percent wrong and labor is 100 percent right.  I don't believe that for a second.

But I do think that Amazon has positioned itself to be thought of as the very model of a 21st century company, and therefore is expected to behave in a more enlightened way than it has in certain circumstances.