Amazon is being sued to reinstate an employee allegedly fired for worker’s rights activism.
Online retail giant, Amazon, faces a lawsuit that seeks to force the company to take back an employee it sacked. The suit comes from the National Labor Relations Board and is centered on Gerald Bryson, who lost his job in April 2020. Bryson protested unsafe working conditions during the pandemic at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse located in Staten Island, New York.
The NLRB alleges Amazon fired Bryson as retaliation for his activism. The labor body wants Amazon to temporarily take back Bryson pending when the court case is resolved. Bryson has been fighting to get his job back, and two years have passed, with no clear end in sight.
One of NLRB’s arguments is that if Amazon does not reinstate Amazon, it will intimidate other workers who may want to speak up against unfair practices by their employer. Bryson’s firing was an unmistakable message on how Amazon intends to react to criticism of its dealings with its staff. Such a message is even more critical during this period that the JFK8 warehouse workers are about to vote on whether to unionize.
Amazon claims Bryson got fired for quarreling with another employee during a protest, amounting to bullying and intimidation, according to the online shopping giant. However, Bryson said he had submitted evidence that he didn’t start the confrontation.
According to a mailed statement by the NLRB’s regional director Kathy Drew King, “We are seeking an injunction in District Court to immediately reinstate a worker that Amazon illegally fired for exercising his Section 7 rights. We are also asking the Court to order a mandatory meeting at JFK8 with all employees at which Amazon will read a notice of employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. No matter how large the employer, it is important for workers to know their rights—particularly during a union election—and that the NLRB will vociferously defend them.”
As the person in the middle of the legal tussle, Bryson admits the process has been highly frustrating. He said the American system for going against big businesses with deep pockets and huge political clout is outdated and needs reform. Even though created for small people like him, the system limits what he could do to fight for his rights as there were just so many ways to frustrate the complainer if an organization wishes to do so. He is also pained to see other cases brought by other Amazon staff settled so fast while his own faced multiple roadblocks.
However, Bryson said he is determined to see the case to the end. According to the single father, he is literally fighting for his life and hopes to make a change for other Amazon employees.
Bryson is one of the leaders of a group calling for unionization at the JFK8 warehouse, known as the Amazon Labor Union, ALU. The organization is also pushing at another Staten Island Amazon warehouse, LDJ5. Incidentally, the union is headed by Christian Smalls, another employee Amazon fired.
Bryson became the public face of the struggle for improved COVID policy at the warehouse he was employed before he was fired. Amazon received lots of criticism on how it handled the pandemic and has even been sued by the New York state for not adequately protecting its workers from the virus.
The NLRB has instituted multiple lawsuits against Amazon on how the company is responding to unionization efforts by its workers, with the labor body accusing the company of threatening, surveilling, and interrogating employees.