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The tussle between Amazon and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken another turn after the company reached a nationwide settlement with the agency. Amazon has agreed to remind current and former workers across the US about their labor rights on notices posted in workplaces, and on the mobile app and website for workers. Amazon will also send a copy of the notice to email addresses it has on file for any employee who worked at its facilities between March 22nd and December 22nd.
The notice informs workers that they have the legal right to join, form or assist with a union. They can select a representative to bargain with Amazon on their behalf and "act together with other employees for your benefit and protection."
In addition, workers have more leeway to organize in company facilities. In the notice, Amazon states it will not tell them to leave a property or threaten disciplinary action "when you are exercising your right to engage in union or protected concerted activities by talking to your co-workers in exterior non-work areas during non-work time." Nor will it ask workers about union activity, or why they're speaking to co-workers, according to the notice.
It'll be easier for the NLRB to sue Amazon if the agency believes it violated the agreement. In such cases, the company agreed to let the NLRB forego an administrative hearing process, which can take a long time to complete.
“This settlement agreement provides a crucial commitment from Amazon to millions of its workers across the United States that it will not interfere with their right to act collectively to improve their workplace by forming a union or taking other collective action,” NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo told The New York Times. Engadget has contacted Amazon for comment.
The agreement is related to six cases brought forward by workers who complained Amazon was impeding their efforts to organize. The company previously settled NLRB cases on an individual basis, but this a broader agreement. The agreement includes references to employees, but not contractors, who make up the bulk of Amazon's delivery workforce. It's unclear whether they will be afforded the same rights and protections under the deal.
The NLRB and Amazon have been at odds in recent times. In November, the labor board ordered Amazon to rerun a union election at an Alabama warehouse. It said Amazon interfered with the process. Workers at other facilities have attempted to organize — those at a fulfillment center in New York are trying once again to unionize after failing to obtain enough signatures last time.
Amazon has long been criticized over working conditions. Lawmakers this week sought answers from the company over whether its policies contributed to the deaths of six people after a tornado struck a warehouse in Illinois. Amazon recently warned its workers that an even more demanding workload than usual during the holiday period could have a significant impact on their mental health.