The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union filed new unfair labor practice charges against Amazon Monday, alleging the company violated their settlement agreement with workers at the Bessemer fulfillment center by “creating the impression of surveillance” and issuing a warning to one worker during break time who discussed the union with his co-workers.
During a zoom conference Monday, Isaiah Thomas, a 20-year-old ship dock worker at the Bessemer fulfillment center, said he was issued a letter from Amazon management Friday charging that he “violated the company solicitation policy” by discussing unionization with fellow workers during his break time. Later in the discussion, Thomas alleged that Amazon management surveilled after he raised questions during a captive audience meeting at the Bessemer facility.
According to the two unfair labor practice charges obtained by APR, RWDSU alleges Amazon created “the impression that Mr. Thomas is under surveillance on account of his Pro Union activity.” and “violated the settlement agreement the employer recently executed with the NLRB regarding its overly broad application of an anti-solicitation policy.” when Amazon management sent Thomas a written warning against discussing the union with co-workers while on break.
According to a screenshot of the written warning sent to Thomas Jan. 21., management “received multiple voluntary reports” from associates that he was soliciting in working areas during work time.
“While we understand your activity may have occurred during your break time, you were interfering with fellow associates during their working time, in their work areas.” The letter states, subsequently quoting Amazon’s solicitation policy.
“I know my rights, and I know I was well within the bounds of the settlement agreement and national labor law to discuss the union with my co-workers on break time,” Thomas said. “We filed unfair labor practice charges on the letter Amazon issued and their practice of surveilling my break-time conversation with co-workers. Surveillance, and letters like this, and being called out by management in front of my co-workers causes a chilling effect. It is not just problem problematic, but is against the law.”
Amazon regularly holds captive audience meetings for employees during work hours in an attempt to dissuade employees from voting in favor of a union.
“They have been surveilling me after I participated in one of their meetings,” Thomas said, referring to a captive audience meeting. “They had somebody following me around, watching me do my work, and that in itself is insane. I have a right to say what’s on my mind, and I have a right to call you out when you’re lying.”
Thomas said that these meetings create “doubt and confusion within our co-workers” and are done to get workers to vote against unionization.
“We’ve been actually fighting back by shutting down those meetings, by saying ‘why are you why are you lying to us?’, ‘Why are you giving us misconstrued facts about collective bargaining and status quo?’.”
During one such meeting, Thomas said one anti-union consultant replied with separate names each time she was asked her name.
“I mean, Amy, Sarah, and Jamie–, was up with that?” Thomas said.
Kristina Bell, a stower at the Bessemer fulfillment center, said the captive audience meetings are “to put [you] down or brainwash.” to vote against forming the union.
“I asked one of the managers, ‘why do we have to go,’ it’s not job-related,” Bell said. “This is the only time we could sit down and not be punished–If we go into those meetings.”
Ballots for the second election date for employees at the Bessemer Amazon fulfillment center are scheduled to be sent off Feb, 4., with the ballot counting to begin Mar, 28.
According to the RWDSU, the current voter list totals 6,143 workers, with the union estimating more than half of eligible workers were present during the previous invalidated election.