Amazon illegally threatened NYC workers ahead of union votes, judge finds

Amazon's JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island, New York City
An Amazon truck exits the company's JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island, New York, U.S. November 25, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid./File Photo

Jan 31 (Reuters) - Inc (AMZN.O) illegally threatened to withhold raises and benefits from workers at two New York City warehouses if they voted to unionize, a judge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled.

In a decision issued on Monday, Administrative Law Judge Benjamin Green said Amazon supervisors told workers that they would miss out on regularly scheduled raises and improved benefits if the company was forced into lengthy union negotiations.

U.S. labor law prohibits employers from making threats or promises in order to discourage unionizing.

Workers at Amazon's JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island voted to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) last April, a first for the company in the United States. In May, employees at a smaller nearby storage facility rejected a union campaign.

Green said Amazon also violated federal labor law in 2021 by removing a post from an internal message board asking workers to sign a union-backed petition to make Juneteenth a paid holiday.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did the ALU.

The board's general counsel, which acts as a prosecutor, is trying to use the case to convince the five-member board to ban mandatory anti-union meetings. So-called "captive audience" meetings have for decades been a common tool used by employers to discourage unionizing.

Green did not rule on that issue because administrative judges cannot make new legal precedent. But the board will likely take up the issue if Amazon appeals.

Amazon has faced dozens of complaints from workers and the ALU as the union attempts to organize warehouses across the country. The company has generally denied wrongdoing.

Earlier this month, an NLRB official rejected Amazon's bid to overturn the results of the JFK8 election. The company said it intends to appeal that ruling to the board.

Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York Editing by Mark Potter

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at