Amazon Pledges Not to Retaliate Against Workers Wanting Unions in Labor Board Settlement

Amazon has reached a settlement agreement with the National Labor Relations Board to allow its workers to more freely organize unionization efforts, and said it wouldn't retaliate against those efforts going forward.

"Whether a company has 10 employees or a million employees, it must abide by the National Labor Relations Act," said National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo in a statement. "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."

The settlement outlines a variety of changes Amazon will make in how it reacts to employees' unionization efforts and what it will do in the future.

Some 750,000 Amazon employees across the country will be able to organize more freely inside Amazon facilities, a point of contention in the past. Amazon also said management will no longer threaten to discipline workers who try to organize unions or call the police on employees who are organizing near company property at times when they are not working.

The labor shortage across the country is providing workers with historic leverage in recent months, as shown by unionization efforts at Amazon facilities in Alabama and New York, as well as unionization efforts at several Starbucks locations across the country.

Earlier this month, a Buffalo, New York, Starbucks voted in favor of unionization, meaning the coffee giant would have to negotiate with a labor union for the first time in its 70-year history.

Amazon, Unions, National Labor Relations Board
Amazon, under pressure to improve worker rights, has reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board to allow its workers to organize freely and without retaliation. Above, a banner encouraging workers to vote in labor balloting is shown at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, on March 30. Jay Reeves/Associated Press File

According to the agreement, the online behemoth said it would reach out via email to its warehouse workers—former and current—who were on the job anytime since March 22 to notify them of their organizing rights.

According to the terms of the settlement, the labor board will be able to more easily sue Amazon—without going through a laborious process of administrative hearings—if it finds that the online company reneged on its agreement.

Abruzzo added that "working people should know that the National Labor Relations Board will vigorously seek to ensure Amazon's compliance with the settlement and continue to defend the labor rights of all workers."

Amazon.com Inc., based in Seattle, couldn't be reached immediately for comment.

Recent worker unrest comes as labor shortages are giving workers a rare upper hand in wage negotiations and demands for more flexibility in their work schedules.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Amazon, Unions, National Labor Relations Board
Amazon and the NLRB agreed to a settlement this week changing how Amazon will treat employees who want to unionize. Above, people hold "Vote Union Yes!" signs during a protest in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate and the unionization of Amazon fulfillment center workers at Kelly Ingram Park on March 27 in Birmingham, Alabama. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images