FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2022
Contact: Chris Fleming, Chris@redhorsestrategies.com
On Eve of Amazon’s Annual Shareholder Meeting, NYC Comptroller Brad Lander, Illegally Fired Workers Press Shareholders on Amazon’s High-Risk, High-Turnover, Unsafe Workplaces
For the recording, click here.
New York, NY – On May 23rd, in advance of Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander joined former Amazon workers – illegally terminated in retaliation for their unionizing efforts – to press shareholders about Amazon’s high-risk, high-turnover, unsafe workplaces. Participants on the call demanded that Amazon and its board members – Daniel Huttenlocher and Judith McGrath – stop union-busting, reinstate all illegally fired workers, and commit to following the law.
For the recording, click here.
The formerly harassed Amazon worker-organizers on today’s call included Ezra Hudson of Bessemer, AL, Alicia Johnson of Staten Island, NY, Mustafa Karama of Eagan, MN, and Isaiah Thomas of Bessemer, AL.
Ezra Hudson, a vocal supporter of the union drive in Bessemer, AL, was fired without warning on April 30th from the company in direct violation of Amazon’s termination policy. After Ezra’s unjust firing, his coworkers left their stations to march to HR to hold Amazon accountable for their blatant retaliation and demand Ezra get reinstated immediately. Ezra filed a charge with the NLRB alleging Amazon retaliated against him.
Added Hudson, “Amazon tries to scare people that support the union. Managers knew I was a union supporter. I didn’t get a write-up. I got an email telling me I was fired without a clear explanation. I don’t think they thought the employees at Amazon were gonna stand up and push back to get my job back.”
As one of the most vocal Amazon Labor Union supporters, Alicia Johnson became a target of harassment and retaliatory firing from the JFK8 Fulfillment Center in Staten Island, NY. At the time of her termination on May 8th, Alicia was also locked in a struggle with Amazon HR to secure a workplace accommodation for her leg injury — which management refused to provide, in violation of the company’s stated policy and federal and state OSHA regulations.
Noted Johnson, “Amazon is a trillion-dollar company. It can afford to treat its employees like humans. But it chooses not to. Despite my medically documented leg injury, Amazon fired me in retaliation for telling employees to vote for a union.”
Mustafa Karama, Omar Rwaili, and fellow Amazon contractors in Eagan, MN, were subjected to a hostile workplace and targeted racial and religious discrimination from supervisors and managers against Muslims and Somalis. After Karama and Rwaili reported the incidents to their bosses, who laughed them off, their fellow employees decided to picket outside Amazon’s warehouse. With colleagues at their side holding signs, “Stop discriminating against us,” “Stop hostile language at work,” and “Respect our faith,” Karama and Rwaili hand-delivered a letter to management. The letter called for an end to discrimination in the workplace and the resolution of an alleged incident of sexual harassment, and “adequate medical care for women. injured employees.” Karama was fired from his job without warning on April 27th. Rwaili was fired today, two hours before the call.
A dock worker at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, AL, and vocal supporter of unionizing, Isaiah Thomas was subjected to surveillance and retaliation by Amazon management, a violation of its settlement with the National Labor Relations Board.
Noted Thomas, “I live paycheck to paycheck. They fire me; it ruins my life. They fire him [Ezra], or anybody else; it could ruin their life. We have to stand up for one another.”
Reportedly, six people died at the Bessemer warehouse in 2021.
“Many Amazon warehouse workers don’t have enough unpaid time off and fear being dismissed if they take time off beyond their allotted days,” added Thomas. “One had gone to HR and said, ‘I’m not feeling so well, can I please go home? And this dude, he didn’t have enough [unpaid time off] to go home… And so, they’re effectively telling him, you either go home and lose your job, or you just stay here and keep working through the pain. And that’s what he did.”
New York City Comptroller Brad Lander spearheaded a campaign with New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and trustees of all five New York City Retirement Systems (with 1.7M shares of Amazon stock valued at approximately $5.3B) urging shareholders to withhold votes from two Amazon board directors responsible for human capital management.
“High rates of injury, rapid turnover, and aggressive anti-union activity that violates workers’ rights have created an unsustainable workplace for Amazon’s 1.6 million workers,” said New York City Comptroller Brad Lander. “I urge shareholders to vote against directors Huttenlocher and McGrath, who have failed to provide adequate oversight of the company’s management of workforce issues.”
Added Erica Smiley, Executive Director of Jobs With Justice, who played a lead role in organizing today’s event, “Amazon has subjected its workers to colossal management failures and an alarming pattern of harassing and coercing its employees who want a union, which is their legal right. Instead of simply respecting workers’ rights, negotiating in good faith, and improving safety conditions in the workplace, Amazon repeatedly and knowingly uses surveillance, forced attendance at anti-union sessions, and other underhanded tactics to threaten, intimidate, and punish workers. If there’s a silver lining to such disgraceful behavior, it has sparked a wave of organizing in this country we haven’t seen in generations.”
Others involved in the organizing effort against Amazon include existing unions like the RWDSU in Alabama to newly formed ones like the Amazon Labor Union in New York; Unemployed Workers United, Jobs to Move America, the Athena Coalition, the AFL-CIO, the Carolina Amazonians United for Solidarity and Empowerment (CAUSE), the Awood Center in Minnesota, and unincorporated committees of workers.
Also joining today’s call was Sarah Couturier-Tanoh, Manager, Corporate Engagement, SHARE, whose shareholder resolution mandates Amazon report on plans to follow the law regarding freedom of association and the rights of workers to form a union.
Amazon investors have expressed unprecedented objections to the high-risk decisions by Amazon management. They’ve put forward numerous shareholder proposals dealing with worker rights after the SEC denied Amazon management’s requests to keep them out of its proxy statement. These include proposals on freedom of association; worker health and safety disparities; warehouse working conditions; gender and racial pay disparities; and having hourly employees as director candidates.
Mainstream investment advisors, such as ISS and Glass Lewis, have endorsed investor concerns and rejected many of Amazon management’s positions. ISS has declared support for a shareholder resolution mandating that Amazon disclose plans to respect the legal rights of employees to form a union. Glass Lewis has recommended investors withhold support from the Amazon Board member who leads the Board committee charged with overseeing employee relations.