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Amazon settles labor dispute with fired climate activists

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The private settlement between Amazon and terminated employees Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa was revealed Wednesday in a National Labor Relations Board hearing.
(Associated Press)

Amazon.com Inc. has settled with two web designers who the U.S. labor board alleged were fired for workplace activism.

The private settlement between Amazon and terminated employees Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa was revealed Wednesday in a National Labor Relations Board hearing. Terms weren’t immediately available. Amazon denied wrongdoing in the case. A spokesman said the company welcomed “the resolution of this matter” and declined further comment. Costa also declined to comment.

Amazon and the fired workers reached what is called a “private non-board agreement,” which means it still must be approved by a regional director of the labor board but won’t be released to the public.

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Labor board prosecutors in April said they had filed a complaint accusing Amazon of unfair labor practices because the 2020 terminations violated legal protections for employees who advocate for changes to their workplace.

Cunningham and Costa were among the leaders of an employee group that pushed Amazon to do more to combat climate change. As COVID-19 spread last year, the pair broadened their activism to highlight the demands of Amazon warehouse workers who had expressed concerns that the company was not doing enough to ensure their safety.

The pair say they were fired shortly after inviting co-workers to attend a virtual event connecting warehouse and tech employees.

The claims are among dozens of complaints filed against Amazon with the labor regulator since the pandemic began. The NLRB encourages companies to settle disputes with workers, and when that doesn’t happen, it brings allegations before administrative law judges. Their rulings can then be appealed to the NLRB’s presidentially appointed members in Washington and from there to federal court.

Tech industry workers in recent years have become more vocal about their employers’ positions on such issues as immigration and climate change. In September, Google parent Alphabet Inc. settled a dispute with a software engineer who the labor board alleged was fired for workplace activism.

AB 701, headed to a Senate vote this week, is the first legislation in the U.S. that would regulate warehouse performance metrics.


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