Labor Board Says Amazon's CEO Violated Law in Interviews

Andy Jassy said workers are better off without a union in two media interviews.

Then-Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy discusses a new initiative during AWS re:Invent, Dec. 5, 2019, Las Vegas.
Then-Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy discusses a new initiative during AWS re:Invent, Dec. 5, 2019, Las Vegas.
Isaac Brekken/AP Images for NFL, File

NEW YORK (AP) — The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint accusing Amazon CEO Andy Jassy of violating labor law during media interviews this year where he said workers are better off without a union.

The complaint, dated Tuesday, focuses on two sit-down interviews Jassy conducted with CNBC and Bloomberg in April and June - some of the few times he has spoken publicly since the historic labor win at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, New York earlier this year.

In the April interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin of CNBC's "Squawk Box," Jassy said he believes workers are better off having "direct connections with their managers" and stressed unions could get in the way of change because they're "much more bureaucratic" and "much slower."

He echoed similar statements on June 8 during a sit-down interview at the Bloomberg Tech Summit. An attorney with the Amazon Labor Union, the group that won the union election, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB calling out the comments.

In the complaint, the agency said Jassy's statements were "interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed" under the National Labor Relations Act.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel defended Jassy, calling the allegations "completely without merit," and saying Jassy's comments are "clearly protected by express language of the National Labor Relations Act and decades of NLRB precedent."

"The comments lawfully explain Amazon's views on unionization and the way it could affect the ability of our employees to deal directly with their managers, and they began with a clear recognition of our employees' right to organize and in no way contained threats of reprisal," Nantel said in a statement. "We believe our employees, their families, and other stakeholders benefit from a full understanding of the facts on important topics like this."

To resolve the complaint, Amazon can settle with the union or take the case before an administrative law judge in February. The agency is also requesting the company to mail or email workers a notice of their labor rights.

The company has objected to the union's labor win on Staten Island and is seeking to get a redo election. That process could take years to resolve and often takes the wind out of organizing campaigns, experts say.

Since the first labor victory, the union's momentum has been blunted by losses at two other Amazon warehouses in New York. On Tuesday, the group filed a litany of objections to the election held this month near Albany, New York, which resulted in a big labor defeat. It's asking the NLRB for a new election.

Last week, the union pulled a petition it filed for a separate election at an Amazon warehouse in California, raising doubts as to whether it had enough support from workers to hold a vote.

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