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Amazon urged to reinstate employee who wanted union protections

The retail union delivered a memo Tuesday expressing concerns about Amazon terminating an employee who publicly discussed concerns about the environment in its Staten Island warehouse. 
The retail union delivered a memo Tuesday expressing concerns about Amazon terminating an employee who publicly discussed concerns about the environment in its Staten Island warehouse.  Photo Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Staten Island’s U.S. Rep. Max Rose and State Sen. Diane Savino have signed onto a memo imploring Amazon to reinstate a terminated employee who previously filed a grievance against the firm with the National Labor Relations Board.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which submitted an unfair labor practice charge on the worker’s behalf, delivered a copy of the correspondence to the firm’s Staten Island warehouse staff on Tuesday. Rose, Savino, leaders of the borough’s Democratic Party and other union leaders signed onto the memo, which implored Amazon to rehire Rashad Long, who alleged he was terminated in February for speaking out against practices at the fulfillment center.

"We are deeply concerned that by firing Rashad, Amazon engaged in an effort to silence him and other workers from exercising their legal right to speak up about working conditions at Amazon," the letter reads. "We demand that Amazon respect our community by reinstating Rashad immediately with back pay and committing to respect workers’ rights to organize and speak out for a better workplace."

In the NLRB filing, Long said Amazon used a safety violation as a pretext to terminate him. He lost his job after breaking a rule by crossing over to an area reserved for robot drones and placing a fallen product back onto the equipment, but a colleague who also violated this protocol was not terminated, according to the document. Long argued his dismissal was actually a response to his efforts to address concerns about break times, hourly quotas and safety issues, according to a release from RWDSU.

Federal labor law forbids companies from firing staff solely because of unionization efforts.

A spokeswoman for Amazon has said the company informed Long he could appeal the decision, but he did not choose to do so. The representative said Amazon cannot comment on the reinstatement request because of an active investigation.

"Mr. Long’s allegations are false. His employment was terminated for violating a serious safety policy," Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said in a statement. "There are a clear set of safety expectations when working in the area he was working, and when he was asked, he admitted he was aware that he had violated a very serious safety rule."

She said no current Amazon employees were part of today’s letter delivery.

"The comments made by third-parties are not supported by the vast majority of our employees, not just in Staten Island but across the country. The fact is that what the unions are asking for are things Amazon already provides: industry-leading pay, comprehensive benefits, opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment," Lighty said in a statement. "For us, it will always be about providing a great employment experience through a direct connection with our employees and working together as a team to provide a world-class customer experience, and respecting rights to choose a union.”

The NLRB did not immediately respond when asked how long it typically takes to review such grievances.

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