Exclusive: NY Amazon Worker Files Complaint With National Labor Relations Board After Security Guard Blocked Him from Passing Out Union Cards
Three weeks after Connor Spence filed the NLRB complaint, HR apologized to him and acknowledged he has a right to hand out union pamphlets in break room, Spence tells Status Coup
Fresh off a complaint filed by JFK8 Staten Island Amazon worker Derek Palmer with the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB] over Amazon erecting an outdoor chain-link fence to obstruct workers’ unionization drive, Status Coup has learned another worker in the same warehouse has filed a complaint with the NLRB after a security guard blocked him from passing out union literature in the break room.
“I was handing out union literature in the break room and security came and confiscated it from me—which is blatantly against the National Labor Relations Act [NLRA],” Connor Spence, a JFK8 employee who is part of the Amazon Labor Union [ALU] group attempting to form a union, told Status Coup.
Spence pointed out the security guard was with a third-party company Amazon contracts called Metro One.
Amazon likes to “hide behind the third-party, but Amazon is responsible for what their third-party employees do,” he added.
The literature Spence handed out on May 16th were pamphlets that explained Amazon can’t interfere with union organizing. But when he began placing the pamphlets down on the break room table, a security guard approached him, took a picture of his Amazon badge, and told him “you’re not allowed to be doing that” and took the pamphlets.
As Spence pushed back to the head of security, section seven and eight of the NLRA outlaws employers from interfering with union activity such as the type Spence was conducting.
He filed a complaint with the NLRB regional office in Brooklyn the next day, but it was only yesterday, June 7th, that Amazon’s HR called Connor into a meeting and, according to Spence, apologized for the security guard obstructing his attempt to hand out union pamphlets.
“We just want to apologize, what that security guard did, he wasn’t directed by us to do that, you have your right to hand out literature in the break room,” Spence recounted the head of HR telling him, adding that it’s a “big deal” that Amazon’s head of HR admitted guilt.
But HR was informed about the incident by security soon after it happened, Spence claimed, making an apology nearly three weeks later likely connected to his complaint with the NLRB.
“I don’t know if they did that because the NLRB has decided to move forward with the complaint,” he added. “If they wanted to apologize, they could have done it the same day or the next day because they knew about it since it happened.”
HR’s apology to Spence on Monday came the same day Status Coup learned Amazon took down a large volume of anti-union signage it had bombarded workers with in the back and front of the Staten Island warehouse.
“Recently they’ve taken down a lot of the union-busting stuff, I think they’re getting scared,” Spence said, alluding to other media outlets who are currently digging into Amazon.
At the same time Amazon pulled back on some of its most aggressive union-busting, the company also sent out an email and text to JFK8 workers on Monday listing the great benefits workers receive on the first day of their employment.
The positive messaging came in addition to messaging around the warehouse that says “We are here for you” and urging workers to reach out to their manager or HR if they have any questions.
But one JFK8 worker told Status Coup the kumbaya signage is bunk.
“People are terrified in there, they’re terrified of losing their jobs, a lot of them support families, a lot of them have kids, some of them are taking care of their parents and grandparents,” Natalie Monarrez told Status Coup. She added that the warehouse workers are threatened with termination daily by managers and supervisors if they aren’t working fast enough.
“The leadership tactics are all about fear and intimidation; it’s reinforced every day,” she said.
As Status Coup previously reported, Monarrez went to the same HR claiming “we are hear for you” at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic attempting to help an older employee with health issues.
“I went to HR [in March 2020] and said there’s a senior citizen I work with who has diabetes; she’s more vulnerable to this COVID, so can I get her an N95 mask because I know you guys have them here because all of HR, the executives, and managers had N95 masks on. And the HR representative just looked at me and without even hesitating said ‘we’re not giving them out to the workers, you have to have a doctor’s note.’”
On Spence’s complaint to the NLRB, Amazon and Metro One did not respond to Status Coup’s request for comment. At the time of publishing this story, the NLRB had not yet told Status Coup the status of Spence’s complaint.
The NLRB told Status Coup: “The NLRB is currently investigating this charge."
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