New Orleans This one statement reported in a complaint against Amazon filed in court by lawyers for a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board just about says it all. In their pleadings, the NLRB argued that unless federal district court agreed to give them a 10j injunction and reinstate a worker that the NLRB believed had been fired for union activity, then workers “will inevitably conclude that the board cannot effectively protect their rights”. In essence, the NLRB in that one phrase stopped pretending and revealed it understood how millions of workers – and virtually all union organizers – have seen the agency for decades. Embedded in that refreshing statement of fact, is a ray of hope that in that recognition the NLRB is finally stepping up to do the job it has always been supposed to do in protecting the rights of workers to organize and act on the job.
As significant, the NLRB is taking this action with the understanding, that workers and unions have long realized, that these firings invariably taint election outcomes. The NLRB regional director was plainspoken, saying
“No matter how large the employer, it is important for workers to know their rights — particularly during a union election — and that the N.L.R.B. will vociferously defend them.”
Amazon was equally transparent in whining that they want the old NLRB back, not the new one. The worker had been caught in the agency and management-side lawyers legalistic delays for 18-months since he had been fired. The administrative law judge hearing the case still hasn’t ruled. The company undoubtedly believed that their ability to run out the clock on this worker would cloud the organizing in Staten Island. Amazon complained that,
“It’s noteworthy that the N.L.R.B. is pursuing an ‘emergency injunction’ right before an election when they’ve known the facts in this case for over 18 months…”
Indeed, that is “noteworthy” and unusual, but 18 months ago was under the Trump NLRB, and now this action is under the Biden NLRB. There is no way that this sea changing request for an injunction didn’t happen without the OK from Washington and the national board. There’s also no way that it would have happened without the settlement in a consolidated case of unfair labor practices with Amazon where one of the remedies was the NLRB’s ability to go directly into court to resolve the company’s restraints on organizing.
The election in this Staten Island warehouse is scheduled soon. It would be a miracle for workers to win. The NLRB knows this as well as any organizer does. All of which makes this even more of a miracle to see the NLRB taking the risks of asking for an injunction. They are sending a message and finally stepping up and cracking down on companies that block workers efforts to act and organize.
We all need to hear the message clearly. The door is open. We need to push as many workers who are willing to act collectively through that door now, before it closes again.