A day after union voting ended late last week at Amazon’s LDJ5 warehouse in Staten Island, the company announced it is ending its nationwide Covid-19 paid sick leave policy—prompting suspicions that management deliberately waited until after workers at the New York facility cast their ballots to unveil the change.
“This is outrageous. Covid is not over, Amazon.”
On Saturday, Amazon informed employees that it is “returning to standard sick leave policies,” meaning that workers who test positive for Covid-19 will no longer get a week of paid time off.
“Amazon waited until the day after the union election in Staten Island to announce what for many will be very troubling news,” tweeted Lauren Kaori Gurley, a labor reporter for Motherboard. “Nationwide, it will no longer pay workers who are out sick with Covid OR inform workers when someone at their warehouse tests positive for Covid.”
Amazon’s U.S.-based employees will now receive just five days of excused and unpaid time off if they test positive for Covid-19, which continues to spread across the country. Business Insider reported that Amazon is also ending its coronavirus vaccination incentives and no longer excusing “any time for employees who are waiting for test results.”
“This is outrageous,” tweeted Vicki Shabo, a paid leave expert and a senior fellow at New America. “Covid is not over, Amazon. Leave for sick or exposed workers is an investment in health, well-being, and productivity. You can’t advertise great benefits and then do this.”
The policy move took effect Monday as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) prepared to count union election ballots cast at LDJ5, an Amazon facility across the street from the JFK8 warehouse that became the company’s first U.S. location to vote in favor of unionizing last month.
The NLRB tally at LDJ5 is expected to wrap up by Monday evening.
At JFK8, meanwhile, Amazon is disputing employees’ historic vote to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), an independent worker-led organization spearheaded by Christian Smalls, a former JFK8 employee who was fired after organizing protests against the company’s inadequate Covid-19 safety measures.
“We remain confident that all of Amazon’s objections will ultimately be overruled.”
Reuters reported Sunday that Amazon—which has waged aggressive union-busting campaigns at JFK8 and LDJ5—secured an NLRB hearing to examine whether its objections merit overturning the union’s election victory at JFK8.
“The online retailer has accused the NLRB’s Brooklyn office of appearing to support the union drive and alleged that labor organizers intimidated workers to vote in their favor, claims the union has dismissed,” Reuters noted. “Citing the Brooklyn office’s conduct, Amazon last month secured the case’s transfer to the NLRB’s Phoenix-based region.”
In a filing on Friday, the NLRB’s regional director in Phoenix said the evidence behind Amazon’s dozens of objections “could be grounds for overturning the election.”
Eric Milner, an attorney for the ALU, told Reuters that the bar to get an NLRB hearing over election objections is “very low” and stressed that Amazon’s claims against the union—which range from “electioneering in the polling area” to distributing marijuana to workers in exchange for their support—have yet to be thoroughly vetted by the labor board.
“While the ALU is disappointed in any delay by Amazon in its bargaining obligations,” said Milner, “we remain confident that all of Amazon’s objections will ultimately be overruled.”
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