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Seattle fired Amazon workers
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Federal labor board: Amazon illegally fired pair of Seattle workers over activism

Amazon and other tech employees march past the Amazon Spheres during the Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The National Labor Relations Board has officially determined that a pair of Seattle Amazon employees were illegally fired last year, for speaking out against the company’s climate change policies, and its treatment of warehouse workers.

Employees fired for speaking out against Amazon’s role in climate crisis

According to The New York Times, the NLRB informed the two employees — Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa — that it plans to “accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices” if it does not settle. That would potentially send Cunningham and Costa’s case to an administrative law judge if the company does not acquiesce.

The NLRB functions as an independent federal agency designed to protect private sector worker rights, and is tasked with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act first passed in 1935.

Cunningham and Costa first began publicly speaking out against their now-former employer in 2018, going on to lead Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, an internal worker-led climate group that called on Amazon to take action to mitigate its effect and impact on the climate crisis. Both of them had been leaders within that internal movement, in addition to actively sharing a petition from warehouse workers who were worried about the risk to their health at the start of the pandemic.

Shortly after they were fired, Amazon defended the move, stating that while “we support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies.”

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“We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies,” it added.

Cunningham and Costa have since contested that claim, instead alleging that they were made examples of due to their visible status as leaders of the internal climate group.

Both have garnered public support from prominent national leaders and lawmakers, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and then-Senator Kamala Harris among others.

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