Fire at Amazon Warehouse Leads to Protest, Suspensions

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. October 7, 2022
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An Amazon facility

​Tensions recently arose again at Amazon's sole unionized warehouse—JFK8 in Staten Island, N.Y.—after dozens of workers were suspended for a sit-down protest on the heels of a trash compactor fire Oct. 3 at the warehouse. The workers claimed they were made to work when conditions were still smoky and unsafe, but the company said the fire department had cleared the area for return to work. We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Night-Shift Employees Protested

The company suspended the workers with pay a day after the fire disrupted operations at the JFK8 warehouse on Oct. 3. On the day of the fire, day-shift workers were sent home with pay due. Night-shift workers were told to remain in a break area until management figured out the situation, according to Derrick Palmer, the vice president of the Amazon Labor Union. Approximately 100 night-shift workers held a sit-down protest at the facility's main office, demanding to be sent home with pay.

(AP)

Amazon Statement

In an Oct. 5 statement, Paul Flaningan, an Amazon spokesperson, confirmed the fire and that roughly 50 workers had been suspended. "All employees were safely evacuated," Flaningan said. After the New York fire department certified the building was safe "we asked all night-shift employees to report to their regularly scheduled shift." Flaningan said, "While the vast majority of employees reported to their workstations, a small group refused to return to work and remained in the building without permission."

(CNN)

Another Unionization Vote

The suspensions occurred less than 10 days before warehouse workers at a separate Amazon warehouse near Albany, N.Y., will vote on whether to become the second Amazon workforce to join the Amazon Labor Union.

(The Washington Post)

A Separate Fire at Albany Facility

A fire broke out on the evening of Oct. 5 at Amazon's warehouse near Albany. Flaningan said the incident was a "small fire," adding that it was "contained to a compactor that's located just outside the doors of a loading dock." He said the warehouse was evacuated and fire department officials declared the building safe. "Out of an abundance of caution, we sent night shift employees home with pay and cancelled Thursday's day shift," Flannigan said. "These employees will also be paid."

A fire also broke out Oct. 3 at an Amazon facility in Alabama.

(AP via syracuse.com)

Amazon Lost Initial Challenge to Union Victory in Staten Island

A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) official has rejected Amazon's initial challenge to the union win at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, N.Y. An NLRB hearing officer said the company hadn't shown that the union victory was inappropriately influenced. Amazon had contested the union election, saying that the NLRB region where the election was held, as well as union organizers, had inappropriately swayed the vote.

(SHRM Online) and (The Wall Street Journal)

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