An Amazon warehouse worker’s complaint that he was illegally disciplined for organizing fellow employees during the coronavirus pandemic was upheld in a National Labor Relations Board investigation.
Gerald Bryson, who worked at an Amazon fulfillment center on Staten Island, was a vocal critic of conditions at his facility and led several protests.
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Bryson told Vice News on Thursday that he felt “exonerated” and vindicated after the inquiry.
“I know I was fired for organizing at Amazon and the NLRB agrees. I started this fight for my fellow employees, for my brothers and sisters,” he told them. “I stood up for a safe and healthy environment, which Amazon did not provide.”
The tech giant now has the option of whether to settle with Bryson. If it chooses not to settle, the board will schedule a hearing pending a federal complaint.
When Bryson was fired, Amazon said he had been dismissed for bullying a colleague at an April protest. However, a statement filed by Bryson’s attorney said Bryson had been accosted by the employee who told him to “go back to where you came from, go back to the Bronx.”
Bryson responded with foul language, calling his verbal assailant a “b***h.”
Amazon has come under fire in recent months from employees who worked during the pandemic, some of whom held a global strike on Black Friday in November.
Although the company had increased pay for workers at the beginning of the pandemic, hazard pay was stopped in May.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from FOX Business.
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It is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who form unions.
Christian Smalls, an Amazon warehouse worker who rallied with Bryson and angered executives, tweeted Thursday that the board’s findings were “a step in the right direction.”
Smalls has filed a class-action discrimination lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York, arguing that Amazon failed to provide personal protective equipment to its “predominantly minority” workforce and subjected a group of African American and Hispanic workers to inferior working conditions.
He told FOX Business that he was present on the day of the incident that led to Bryson’s firing and that the company had “handled it wrong.”
“He was off the clock on his day off using his freedom of speech to help all workers of Amazon, including the one [with] who he had got into a disagreement,” Smalls said.
Amazon didn’t apply its zero-tolerance policy to Bryson and the person with who he argued, Smalls said.
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“If there was actually a need to enforce it, both parties should have been terminated,” Small said. “Instead, they used it to target Gerald [Bryson], who has been publicly advocating along with me — who was fired on March 30th. We stand together.”