Fired Amazon Union Organiser Alleges Retaliation

Amazon is once again in the headlines over trade union issues, after a Kentucky Amazon warehouse workers alleged the firm has retaliated against him.

Matt Littrell, aged 22, alleged in a charge he filed with federal labor officials, that he was fired after a year and a half working for the company, CNBC reported.

Littrell was reportedly the lead organiser of a growing campaign to unionise a Kentucky Amazon warehouse, and he claims the company fired him in retaliation for his efforts.

Image credit: Amazon

Fired worker

The facility at the centre of the row is located in Campbellsville, about an hour and a half southwest of Lexington, the second-largest city in Kentucky.

Littrell reportedly had been a picker at the warehouse, and had been the lead organiser and main public face of the union drive, having been quoted about it in the Louisville Courier Journal, the Guardian and Bloomberg.

He also runs a Twitter account for the unionise effort, CNBC reported.

Now Littrell has been fired by Amazon.

“Amazon will go to any lengths to union bust even outside of New York,” Littrell reportedly said of his dismissal, pointing to the recent campaigns at Amazon sites in Staten Island and Albany. “They’re going to try to nip every movement in the bud,” he told NBC News.

Amazon however has denied that Littrell’s firing was retaliatory, and said he was terminated due to his performance.

Littrell allegations

In two complaints filed with the NLRB, Littrell alleged that he was subject to a pattern of retaliation from managers that began in April, when he was given a written warning about his rate of work.

His job was to find items for orders, scan them and place them in a bag for a packer to ship, but his managers said they found there was too much time between his scans, Littrell says in an affidavit filed with the NLRB in July.

CNBC reported that a manager had tried to give him a “final warning,” even though it was his first brush with discipline, he said in the filing, before his termination.

Littrell says that his rate of work had slowed because the bins he was filling up were often full.

Littrell says a co-worker told him the day before he was disciplined that management knew who he was, was aware of the union effort and had been meeting to discuss it.

Littrell reportedly said in the July complaint that he received another write-up for his rate of work and for using a cellphone in May, even though he says he was cleared by the company to do so.

Last week, Littrell told NBC News, a manager walked him into a meeting with human resources, where he was informed he would be dismissed for a productivity issue two weeks prior.

Littrell then filed the NLRB charge with the help of a Yale Law School student who has been assisting organising efforts at Amazon, CNBC reported.

“They treat us like robots,” Littrell said of management.

Amazon response

Amazon, however, has a different interpretation of the issue.

Amazon spokesman Paul Flaningan was quoted by CNBC as saying that Littrell had been given three warnings since May and was performing in the bottom 5 percent of workers “despite being coached and offered additional training.”

“The facts of this situation are clear and completely unrelated to whether Mr. Littrell supports any particular cause or group,” Flaningan was quoted as saying in a statement. “This action is also consistent with how the site handles similar low performance situations.”

Meanwhile Seth Goldstein, a lawyer with the Amazon Labor Union, said that Littrell was one of at least eight other organisers the company had fired, as unionisation efforts continue in warehouses in New York, California, North Carolina and Minnesota.

“It’s widespread,” Goldstein alleged. “Amazon’s MO is to fire everybody – all the labor organizers. That’s why we need intervention through the federal government.”

Amazon’s Flaningan however reportedly said Goldstein’s allegations were false.

“We do not retaliate against employees for exercising their federally protected rights,” he said. “We work hard to accommodate our team’s needs, but like any employer, we ask our employees to meet certain minimum expectations and take appropriate and consistent action when they’re unable to do that.”

The NLRB investigation continues.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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