Amazon accused of illegally firing a warehouse worker who protested against working conditions and HQ2

Getty/Andrew LichtensteinNew Yorkers protesting Amazon’s now-canceled HQ2 expansion.
  • A former Amazon warehouse employee has filed a complaint against the company claiming he was fired for speaking out about its working conditions.
  • Rashad Long worked at the Staten Island warehouse, and in December participated in a protest over Amazon’s planned HQ2 expansion.
  • An Amazon spokeswoman said Long was fired because he violated a “serious safety policy,” a claim Long says is “bogus.”

A former Amazon warehouse worker has filed a complaint against the tech giant, saying he was fired as retaliation for speaking out about its working conditions.

Rashad Long was recently dismissed from Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, or fulfillment center, as they are known at Amazon. It follows his appearance at protests against Amazon’s HQ2 plans in New York.

On Wednesday, New York labour union, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, filed a complaint on Long’s behalf with the National Labour Relations Board, claiming the retailer has violated federal law.

“Recently, Amazon fired me after I spoke out about bad working conditions at their Staten Island Fulfillment Center along with some of my coworkers. My getting fired is a clear act of retaliation by Amazon,” Long said in a statement sent to Business Insider.

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An Amazon spokeswoman told Business Insider that Long’s allegations of unfair dismissal are false. “His employment was terminated for violating a serious safety policy,” she said. When asked for futher detail, she said that Long, “bypassed safety features which could have resulted in personal injury by extending over the robotics floor.” In his statement, Long said Amazon’s version of events is “bogus.”

Long was part of a high-profile push towards worker unionisation, and has been a vocal critic of Amazon’s working conditions. “They talk to you like you’re nothing – all they care about is their numbers,” he told Bloomberg in December, when he and other workers joined a protest against Amazon’s New York HQ2 expansion. During the protest, a statement from Long condemning Amazon’s working conditions was read out by another participant.

“I’m filing charges of unfair labour practices because it’s unfair and wrong that Amazon fired me for speaking out and organising at my workplace. I plan to continue to support Amazon’s workers in New York City as they fight to improve their workplaces, their jobs, and their lives. It’s a fight they can and should win,” he said.

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum indicated that more filings could be on the way. “We are prepared to file more unfair labour practices charges on behalf of any Amazon workers here in New York who are mistreated or fired by their employer for organising or speaking out,” he said in a statement.

“We urge New York’s elected officials to condemn Amazon’s firing of Rashad, and the company’s retaliation against him for organising and speaking out.”

In an interview with Bloomberg, Appelbaum said union leaders had met with Amazon ahead of its now-cancelled HQ2 plans. He said Amazon agreed in principle to a deal that would restrict union-busting tactics. The next day, Amazon announced it was pulling out of New York.

Amazon was not immediately available for comment.

Amazon has a history of anti-union dealings. In September 2018,Gizmodo obtained recordings of an Amazon training video sent to managers at Whole Foods (which Amazon bought in 2017) coaching them on how to spot and quash burgeoning unionisation. On Black Friday 2018, strikes raged across Europe as unions tried to force Amazon to the negotiating table.

In a statement sent to Business Insider, an Amazon spokeswoman said:

“On the topic of unions, what’s important is that Amazon already offers what unions are requesting for employees: industry-leading pay – associates at our Staten Island facility make $US17-$US23 an hour, comprehensive benefits, opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment.”

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