The National Labor Relations Board has reportedly determined that Amazon last year illegally fired two employees who spoke out publicly against warehouse conditions and pushed the company to address climate change. The agency told the employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, that it would accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices if the online retail giant doesn't settle the case, reported The New York Times on Monday, citing correspondence shared by Cunningham.
Amazon fired the two tech workers in April 2020 after they spoke out publicly against warehouse conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. User experience designers Cunningham and Costa, both active members of the advocacy group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, had offered match donations up to $500 for warehouse workers, citing insufficient protections.
At the time, Amazon said Cunningham and Costa were fired for "repeatedly violating internal policies." The company reiterated that statement on Monday.
"We terminated these employees not for talking publicly about working conditions, safety, or sustainability, but rather, for repeatedly violating internal policies," said an Amazon spokesperson in an emailed statement.
After the firings last year, nine US senators -- including now Vice President Kamala Harris -- sent a letter questioning Amazon's leaders about its termination policies and accusations of retaliation.
The apparent NLRB findings come as ballots are being tallied for a historic union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. If it succeeds, it could kick off more Amazon warehouse unionization efforts around the country.