Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter to Jeff Bezos, the Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, to request information about the distribution of anti-union materials that potentially encourage illegal interference with thousands of workers' rights at Whole Foods, Amazon's recently acquired subsidiary. The letter follows a recent report from Gizmodo about a leaked training video for "team leaders" at Whole Foods that appeared to encourage anti-union actions illegal under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
According to the report, Amazon sent a 45-minute video to employees at Whole Foods encouraging illegal anti-union tactics such as discussing how joining a union could lead to stores closing and closely monitoring "warning signs" of union activity, which could result in unlawful surveillance. The NRLA protects workers' rights to join together in unions and bargain collectively, while also making it unlawful for employers to interfere with or restrain employees in the exercise of those rights. Illegal employer actions include threatening employees with adverse consequences if they join a union and spying on, or creating the impression of spying on, employees' union activities - both of which are reportedly encouraged in this video.
Following the video's leak, Amazon announced that, in response to criticism, it would raise the minimum wage for all of its full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal employees in the U.S., including those at Whole Foods, to $15 an hour. Amazon also announced it would advocate for a higher federal minimum wage. In their letter, the senators acknowledge this announcement but noted that it is not enough.
"It is important to recognize that workers' rights do not stop at the minimum wage, and raising the pay of your lowest-paid workers, while important, does not give you a free pass to engage in potentially illegal anti-union behavior," the senators wrote.
The senators requested Amazon send them the full video and written script as well as the locations where supervisors were sent the video, a list of any law firms or consulting companies that assisted with the development of the video or other anti-union tactics, any other materials distributed to Whole Foods employees relevant to organizing activities, specific steps Amazon/Whole Foods is taking to make sure supervisors do not violate federal labor laws, and an answer about whether or not Amazon employees were fired or retaliated against for expressing concerns about working conditions.
"Whole Foods's stated aim to 'set the standards of excellence for food retailers' and observation that 'our leaders think long term and don't sacrifice long-term value creation for short-term financial results' are in direct contradiction to what appears to be systematic incitement of supervisors violating workers' rights by illegally interfering with their organizing activities," the senators continued.
The senators requested the information be provided no later than November 1, 2018.