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Amazon suspends warehouse worker after he handed out union flyers

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An Amazon warehouse worker says he was suspended after handing out flyers encouraging colleagues to join a union.

John Hopkins’s account of his May 2 suspension from Amazon’s DSF4 facility in California is the latest example of the e-commerce giant allegedly cracking down on critics during the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon told Hopkins he was sidelined for violating social-distancing rules meant to protect workers from the highly contagious virus, he said in a Wednesday blog post.

But he suspects it had to do with the pro-union flyers that he says managers previously took away.

“I think there’s a pretty clear case to be made that I was suspended as retaliation for raising a concern about my right to organize,” Hopkins wrote.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.

Hopkins said he first brought the flyers to his distribution center in late January and stored them in a locker. He believes managers removed them within about a week, according to his blog post.

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Another batch of brochures Hopkins left in the facility’s break room around April 26 also disappeared, he said, prompting him to write an email to the human-resources office that never got a response. He said other outside flyers had been allowed on the warehouse’s bulletin board.

On May 1, Hopkins said, he clocked out of his shift in solidarity with a nationwide strike of Amazon workers and went to the break room to hand out flyers. He left after a manager came in to talk to him about the social-distancing protocol but refused to write him up, he said. He learned he was

suspended when he came to work the next day.

Amazon took nearly two weeks to formally tell Hopkins why he was suspended and resisted his request to be interviewed by an investigator over email so his responses would be recorded in writing, he said.

“If the investigation is about whether I violated social distancing protocol, rather than about whether Amazon violated the [National Labor Relations Act], then Amazon has already gotten what it wanted,” Hopkins wrote. “It can continue union busting with impunity, and fabricate an excuse to fire an organizer.”

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Amazon has fired several other employees who accused the company of failing to protect workers during the coronavirus crisis. They include Chris Smalls, who organized a small March protest at the company’s Staten Island warehouse. Amazon said it axed him because he didn’t self-quarantine after coming in contact with someone who had the virus.

Hopkins echoed the criticisms of former Amazon VP Tim Bray, who recently called the company “chickens–t” for retaliating against dissenters. Amazon VP Brad Porter later defended the company against Bray’s fiery critique, calling it “deeply offensive to the core.”

“Based on my experience, my perspective is that Tim’s analysis is exactly correct — although, I do feel compelled to make one criticism of it: he didn’t take it far enough!” Hopkins wrote.

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