Amazon has reportedly fired several senior managers that were part of “operations and leadership” at JFK8, the facility in Staten Island, New York that recently voted to unionize. According to the The New York Times, Amazon told the managers it was going through an “organizational change,” but some of their co-workers see it as a punishment for the union’s win.
The Times writes that “more than half a dozen” managers were fired, and that many of them had been tasked with responding to unionization efforts. What that means is frustratingly vague — it could mean that the managers were tasked with keeping the union from winning, and that they were fired for failing to do so. But it could also mean that the managers had helped the union in some way, and are being fired for that (though that would likely be a case of illegal retaliation).
Amazon’s actions in the run-up to the election, during which workers voted to unionize 2,654 to 2,131, have been criticized by both organizers and regulators. The company has been accused of union busting, preventing workers from exercising their rights, and firing workers in retaliation for organizing. Amazon has contested the results of the election, saying that the union and the National Labor Relations board “suppressed and influenced” voters.
Amazon firing underperforming staff isn’t necessarily unusual. A report from last year noted that Amazon’s goal is to let go of its lowest-performing employees each year— sometimes without much warning. But it seems unlikely that’s the situation here; the Times notes that some of them had recently received positive feedback about their performance, and that the timing of the firings doesn’t line up with Amazon’s performance review cycle.
The company didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment on the firings, but it told Engadget that it has “spent time evaluating aspects of the operations and leadership at JFK8 and, as a result, have made some management changes.”