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In this, all the hallmarks of the Zoom meeting were disturbed.
People became silent and unmute at the wrong time. Interlopers joining under the pseudonym. Wicked addition to Screen Share.
But it was not a Zoom meeting. It was a typical day at the Marathon National Labor Relations Board hearing that is considering Amazon’s objections to the historic union election victory at a Staten Island warehouse. The NLRB will ultimately rule on whether a do-over election is necessary.
The first one-and-a-half weeks of the hearing witnessed the kind of fighting between the lawyers, which can be expected in any legal case.
But the proceedings have also been stalled by an array of problems that any Zoom user will find familiar: a witness who is unable to join a Zoom meeting; Lawyer unable to unmute; The hearing officer’s camera suddenly froze.
And of course, whenever there is a large gathering of people on Zoom, there are opportunities for antics. On Tuesday, the hearing grew to more than 300 participants, many of them apparently joining the invitation of Amazon labor union leaders Chris Smalls and Derrick Palmer, who tweeted the Zoom link.
Someone took control of the screen share and wrote “Union” on a video being presented as evidence by Amazon’s lawyers. Some participants turned their cameras to display union swag in red, while others changed their screen names to messages like “RECOGNIZE ALU.”
This led to repeated warnings via the chat box, asking participants to “Please enter your first and last name. Stop your video, mute yourself, and don’t use emoji or any other distraction.” Do it.”
Members of other unions attending hearings in a show of support
During the lunch break, members of other unions chanted “Teamsters in the House!” , took advantage of the silence in the proceedings to shout support for his peers at Amazon. “UAW in the house!” “When we fight, we win!” Handling zoom calls in a nutshell.
More serious issues have emerged. While the NLRB has clearly clarified that any recording, live-streaming or photographs of the Zoom hearings is strictly prohibited, screenshots of the hearing have popped up on Twitter. On Tuesday, a lawyer representing Amazon withheld witness testimony to report the violation, causing another delay as the parties investigate.
NLRB attorney Lisa Dunn, who presided over the hearing from her home in Phoenix, handled the stream of technical and other issues calmly and patiently, allowing herself the occasional nudge after another problem went away.
Amazon had sought to close the hearing to the public
The virtual hearing is taking place four months after an election in which warehouse workers voted 2,654 to 2,131 to join the Amazon labor union. After tallying the ballots on April 1, Amazon filed 25 objections to the election, including allegations that the NLRB’s regional office overseeing the election favored the union, and that union leaders bribed workers with marijuana. And threatened and harassed those who did not support. organization.
Before the hearing began on June 13, Amazon sought to close the proceedings to the public. NLRB hearings, usually conducted in person, have been conducted online since the start of the pandemic. Lawyers for Amazon, who are attending from a hotel conference room on Staten Island, argued that there was no way police were watching the proceedings, including potential witnesses who did not have access to the testimony of other witnesses. Should be Amazon also warned that there would be no way to prevent unauthorized recording and sharing of proceedings.
The NLRB declined Amazon’s request, citing the importance of public access in a matter that attracted national and international attention.
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The future of the 8,000-member union is at stake
Amidst the distractions, it is important to remember that the future of a union that stands to gain over 8,000 members is at stake. The Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, is the first and only Amazon facility in the US to vote to unionize so far. The outcome of this hearing may well determine where the labor movement at Amazon goes from here — how much momentum it can maintain as it organizes workers at other warehouses across the country.
Last year, the NLRB invalidated the results of the union election and ordered a do-over election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, after discovering that Amazon had improperly interfered by setting up a mailbox near the facility. did. In Bessemer, workers voted more than 2 to 1 against joining the union. Amazon is arguing that the unfair actions in the Staten Island election warrant by the NLRB regional office and the Amazon Labor Union have “at least the same result.”
The trial could go on for months, as Amazon plans to call dozens and dozens of witnesses
While the NLRB had earlier indicated that the Zoom hearing could go on for “several days”, it now appears that it could go on for months. Amazon has said it plans to call “dozens and dozens” of witnesses, many of them hourly warehouse workers whose jobs include lifting items off shelves for orders and loading and unloading trucks. So far, it’s going slow. Every day, only a few witnesses have been heard.
On Wednesday morning, a lawyer for the Amazon Labor Union asked Amazon to speed things up and shut down witness testimony on well-covered topics, such as long lines at voting tents or the proximity of media on the first day of voting. to the tent. Hearing Officer Dunn initially rejected the request, noting that Amazon should have an opportunity to make its case, but later admitted that some of the testimony was starting to feel repetitive.
Still, the NLRB is ready for the long haul. It has scheduled Zoom meetings every day till the end of July.