Monday morning musings for workplace watchers.
Amazon Ups Attorney Ranks| UAW Election Update
Bruce Rolfsen: Thanks to OSHA,
While Amazon has announced it’s laying off 18,000 workers and has slowed plans to build offices for up to 25,000 employees in Arlington, Va., it has beefed up its legal defense team fighting federal safety investigations and complying with subpoena requests.
“Amazon is undertaking that review process at great expense and burden—including more than 100 lawyers and millions of dollars—to comply with OSHA’s demands,” attorneys representing Amazon from Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP told a federal judge as part of the government’s investigation into potential safety issues at Amazon’s warehouses.
The company is expected to update the US District Court for the Western District of Washington April 14 about its progress meeting the government’s document and deposition demands.
Amazon’s attorneys said they need to review 230,000 documents before turning them over to investigators. The company must also comply with more than 25 subpoenas for sworn testimony from Amazon officials.
The review team includes attorneys from two other law firms with large occupational safety practices: about 25 from Jackson Lewis LLP and 30 from Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC.
“I have never been involved with any prior OSHA investigations that are as broad in scope, subject matter, and volume requests as this investigation,” Ogletree Deakins shareholder Melissa Bailey said in a court declaration.
Jackson Lewis principal Melanie Paul, in another declaration, said she’s “not aware of any investigation in which OSHA has issued this many document requests.”
The legal review could continue into the summer. US Magistrate Judge Michelle Peterson set several compliance deadlines, with Amazon ordered to fulfill OSHA’s request by June 30 and the US attorney’s request by July 31.
The massive record review began after OSHA announced in July it had begun inspections at several Amazon distribution centers based on worker complaints and information from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Since then, OSHA has cited seven Amazon distribution centers for not adequately protecting workers from ergonomic hazards such as muscle strains and back problems.
Amazon is contesting those citations and proposed fines totaling $122,769 before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The US attorney’s office also said it was examining whether Amazon had policies leading to the underreporting of injuries and illnesses among warehouse employees, and if the company violated the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act.
- Amazon Ergonomic Citations Break With Years of Thin Enforcement
- Amazon Given Until Summer to Comply With Worker Safety Subpoenas
- Amazon Faces New OSHA Fines for Warehouse Worker Injuries
Rebecca Rainey: We’re still waiting to find out who will be the next president of the United Autoworkers union after two weeks of tallying votes. The runoff contest between incumbent president Ray Curry and challenger Shawn Fain has come down to roughly 1,600 challenged ballots, with Fain in the lead by a little more than 600 votes.
According to the unofficial totals provided by the union’s federal monitor, so far the vote is 68,473 for Curry and 69,118 for Fain.
The union monitor said it will restart the count on March 16, after initially planning to reconvene last week. The delay is due to the “time-consuming nature of collecting information” to verify ballots that were challenged by either slate’s election observers.
UAW members cast their votes via mail in January and February. Ballots can be challenged if there are questions about things like a voter’s eligibility, and those votes are set aside unless the race is close enough that they could affect the outcome, like in the case of this election.
In an interview a day after the runoff ballot count began, UAW President Curry said that if he were to win, he would be willing to work with the reform candidates on Fain’s slate that were elected to lower officer positions on the UAW executive board.
“We gotta have a healing process. At the end of the day, we are still collectively, all 1.1 million UAW members, regardless of any caucus, any other affiliation that someone may have. We’re still the UAW, and we have still gotta work together,” he told PI in an interview. “Those who may not have supported me, I want to hear from them. I’d like to hear what their concerns are and what their issues are.”
In the other corner, Fain said “thousands of members have lost faith, after years of corruption at the top and concessions at the bottom.”
“Our job now is to put the members back in the driver’s seat, regain the trust of the rank and file, and put the companies on notice,” he told PI in a written statement. “We are ending give-back unionism and company control in the UAW.”
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