Senior Vice President, Employment Policy Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
May 30, 2023
On May 22, a regional director for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a new complaint against Amazon. The complaint alleges several supposed violations of labor law, but interestingly also accuses Amazon’s CEO, Andy Jassy, of making “anti-union” comments.
The comments in question were made during a live interview during the New York Times DealBook Summit in November of 2022. According to the complaint, Jassy stated that union representation would make workers less empowered and make it harder to have direct relationships with managers. This is fairly benign stuff, and there is certainly some truth to these statements, which reflect the fact that unions act as a third party between workers and management, and have exclusive rights to negotiate wages and working conditions for all employees in a bargaining unit. It’s a far cry from what the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is meant to deter, such as threats to fire workers who support a union, eliminate jobs if a union is elected, or cut wages and benefits.
Nonetheless, it’s the second time the NLRB has filed a complaint against Jassy for exercising free speech rights. Even worse, it follows a long trail of the agency, and its General Counsel, engaging in a concerted campaign to suppress free speech:
- On April 7, 2022, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a memo on "Captive Audience and Other Mandatory Meetings." Read more here.
- On October 26, 2022, the NLRB filed a complaint against the CEO of Amazon Andy Jassy. Read more here.
- In February, the NLRB and its General Counsel tried to compel employers to engage in certain speech. Read more here.
Eventually, the anti-free speech charges brought by the NLRB will find their way to federal court, where they are likely to run into a buzzsaw. Not only is employer free speech protected by Section 8(c) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), but the U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision from 2008 has made that point abundantly clear.
In the meantime, the agency will continue harassing businesses for engaging in perfectly legal activity. This seems like a ridiculous waste of time and money. Despite getting an extra $25 million from Congress last year, the NLRB is still pleading poverty. Perhaps if agency spent its money more productively, it wouldn’t feel the need to go back to the taxpayers for more.
About the authors
Spencer oversees the Chamber’s work on immigration, retirement security, traditional labor relations, human trafficking, wage hour and worker safety issues, EEOC matters, and state labor and employment law.