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Amazon reaches settlement that gives workers more power to unionize

Amazon, under pressure to strengthen worker rights, has reached a settlement with the nation's labor regulator allowing its workers to organize freely and without retaliation. 

According to its agreement with the National Labor Relations Board, the online behemoth said it would reach out to former and current warehouse workers via email to notify them of their organizing rights.

The settlement outlines that Amazon workers, which number 750,000 in the U.S., have more room to organize within the buildings. For example, Amazon pledged it will not threaten workers with discipline or call the police when they congregate in non-work areas during non-work time. The company previously had a policy that forbade employees from non-work areas, like break rooms or workplace medical units, more than 15 minutes before or after their shift. 

"Whether a company has 10 employees or a million employees, it must abide by the National Labor Relations Act," said NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, in a statement. "This settlement agreement provides a crucial commitment from Amazon to millions of its workers across the United States that it will not interfere with their right to act collectively to improve their workplace by forming a union or taking other collective action."

She added that "working people should know that the National Labor Relations Board will vigorously seek to ensure Amazon's compliance with the settlement and continue to defend the labor rights of all workers."

Amazon, based in Seattle, couldn't be reached immediately for comment.

Efforts to unionize at Amazon facility in Alabama fail 05:16

This year, Amazon has faced organizing efforts at dozens of its facilities nationwide. It defeated a union push in Bessemer, Alabama, but the NLRB threw out the results of that election, where workers voted 2-to-1 against the union, because it found Amazon broke labor law during voting. This week, Amazon employees in two Chicago delivery hubs staged walkouts to demand better pay and conditions, and workers in four facilities in Staten Island, New York, filed for a union election there. 

Workers have also questioned the company's safety protocols after a deadly tornado struck Edwardsville, Illinois, killing six workers in an Amazon warehouse there.

Other companies, such as Kellogg, Starbucks, and Deere, are also fighting back against organizing efforts. The unrest comes as a tight labor market are giving workers a rare upper hand in wage negotiations and demands for more flexibility in their work schedules.

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