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NLRB denies Amazon’s request to close union hearing to public

A federal labor agency has denied Amazon’s request to bar the public from a hearing on the company’s bid to overturn a historic union win at one of its warehouses in Staten Island, New York.

Hearings by the National Labor Relations Board are usually in-person and public. But the Seattle-based company filed a motion Tuesday arguing that the agency should make the Staten Island union ballot hearing private since it will be held over Zoom.

Amazon argued that a Zoom hearing makes it difficult to know if witnesses who aren’t supposed to be watching the hearing are listening or if the hearing is being recorded and shared with others, which the Labor Department forbids. The hearing, which begins on Monday, is expected to last several days.

On Thursday, Cornele Overstreet, a regional director at the NLRB field office who will oversee the hearing, denied the company’s application. He wrote in a filing that the company had “not presented any compelling reason” to deviate from its long-standing policy of holding public hearings.

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“The board hearings are not secret. Accordingly, preventing the public from viewing their important processes is not an option,” Overstreet wrote.

Amazon has pointed to “unprecedented national media coverage” as one of the reasons why access to the hearing should be restricted, arguing that this makes witness sequestration more difficult.

But the fact that the union election “draw national and international outside attention only underscores the importance of allowing public scrutiny,” Overstreet wrote.

The e-commerce juggernaut has been trying to overturn the union victory at one of its New York City warehouses since April, and said organizers at the burgeoning Amazon Labor Union and the NLRB’s Brooklyn office, which oversaw the election, had in a way traded, which spoiled the results. The company says it wants to repeat the election, but pro-union experts and union officials argue it’s a method delaying negotiations for a union contract.

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Overstreet noted in its order that a hearing officer issued instructions not to tape the hearing.

He said he was satisfied that the Hearing Officer had safeguards in place to protect the integrity of the hearing, adding that “there are no exceptional circumstances which could deviate from the Committee’s long-standing policy of requiring public scrutiny of the proceedings of the allow committee”.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/09/nlrb-denies-amazons-ask-to-close-union-hearing-to-public/ NLRB denies Amazon’s request to close union hearing to public

Sarah Y. Kim

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