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Amazon union organizer who says she was fired ‘to stifle a movement’ has been reinstated

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Amazon.com says it has reinstated an Alabama union organizer that the company had previously fired for missing work. 

Jennifer Bates, a leader of a Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union drive will be reinstated “after a full review of her case,” Mary Kate Paradis, an Amazon spokesperson, said in an emailed statement. “We’re pleased that our appeal process continues to work as designed.”

Bates, who works at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, said earlier this month that she was terminated for what the union described as failures of Amazon’s own systems. She had taken medical leave for injuries sustained on the job, and the app that handles many Amazon human resources functions would not allow her to submit documentation from her doctors following her return to work, the RWDSU said.

Paradis said Bates wasn’t responsive to requests for additional information about her leave, but that the company also could have taken steps to clarify what it was seeking. Bates will be reinstated with back pay, and is scheduled to work on Monday, Paradis said. Amazon employees subject to most types of terminations can file similar appeals, the company says. 

“Amazon was wrong, they tried to fire me and stifle a movement, but the movement pushed back, and I’m incredibly humbled by the global outpouring of support for my unjust termination,” Bates said in a statement sent by the RWDSU. “If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that today Amazon workers everywhere now know that when you’re under attack, you have to stand up and fight back, because when we fight, clearly, we win!”

The warehouse where Bates works is the site of a union vote that is too close to call almost three years after she and some colleagues began seeking union representation. The National Labor Relations Board invalidated the site’s first vote, finding that Amazon’s conduct during the election made a fair election impossible. A second ballot, held last year, ended with Amazon leading by more than 100 votes. More than 400 contested ballots have yet to be counted. A hearing before an administrative law judge is scheduled for September. 

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