Amazon CEO Andy Jassy speaks during the GeekWire Summit in Seattle, Oct. 5, 2021.

David Ryder | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy violated federal labor law in comments he made to media outlets about unionization efforts at the company, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled Wednesday.

NLRB Administrative Law Judge Brian Gee cited interviews Jassy gave in 2022 to CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Bloomberg Television and at The New York Times’ DealBook conference. The interviews coincided with an upswing in union campaigns in Amazon’s warehouse and delivery operations.

Jassy told CNBC in April 2022 that if employees were to vote in a union, they may be less empowered in the workplace and things would become “much slower” and “more bureaucratic.” Similarly, in the Bloomberg interview, Jassy remarked, “if you see something on the line that you think could be better for your team or you or your customers, you can’t just go to your manager and say, ‘Let’s change it.'”

At the DealBook conference, Jassy said that without a union the workplace isn’t “bureaucratic, it’s not slow.”

Gee said the comments “threatened employees that, if they selected a union, they would become less empowered and would find it harder to get things done quickly.”

The NLRB filed the complaint against Amazon and Jassy in October 2022. In his ruling Wednesday, Gee said Jassy’s other comments that unionization would change workers’ relationship with their employer were lawful. But the Amazon chief’s other remarks that employees would be less empowered and “better off” without a union violated labor law, “because they went beyond merely commenting on the employee-employer relationship.”

Amazon spokesperson Mary Kate Paradis said in a statement that the company disagrees with the NLRB’s ruling and that it intends to appeal.

“The decision reflects poorly on the state of free speech rights today, and we remain optimistic that we will be able to continue to engage in a reasonable discussion on these issues where all perspectives have an opportunity to be heard,” Paradis said.

The judge recommends Amazon be ordered to “cease and desist” from making such comments in the future, and that the company be required to post and distribute a notice about the order to employees nationwide.

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