Amazon reinstates Bessemer, Alabama warehouse worker and union face Jennifer Bates

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New York

An Amazon worker and union organizer has been given her job back after she appealed her firing by the e-commerce giant earlier this month.

Amazon on Thursday confirmed that it had reinstated Jennifer Bates — who became the face of the effort to unionize an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama — following its appeals process. Bates had received notice of her termination from Amazon in early June.

“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 Thursday about Amazon’s decision to reverse her firing.

Bates will be reinstated with back pay per Amazon’s standard process, according to the company.

At the time of her firing, Amazon had said that company records indicated “that Ms. Bates failed to show up to work for a period of time and didn’t respond or provide documentation to excuse her absences.” The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which spearheaded the so-far unsuccessful effort to unionize the Bessemer facility, said at the time that Bates was fired by Amazon after returning from medical leave following injuries sustained on the job.

During its appeals review process, Amazon says it determined that Bates had failed to respond to requests for additional information regarding her leave, but that the company could have been more clear about what information was needed.

Amazon spokesperson Mary Kate Paradis said in a statement to CNN that “as is our standard process for this type of situation, Ms. Bates had the opportunity to, and did, appeal her termination. After a full review of her case, the decision was made to reinstate her.”

Bates’ firing had threatened to renew tensions between Amazon

(AMZN) and workers who were spurred to organize earlier in the pandemic amid frustrations with the company’s response to the health crisis and a broader spotlight on racial inequities in the United States. In 2021, Bates testified before lawmakers about her “grueling” experience working at one of the company’s warehouses.

Amazon workers at a New York warehouse voted to form the company’s first US union last year, although Amazon has since refused to recognize the union or come to the bargaining table. Other efforts to unionize Amazon facilities, including one across the street from the New York warehouse, have failed.

The closely watched union election at the Bessemer facility ended with the results too close to call due to hundreds of challenged ballots. The National Labor Relations Board is still reviewing challenges brought against Amazon by the union accusing the company of illegal activity during the campaign. (Amazon has previously filed its own objections to the RWDSU’s conduct.)

–CNN’s Catherine Thorbecke contributed to this report.