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An Amazon warehouse. Photo: Oli Scarff via Getty Images

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Amazon illegally fired two of its most prominent critics last year after they spoke out against the company's management of warehouse workers and impact on climate change, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The news comes as the board is set to reveal the results of a high-profile unionization vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama this week.

How it happened: The employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, joined dozens of Amazon workers last year in reporting company retaliations to the labor board.

  • While Amazon has long faced accusations of unfair labor practices, scrutiny has increased during the pandemic. Amazon's warehouse employees are considered essential workers and cannot work from home, increasing their potential exposure to the coronavirus.
  • The NLRB has pushed the company to reach a settlement with the workers. If they don't, the NLRB told Cunningham and Costa it would formally accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices, per the Times.

What they're saying: "It’s a moral victory and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law," Cunningham told the Times.

The other side: A company spokesperson said Amazon supports employees' rights to criticize their employer, but that Cunningham and Costa were fired because they did not follow internal policies, according to the Times.

The big picture: The union has said workers face intense pressure and surveillance in order to ensure they meet quotas.

  • The results of the unionization fight in Alabama "could alter the shape of the labor movement and one of America’s largest private employers," the Times writes.

Go deeper

Apr 5, 2021 - Podcasts

Amazon’s historic labor vote

Results for the closely watched union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, are expected this week.

It’s been a long and contentious union drive that has received intense pushback from Amazon. It's an organizing effort that could impact the future of the modern day labor movement.

  • Plus, why the coming weeks are crucial for climate change.
  • And, tracking new variants of the coronavirus.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.