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Newly formed Amazon Fresh union faces first firing

caption: Kaylyn Richards
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Kaylyn Richards
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Less than a month after a new union formed at an Amazon Fresh store in Seattle, the first union member there has been fired.

Kaylyn Richards said she was fired after making a clerical error related to filling out her timesheet.

Richards lives in the United Indians Youth Home, in Ballard. She’s 26 years old, and has aged out of the program there, which is designed to keep young people out of homelessness. She says the paystubs from Amazon Fresh were going to be her ticket to an apartment of her own. But now that she’s been fired, that’s all up in the air.

"I mean, I know homeless prevention is the key in Seattle. But like I said, they could tell me, 'Hey, we can’t help you anymore, based on the fact that you don’t have employment," Richards told KUOW on Friday.

Does that mean she could end up homeless because of this firing? "Absolutely," she said.

Amazon employees track their attendance using an app. Through tears, Richards said she made a clerical error when entering her hours. For that mistake, the app logged a disciplinary strike against her under a points-based system.

"It's a robot saying...'you've clocked in incorrectly,'" she said.

She said she spoke to a manager at her store about it, who assured her the problem could be ironed out. But later, she discovered she’d been locked out of the app.

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Richards said that after battling to communicate with Amazon's Points Management department, in a situation where it wasn't always clear when she was hearing from a human or receiving an automated response, she reached a supervisor who confirmed that she'd been terminated.

She said she was told that he couldn't do anything about it.

Richards said coworkers who found themselves in a similar situation with the attendance tracking app told her their issues had been resolved.

Richards said she believes Amazon allowed her firing to go through because of her membership at her store's new union, Amazon Workers United.

KUOW reached out to Amazon for comment on Richards' firing, but did not hear back by the time this story was published.

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