Chris Smalls - speaking

Way back near the start of the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak, Amazon fired one of its Staten Island warehouse workers, Chris Smalls, for organizing a walkout to protest Covid safety hazards. Ironically, Jeff Bezos’s mega company then cited Covid protocol violations as the reasons for Smalls’s dismissal, something he disputed in a case that went up to the New York State attorney general. The state would end up suing Amazon for punishing activism, and its blatant safety violations, but that was just the beginning for Smalls and the organization of the Staten Island warehouse workers. In his own words, "We want to thank Jeff Bezos for going to space, because while he was up there we were organizing a union."

Chris Smalls - headshot

After Smalls’s firing he formed the Amazon Labor Union, and started talking to his former co-workers; urging them to join together and unionize. Gathering financial support through GoFundMe, and often camping out with food next to a bus station used by many employees, Smalls slowly but surely garnered support.

Chris Smalls - protesting

Amazon brass held a meeting to discuss what to do about Smalls and the threat he presented to the company - a meeting Jeff Bezos attended. In leaked notes from the meeting, Amazon officials called Smalls “not smart or articulate,” and discussed a PR plan to make him the face of the squashed union movement. Much to their dismay, two years later they have gotten exactly what they wished for.

Smalls cites this leaked meeting as inspiration for creating the Amazon Labor Union, and says he uses it as motivation to keep growing the movement. A few days ago, that movement succeeded, and the warehouse successfully voted to unionize by over 500 votes.

Chris Smalls - protest

Smalls’s story has garnered national attention, with media outlets shining light on Amazon's poor working conditions and shady legal practices. To try and stop Smalls, Amazon reportedly held up to 20 mandatory meetings per day, urging its employees to vote against the union, and making it difficult for them to organize. Amazon also had Smalls arrested for trespassing while handing out food and union supplies in the warehouse parking lot.

Numerous other stories have surfaced, including Amazon stealing tips from delivery drivers, and cutting benefits to balance out moving to $15 per hour rates among others.

Chris Smalls has proven that the little guy can still take on the corporate giant and win, and hopefully his drive will spark change among Amazon employees and laborers around the country to stand up and demand better compensation. Other Amazon warehouses have begun their own efforts to unionize, and after spending millions in legal efforts against the Staten Island warehouse, Amazon will undoubtedly continue to fork out legal fees to fight unionization instead of improving conditions for its employees. Not bad for a “not smart or articulate” employee who has become the face of the Amazon Labor Union.