Chris Smalls, the former employee who defeated Amazon and created the company’s first union in the United States.
- BBC News World
A trade union in one of the largest capitalist companies in the world.
Amazon, the e-commerce giant you built Jeff Bezosthis Friday to recognize the union in the United States for the first time.
The company’s warehouse workers in New York voted with 55% of the vote to join the union that seeks to strengthen the defense of their rights.
The group that promoted the initiative was led by a former employee of the company Chris Smallswho made a name for himself in protest of the retail giant’s safety conditions during the pandemic.
Smalls’ victory represents a major defeat for Amazon, which has battled unions in its warehouses for decades.
However, things seem to be changing lately.
In Alabama, where Amazon has faced another similar campaign, the unions didn’t seem to pass at first, but a series of contested ballots recently could add a new union for the company.
Together, the two elections mark a milestone for activists, who have long questioned the business practices of Amazon, the country’s second-largest employer.
After sorting, Smalls left the room tired but elated, opening a bottle of champagne handed to him by his supporters.
“We’ve done whatever it takes to connect with these workers,” he told the audience, recalling a campaign that started with “two chairs, two tables and a tent” and was based on an online fundraiser.
“I hope everyone is paying attention now because a lot of people were suspicious of us,” he said.
Amazon responded in a statement I was disappointed with the resultAnd the Assessing how to proceed and the regulators identifying improper impact on voting.
“We believe that having a direct relationship with the Company is in the best interest of our employees. We evaluate our options, including filing objections based on the improper and unwarranted effect of [Junta Nacional de Relaciones Laborales]’ said the company.
But who is Chris Smalls and how did he manage to put one of the most powerful companies in the world under surveillance?
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Chris Smalls, born in New Jersey in the late 1980s, said he never imagined he would end up fighting to create the first Amazon Consortium in the United States.
He was working for the company when he organized a small protest outside one of the company’s stores in New York two years ago.
But he told the BBC he had no intention of starting a fight with Amazon: he just wanted his team to be able to do their jobs safely.
“When the epidemic broke out, the staff below got sick,” he recounts. “I realized something was wrong.”
Amazon fired him, citing quarantine violations.
But his concerns caught the world’s attention, an early sign of a much larger labor battle brewing within the company.
In the months that followed, as its business rebounded thanks to the pandemic, Amazon faced accusations around the world that it had neglected employee welfare, something the company denied.
But Smalls has become an increasingly popular figure for being very vocal against the company.
In a leaked 2020 memo, Amazon called Smalls “neither smart nor eloquent” and argued that becoming “the face of the entire labor movement” would help undermine it.
Smalls, who has worked at Amazon for more than four years and worked his way up, said the memo surprised him.
Some of his peers and local media described the document as racist, although Amazon told reporters at the time that the author was unaware Smalls was black.
“My whole life changed in one minute,” says the union leader, now a father of two.
“From there, I started trying to get them to eat their words,” he adds.
For 11 months, the 33-year-old and his team waited outside their old workplace, the warehouse. Gfk 8 On Staten Island, he communicates with company employees on their way home and convinces them that they need a union to fight for them in negotiations with Amazon.
Smalls and his team are seeking higher wages, longer vacations, paid time off and covered medical leave, among other changes.
Voting on the issue of union approval began on March 25, and more than 4,000 workers participated in the elections.
Amazon will face another similar vote at a smaller warehouse in the same industrial area next month.
No less, say the organizers, that the future of the American worker is at stake.
“We need to disarm Amazon. We need to organize these workers,” Derek Palmer, who helped Smalls organize his 2020 protest and was also disciplined (but not fired) by Amazon told the BBC.
“We need (the workers) to know they have the power.”
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