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How Chris Smalls Started A Movement after Forming Amazon's First Union

June 7, 2022

Chris Smalls, the president of the first-ever Amazon Labor Union, stands as a shining beacon of hope for exploited workers in the American workforce. The retail behemoth was forced to allow employees to unionize after a long and persistent battle by a small movement that quickly snowballed into a significant protest over worker rights. Get in touch with an experienced Chicago employment rights attorney for legal representation if your employer has violated your employee rights. 

How Chris Smalls Heralded a Movement on Worker Rights Against Amazon

Chris Smalls was fired from his job at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island when Covid-19 became a pandemic at the beginning of 2020. Smalls and his friend and co-worker Derrick Palmer organized a walkout over unsafe work conditions. Seeing Smalls as the leader, Amazon fired him the same day.    

This is the first time the retail giant faced such a movement, and it left no stone unturned to try and stop it. It included a multimillion-dollar campaign to try and prevent the workers from unionizing.

That is when Smalls staged a walkout at the warehouse over working conditions but was fired for his trouble. The company initially claimed that he was ‘not smart or articulate’ during a meeting with founder Jeff Bezos to discredit him.

Their plans backfired. By firing Chris Smalls, Amazon made him a martyr. The unfair termination sparked widespread protests and outrage on social media and attracted Senator Bernie Sanders's support. 

Formation of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU)

With solid backing from the masses and political support, Smalls formed the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) in 2020. For the next two years during the pandemic, he worked with his partner, Palmer, to rally Amazon workers via a series of small events such as barbecues and bonfires near the warehouse where it all started.

Smalls would also speak with people waiting at the bus stop to further his cause. His campaign eventually raised enough money through GoFundMe donations to make the union possible. He accomplished his goal without any aid from the top labor organizations, and while Amazon was doing everything in its power to stop him.

Smalls also revealed that the issues with Amazon started years ago. Staff often complained about unsafe working conditions and short breaks to higher-ups but were ignored. Rather than addressing complaints with solutions, the company would unwittingly belittle their employees by offering them treats such as cupcakes and lollipops to ease them. It showed that management saw their workforce as kids rather than adults with families to support. With Smalls and Palmer helping workers unionize, they have set the stage for better work conditions and benefits, whether the retail giant is onboard or not.

Contact the Law Office of Michael T. Smith & Associates to Fight for Worker Rights

Whether you work at Amazon or any company in Schaumburg, Illinois, and believe your worker rights have been violated, contact an experienced Chicago employment rights attorney at the Law Office of Michael T. Smith & Associates. We will create a tailored strategy customized to your end goals and ensure you get the maximum compensation you deserve.