Chris Smalls does not give up. The 33-year-old former Amazon warehouse process assistant, father of three and leader of a resurgent labor movement that is taking the country by storm, become a media star for his union feat, but it did not take him long to see that the fight would not be neither easy nor fast.
Two of the most important names in American politics, Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went to Staten Island, the most forgotten neighborhood in New York to meet Smalls after he hit every newspaper's front page.
Smalls and his former colleagues, organized under the banner of the new Amazon Workers Union (ALU), surprised the world in early April by doing what many people thought was impossible: to lead America's first successful union campaign at Amazon, a tech giant that long viewed organizing workers as an existential threat to its business and did everything it could to stop it.
ALU's battle with Amazon is not over: on the contrary, they continue to work and are doing so now by opening their own headquarters in Staten Island. At the event to show off their new base of operations, LPO spoke with Smalls in an act that did not have the impact of the spring calls and at the same time it did not discourage the union leader.
Amazon is the second largest private employer in the country and it helps set the standard for basic working conditions at many US companies. If ALU win more stores, it could inspire a growing class of workers who are gathering in unions, not just at Amazon, but at other major employers like Starbucks or Apple to demand a better life quality.
Whether or not the ALU succeeds will depend on whether Smalls and his team can effectively scale their organization efforts nationally, and whether to bring down Amazon, that spent $ 4.3 million on anti-union consulting last year and is expected to continue investing more money next year.
After the initial enthusiasm and worldwide repercussion, several defeats at the polls caused everyone to stop talking about Smalls, despite the relevance that the ALU leader had and the fact that Amazon workers have just struck a blow in California with a workers' strike with national impact.
Just a few days after the second union vote, Smalls testified in the presence of a bipartisan panel in the Congress about Amazon's anti-union tactics, challenging Senator Lindsey Graham to re frame union rights as "not a Democrat or Republican thing," but as a "workers' thing", in an exchange that became viral. He visited the Oval Office, where he met the Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden to discuss workers' legal bargaining rights.
What is the present of the union that you created like?
We are in the initial phase. We only made a choice and we are going to expand to other buildings. We are going to negotiate contracts, that is what we are doing. One day we will have offices like these in every state.
What would you say to Jeff Bezos?
You've made more money than you can spend in your entire life, how about improving your workers' conditions? But since he is not going to listen to us, we will fight for our rights.
We have to show millionaires in general that workers have power. Anyone who works 48 hours a week should have enough to pay the rent, and not suffer from being fired out of the blue like Amazon does, with a 150% of employees leaving the company.
Are the effects of the revolution you started in April still going on?
Our movement has inspired the entire labor movement in this country to step up and fight. For the first time in 50 years, the labor movement is revitalized. Workers at Starbucks, Google, Trader Joe's, Apple... All these companies are creating unions because they see the strength to unite.
What is the aim of this office that you opened in Staten Island?
Now we have this fixed office we can meet and organize ourselves better. We can receive and support members from other Amazon units and build a stronger network. Before, we met in premises that other unions gave us. This will facilitate things and visualize our work.
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