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Amazon has a labor union

And it's a big friggin' deal

This week’s win by the Amazon Labor Union at the JFK8 facility in Staten Island gave me the most hope I’ve felt politically in recent memory.

The odds could not have been longer. A group of normal people, with little union experience, made signs, gathered union cards, gave out free food, and won a union election against a trillion-dollar company with union-busting consultants making up to $3,200 per day.

What gets me about this is how *normal* the people who made the Amazon Labor Union are. They’re workers. They used simple organizing tactics as old as the hills. And they won.

The progressive ecosystem is chock-a-block full of the usual characters: flashy high-minded non-profits, over-priced operatives, data geeks, stodgy old union relics, consultants (no adjectives needed). The list goes on.

All of them insist on the virtues of political sophistication and the wonders of meta-data. They scoff at the power of a cardboard sign and of simply putting pen to paper enough times to win. If you ask me, they’re too smart for their own good, and we should all take notes from the scrappy group of workers who unionized a New York City Amazon warehouse for less than the price of a modest ranch house in a not very good zip code.

The ALU is going to need a lot of support. And the work they’re doing is worth every cent. Contribute to their general fund here.

And here’s the video transcript.

Video Transcript

Amazon has its first union.

I am sick. I don’t care. This is a HUGE deal. 

What basically happened, was this absolutely dripped out dude, got a sign, a handful of other workers, a GO FUND ME, and unionized a Staten Island warehouse of the second-largest private employer on EARTH.

Chris Smalls, President of Amazon Labor Union, looking and being cool.

And it’s worth a pause here to say that if it can happen there, it can happen EVERYWHERE. This is a sign right now to go for it. Unionize the Fortune 500. Read up on it. Get organized. And go. 

That was NOT supposed to be possible. And then it was. Here’s the story. 

It started when Chris Smalls was fired from JFK8 on Staten Island, the largest Amazon facility servicing New York City with more than 8,000 workers. Smalls was fired for stealing two minutes of company time and violating covid protocols which is ironic because he staged a walkout in 2020 protesting the company's unsafe covid practices. 

JFK8 facility, seen here turning that frown upside down.

Before all of this, Smalls had little union experience. He was an aspiring rapper, then he had twins and worked in grocery distribution as a teamster before ending up at Amazon where he did such good work that they promoted him to training people at JFK8. 

After his firing, Smalls got together with other workers to do something extremely unusual and likely to fail - they started an independent union dubbed the Amazon Labor Union. Other campaigns that have tried and failed to unionize giant companies like this have established unions that have been around for decades with $4-6 million behind them.

Smalls and his gang at ALU won with less than $100,000 mostly raised from Go Fund Me. It’s INSANE. This is Amazon, with $470 billion in annual revenue, ran by the worlds’ richest bald guy, with an army of anti-union consultants making as much as $3,200 per day. 

Jeff Bezos, earth’s richest bald guy.

But money doesn’t buy brains apparently because top Amazon brass, including Jeff Bezos, came up with a plan after firing Smalls to make him the face of the campaign and smear him as “inarticulate” and “not smart”. 

Well, eat your heart out Jeff because this absolutely dripped out “dummy” and his friends just ate your lunch *obnoxious pantomime eating noises*

The ALU is fighting for a $30 minimum wage, an hour-long paid lunch, two 30 minute paid breaks, and transparent promotion policies. 

ALU: we’d like our riches, please

And how they’re doing it, bucks every trend in professional politics. It was worker-owned and worker-led. There was no high horse professionalism and unrelatable language. They brawled for the working class and fought the company as fiercely as the company fought workers.

Free food, free weed, free vibes, and just general freedom.

And as Chris said “We had over 20 barbecues, giving out food every single week, every single day, whether it was pizza, chicken, pasta, home-cooked. We all contributed giving out books, literature, giving out free weed because it’s legal.” 

YES!! YES CHRIS SMALLS! And let this be a lesson because if it can happen at Amazon with a Go Fund Me and some committed people with signs and organizing cards, it can happen where you work too, so take this as a sign that it’s past time that we get together and eat the rich.

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The Holler
The Holler
John Russell