Friday, 3 April 2020

Amazon executives privately insulted a warehouse worker, then attacked him on Twitter

quote [ The worker helped plan an NYC warehouse strike ]

interesting look into union busting

Reveal
After firing Chris Smalls, who helped organize a warehouse worker strike at Amazon’s Staten Island, New York facility over novel coronavirus safety, Amazon executives publicly attacked him on Twitter. Now we might know why. Leaked meeting notes obtained by Vice News lay out a plan for executives to smear Smalls and make him the focus of the company’s effort to discredit a growing labor movement inside the company.

“He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” said David Zapolsky, Amazon’s general counsel, in the meeting notes, which Vice News reports were forwarded throughout the company.

“HE’S NOT SMART, OR ARTICULATE.”
“We should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer’s conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal, in detail, and only then follow with our usual talking points about worker safety,” Zapolsky continued. “Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”

Zapolsky confirmed the authenticity of the memo by explaining his comments: “I let my emotions draft my words and get the better of me,” he said in a statemetn given to the The Verge. But instead of apologizing for denigrating Smalls, he continued to attack him using the same strategy outlined in his memo. “I was frustrated and upset that an Amazon employee would endanger the health and safety of other Amazonians by repeatedly returning to the premises after having been warned to quarantine himself after exposure to virus Covid-19,” Zapolsky said.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company could not confirm or comment on the authenticity of any email or memo from Zapolsky.

Smalls helped organize the warehouse walkout that took place on Monday to protest the company’s handling of COVID-19. Smalls and other workers were upset at how Amazon has been dealing with unsanitary warehouse working conditions in the event a worker is diagnosed with the illness.

Amazon has only closed facilities when being forced to do so by government authorities, deciding instead to instruct workers to stay at home and maintain normal operations. Workers have complained that Amazon has not properly informed employees about infections, and they accused the company of avoiding sanitary procedures unless forced to shut down facilities for deep cleaning.

Last week, Amazon shut down a returns processing warehouse in Kentucky after three employees tested positive and the governor forced the site to close. Earlier this month, a sortation center in Queens, New York, was shut down for cleaning after workers walked out to protest the handling of COVID-19 cases at the facility.

AMAZON IS UNDER FIRE FOR ITS HANDLING OF WORKER SAFETY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) harshly criticized Amazon on Twitter for its handling of the situation, writing, “It’s disgraceful that Amazon, which is owned by the richest man in the world, is not only failing to protect its workers but has now fired a worker for protesting dangerous conditions.”


Bernie Sanders

@BernieSanders
It's disgraceful that Amazon, which is owned by the richest man in the world, is not only failing to protect its workers but has now fired a worker for protesting dangerous conditions. I stand with Chris and all Amazon workers fighting for their safety. https://twitter.com/CPDAction/status/1244777350568595457 …

CPD Action
@CPDAction
Today, Amazon worker #ChrisSmalls helped lead an Amazon walkout for lack of COVID19 compliance that put workers, customers and New York in danger

Today, Chris Smalls was shamefully fired by the wealthiest man in the world @JeffBezos #AmazonStrike

Signhttps://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-governors-investigate-and-close-amazon-warehouses-that-put-us-at-risk …

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This prompted two Amazon senior vice presidents (SVPs) to publicly respond to Sanders with lines of argument that appear consistent with Zapolsky’s recommended PR strategy. Dave Clark, Amazon’s SVP of global operations, accused Sanders of being “misinformed again” and said Smalls “violated social distancing rules multiple times.”


Dave Clark
@davehclark
You have been misinformed again Sen. Sanders. Mr. Smalls purposely violated social distancing rules multiple times and on 3/28 was put on Paid 14-days of quarantine due to COVID exposure. 3/30 he returned to the site. Knowingly putting our team at risk is unacceptable. https://twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/1245113355582550021 …

Bernie Sanders

@BernieSanders
It's disgraceful that Amazon, which is owned by the richest man in the world, is not only failing to protect its workers but has now fired a worker for protesting dangerous conditions. I stand with Chris and all Amazon workers fighting for their safety. https://twitter.com/CPDAction/status/1244777350568595457 …

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Jay Carney, a former press secretary in the Obama administration who is now Amazon’s SVP of global corporate affairs, wrote, “Mr. Smalls purposely violated social distancing rules, repeatedly, & was put on Paid 14-day quarantine for COVID exposure. 3/30 he returned to the site. Knowingly putting our team at risk is unacceptable.”


Jay Carney

@JayCarney
. @SenSanders, I’m confused. Thought you wanted us to protect our workers? Mr. Smalls purposely violated social distancing rules, repeatedly, & was put on Paid 14-day quarantine for COVID exposure. 3/30 he returned to the site. Knowingly putting our team at risk is unacceptable. https://twitter.com/SenSanders/status/1245466894540382208 …

Bernie Sanders

@SenSanders
Amazon's warehouse workers protested because people are getting sick on the job.

Their demands were not radical: a safer workplace, protective gear and paid sick leave.

Amazon’s response? Retaliate by firing a worker who helped organize the walk-out. That is absolutely immoral. https://twitter.com/allinwithchris/status/1245350203013517313 …

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Carney, who has become especially combative on Twitter of late when talking to members of the news media, proceeded to engage with a number of replies to his tweets accusing critics of being “pathetic” and responding with “ad hominem vitriol,” he says.


Jay Carney

@JayCarney
I wonder if folks on Twitter who respond to facts and ideas they don’t like with ad hominem vitriol ever pause to wonder why they’re not very good at winning people over to their point of view.

3,871
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In a blog post published late Thursday, Clark officially responded to the controversy in what is Amazon’s most direct response to the ongoing wave of employee protests and criticism over its handling of worker safety. Clark says Amazon respects “the rights of these employees to protest,” but he goes on to defend the firing of Smalls and further frame the issue as a workplace safety matter. He also indirectly accuses Smalls of putting “the heath of others at risk”:

We want to be very clear that we respect the rights of these employees to protest and recognize their legal right to do so. At the same time, these rights do not provide a blanket immunity against bad actions, particularly those that endanger the health, and potentially the lives, of colleagues. It is vitally important that we keep people safe during this pandemic, and one of the primary ways we can do that is to ensure everyone at our sites is taking precautions, such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, and disinfecting surfaces. We have taken and will continue to take strong actions to enforce compliance with our health and safety programs at all levels of the team, from front line employees through senior leaders. This is not about any one individual. When anyone on our team at any level purposely puts the health of others at risk, we will take swift, decisive action without concern about external reaction. We did not, and have not ever, terminated an associate for speaking out on their working conditions, but we will act swiftly with individuals who purposely put others at risk.

Smalls has disputed the claims, saying he was the only person of multiple workers who interacted with the worker who tested positive. He also has disputed the timeline of events, saying Amazon only instructed him to begin self-quarantining shortly before the strike, despite having come into contact with the worker who tested positive nearly two weeks prior.

“I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked,” Smalls said in a statement at the time. “As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.”

Update April 2nd, 5:48PM ET: Added quotes and context from Amazon SVP Dave Clark’s blog post published this evening.

Update April 2nd, 8:41PM ET: Added comment from Amazon.

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THERE ARE 15 COMMENTS.
shanklinland
Just. Stop. Using. Amazon.

It’s not that hard.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 5:50 PM
mrgnarchr
It actually is though.

You’re most probably using something that relies on Amazon infrastructure right now.

This isn’t about individuals protesting a company, they need to be held legally accountable and these needs to be legislation protecting the workers

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 6:03 PM
shanklinland
"actually"?

How is local using Amazon infrastructure?

When I can’t find it locally I use ebay which almost (not quite always) has free shipping, at least on items I’ve purchased.

I agree about the workers but for me it is about an individual protesting a company, so I do.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 7:39 PM
Tsuyo
AWS, bro. I’ll assume you use the internet, right?

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 7:40 PM
JFitzgerald
If you watch Netflix you’re supporting Amazon. Thousands of other companies use AWS besides Amazon as well.

But you can stop buying from Amazon, or at least greatly reduce your purchases. There are lots of places to buy things online that are not Amazon.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 7:42 PM
Winklemeier
Shit people doing shit things.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 6:05 PM
AniMill
Indeed. Amazon has quickly become the Bell System of the 2000’s. Though I was not a fan of the forced breakup (due to Sprint Long Distance), the overall reason was sound – one company had become too large to server the public interest. That’s what’s happening with Amazon. You can say what you want about Apple, but you don’t HAVE to buy a single product of theirs (but I choose to). Google is about halfway between Amazon and Apple…while Microsoft is off on its own vector.

This crisis is going to define the internet and entire US infrastructure for 2020 and everything beyond, just as 9/11 changed everything for us. :disappointed:

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 6:16 PM
JFitzgerald
Your points are well taken, but it’s easy to reduce Amazon purchases. There are lots of places to buy things, Amazon is just convenient.

And most of us have more time on our hands now.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 7:44 PM
ἐλευθερία
Oh wow. This is bad. This is GOOD. This will empower workers speaking up against their employers’ wrongdoings to be able to plausibly claim they’re being smeared by their employer, because this one leaked.

Alexa, remind me never to shake hands with shady lawyer David Zapolsky, even after Coronavirus has subsided.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 6:37 PM
covefe&hamberder
disgusting. boycott amazon

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 6:42 PM
gustavthemad
Once again the company accused of horribleness seems completely justified in its actions upon reviewing the facts.

You journalists ever consider going after companies that actually threaten America like Boeing signing off on defective jets despite being warned they’d kill people?

If I worked at that facility I’d be thrilled this jerk was gone. Amazon should do better, but tolerating rule breaking rabblerousers doesn’t need to be part of it.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 7:37 PM
JFitzgerald
Fun! A shill for Amazon!

What, exactly, were the "horrible" things that Smalls did?

Please document.

And I don’t know if you have noticed, but Boeing has taken it on the chin in every possible way – by the press, victims, shareholders, markets, customers, governments, etc. Maybe you were not paying attention?

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 7:48 PM
lvl85beardruid
Breakup the Amazon monopoly so I can have more options. There’s really no competition right in general online retail.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 9:20 PM
twitch-chat
There IS enough competition, you’re just part of the problem by saying "there’s no competition" and then using Amazon. You don’t need the government to intervene for you to find something Amazon sells elsewhere.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 10:54 PM
freehurricane
This is not a great look

BUT

We have to keep those warehouses open. The country WILL struggle to feed/ care for itself if amazon is taken offline during the covid crisis.

Amazon has to implement aggressive infection control/ sanititization, obviously.

Posted on Apr 2, 2020 | 10:14 PM
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[by lilmookieesquire@3:13amGMT]

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steele said @ 4:48pm GMT on 3rd Apr [Score:1 Funsightful]
I feel like they're glossing over a major point in this article which is that Jeff Bezos was personally involved in a meeting to attack and discredit a Union Organizer. Much like when Elon Musk was personally involved in Tesla swatting a whistleblower.So, the lesson here is that if you want Billionaire Senpai to notice you, you need to stand out from the crowd. #Solidarity
steele said @ 8:01pm GMT on 3rd Apr [Score:1 Original]

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