A leaked memo from Amazon showed how the company’s CEO Jeff Bezos attended a recent meeting in which Amazon executives plotted ways to demonize a top labor organizer.
Notes from the meeting indicate that the Amazon executives are plotting a campaign to destroy the reputation of former warehouse employee Christian Smalls, an organizer who has been trying to rally Amazon workers for better wages and more benefits. They said that Smalls was “not smart or articulate,” and they hoped to make him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”
“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,” wrote Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky in meeting notes that were circulated throughout forwarded widely within the company.
This was apparently discussed during a daily meeting that was meant to be centered around coordinating a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We go over the update on what’s happening around the world with our employees and with our customers and our businesses. We also spend a significant amount of time just brainstorming about what else we can do [about coronavirus],” Amazon SVP of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney said to describe the meeting while appearing on CNN.
But apparently their coronavirus meeting was diverted into plotting new ways to punish workers during the crisis. Amazon terminated Smalls last week after he led a protest at a Staten Island distribution facility in which several workers walked out on the job to send a message. Amazon is claiming that Smalls was fired for violating a mandatory 14-day quarantine after coming in contact with an employee who tested positive for coronavirus.
Smalls disputes the story that is being spread by Amazon about why he was fired. He is saying that his firing had nothing to do with alleged contact with an employee who tested positive for coronavirus. He claims he was fired because of concerns that he brought up with management regarding sanitation standards at the warehouse. Smalls also believes that Amazon is not being truthful about the number of workers who have been infected with coronavirus.
Other notes from the meeting lay out Amazon’s devious plan to target Smalls and make him the focal point of any response to public concerns regarding worker safety.
“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,” wrote Zapolsky in his notes from the meeting.
“Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement,” he added.
Zapolsky attempted to rationalize his anti-worker sentiments in a groveling statement issued to VICE News after realizing his notes went public.
“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,” he said. “I let my emotions draft my words and get the better of me.”
Bezos’ brand of globalism does not put American workers first, and the coronavirus pandemic is seen by Amazon as just another excuse for the billionaire technocrat to put the squeeze on labor.