Christian Smalls, the syndicate leader who rocked Amazon

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Selfie of American Christian Smalls, founder of the Amazon Workers Union (ALU), in New York, the first union of Amazon, the e-commerce giant founded by Jeff Bezos.

At 33, this black American rapper-looking rapper achieved incredible strength at the height of a health crisis: Organizing and winning union elections Inside an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island. ” Amazon wasn’t protecting us, Chris Smalls says on CNBC. We had no masks, no sanitary gel, no social distancing, nothing. I tried to alert my superiors. Two hours later, I was fired. From there, she went all over the country to warn of our rights. I didn’t give up, especially after the campaign Jeff Bezos started calling me ‘Nobody’ “Neither clever nor eloquent”To prevent me from forming a union. »

A position that says a lot about the e-commerce giant, is the reaction of Eric Fromen of the Strategic Organization Center (SOC), which includes a coalition of four unions in the United States representing 4 million employees. ” It shows immense arrogance that the leaders of such a wealthy company believe that someone who does not look like them, does not speak like them, is incapable of being a strong, intelligent and capable leader. . It is also arrogant to treat your employees very poorly, to pay them too little, when they have too much, and to think that it is OK to do so.. »

He raised $120,000 to organize the union struggle

Christian Smalls was raised in Hackensack, New Jersey. His mother works in the hospital and raises him alone. As a teenager, he attended municipal high school, and then worked odd jobs. A good basketball player, he aspires to become a professional, but his hopes were dashed when he was felled by a fleeing driver. Become a rapper for a while And he went on tour for a while with the group Meek Mill, then found a stable job in the large distribution to raise his children. Passes through Walmart, FedExAnd Among others, before joining Amazon in 2015.

► To read also: “Historic Day”: The first union to be born on Amazon in the United States

At first, he packs parcels, then becomes an assistant manager. Nearly 50 times, he requested a promotion but was refused, which, he says, reflects the racial discrimination prevailing in the company. The stressful and dangerous working conditions bother him. With a handful of colleagues, he raised $120,000 Across An online fundraising site that sells T-shirts to organize the union struggle. For its part, Amazon is spending more than $4 million to prevent any bottling.

Chris Smalls is testifying in the Senate at the beginning of May: Amazon owns hundreds of “union violators” In the country and in the world. They go to warehouses, isolate employees, intimidate them, and bombard them with questions in order to improve their working conditions, while questioning them to see who is pro-union and who is not. They report to management. Some of us were threatened and arrested by the police, others like me were shot unfairly and with impunity. »

There is no law here that requires employers to meet with employee representatives »

However, this stubborn man succeeds in gathering where the official syndicate of Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama fails. But she hasn’t won yet. ” They won the elections, but they do not have an official union, Eric Fromen explains. There is no law here that obliges employers to meet, and to listen to employee representatives, unlike in France or elsewhere in Europe, unless the parties involved first request that government-supervised elections be organized, and that they win and successfully overcome the obstacles set up by the employers. . In half of the cases, these initiatives failed. What ALU has been able to achieve is very important, (Important for workers in the US and around the world), But this is only a first step. »

However, things could move forward, because Chris Smalls caught the attention of the American president who greeted him at the White House. ” When I ran for president, I vowed to be the most pro-union president in American history, Joe Biden said. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and as my father said, you have to demand it, and if that doesn’t work, the way to demand it is to organize and involve everyone. »

Chris Smalls intends to continue to engage everyone. Contacted by employees at more than 100 Amazon sites. Elsewhere, Starbucks, Apple and Google are also facing union efforts.

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