Confident Christian Smalls reflects on forming Amazon's first union

Confident Christian Smalls reflects on forming Amazon’s first union

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NEW YORK — Christian Smalls led Staten Island’s Amazon workers in their successful fight to form the company’s first labor union.

CBS2’s Thalia Perez spoke to Smalls on Friday about how he’s igniting the labor movement and inspiring others.

The 33-year-old leads the Amazon Labor Union, or ALU. He calls the movement a revolution and says the grassroots effort at the Amazon on Staten Island is what inspires him.

“You’re talking about one of the richest retailers in modern day history versus workers that make less than $30,000 a year. It doesn’t get any more of a Cinderella story than that,” Smalls said.

He says it was Amazon’s founder, himself, that gave him the push to get it started.

“It was obviously the smear campaign that Jeff Bezos tried to sign off on, calling me inarticulate, and they said it to make me the face of unionizing against Amazon,” Smalls said.

Smalls said he was fired from his job as a processing assistant in 2020 after he organized a walkout over concerns about COVID-19 safety conditions. Eleven months ago, he says he and several co-workers began the process to unionize. Among their demands, more breaks and better pay.

“You would probably think that we’re crazy for doing this, but, you know, once again, we can’t decide on lunch, but we can decide on what we want in the contract,” Smalls said.

On April 1, history was made after Smalls and his group won the vote to unionize on Staten Island, but Amazon is rejecting the results, filing paperwork Friday that alleges the labor board and union members interfered with the election process.

“The board did an excellent job orchestrating the election. I don’t see any interference on their end as well. So, hopefully, they do the right thing for these workers who fought hard for this union and throw it away and certify us,” Smalls said.

Smalls said he plans to help workers from all over the world who have been inspired.

Amazon told CBS News it is disappointed in the outcome of the vote.

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