ALU Newsletter #6: Playing Hardball
12/3/2021 update from the Amazon Labor Union in Staten Island
It’s a sign of the times that “America’s Pastime” has just been forced into a labor lockout by the billionaire owners of Major League Baseball for the first time in over a quarter century—not because it was unavoidable, as the MLB commissioner admitted, but rather as an aggressive strategy of adversarial gamesmanship, to apply “pressure…to get an agreement” from the MLB players’ union in collective bargaining. The power play quickly led to such petty consequences as MLB websites which “scrubbed all images of and stories about the players, creating an almost comical accumulation of generic articles and promotional advertisements.” Major League Baseball now officially has no baseball players—because the wealthy owners want more money and power.
The Amazon Labor Union is no stranger to such petty hardball from greedy bosses. For instance, in the past few months, we have grown our union organization through generosity, solidarity, and honest communication, while Amazon management at Staten Island has:
erected a fence to impede our organizing, then topped it with barbed wire;
broadcast lies and misinformation about the union on the A to Z app and in break areas and bathroom “inSTALLments” throughout the Matrix complex;
recruited expensive union-busting consultants and Amazon HR officers from all over the country to sow fear and confusion among workers in captive audience meetings;
fired workers in retaliation for organizing with the ALU;
sent the FDNY to shut down the portable firepit we used to keep workers warm at night;
pressured the MTA to change the code to the restroom beside our tent to deny us access;
and now, managed to reroute the MTA buses away from the bus stop where we set up.
They can keep throwing spitballs at us, and we’ll just keep batting them away. The degree of abject pettiness from Amazon management only shows to us their true level of desperation, if not absolute terror, at the prospect of Amazon workers actually having a chance to vote for union representation in a free and fair election—something that the Atlanta regional National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that Amazon management illegal impeded in Bessemer, AL, calling for a new election to be held. Despite the intimidation tactics of Amazon bosses, we are not afraid of them—but they are clearly afraid of us.
NY Attorney General Goes to Bat for the ALU Against Amazon Bosses
On Tuesday, November 30, New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a petition for a preliminary injunction to force Amazon to immediately address the health and safety issues threatening warehouse workers, and to reinstate ALU President Chris Smalls to his position as process assistant at Amazon, after he was fired last year in retaliation for protesting inadequate COVID-19 safety protocols.
Attorney General James has found that “Amazon unlawfully retaliated against Smalls under Labor Law § 215 and § 740” by firing him after “Smalls complained of health and safety conditions which he correctly believed to be illegal.” The NY State AG’s office is asking the court to temporarily reverse Chris’s termination and reinstate him pending the outcome of the state’s ongoing litigation against Amazon for numerous violations of law.
NY AG James @NewYorkStateAG#BREAKING: We filed a lawsuit against @amazon over its failures to provide adequate health and safety measures for employees during the pandemic and for retaliating against those who voiced concerns for their safety. Amazon put profits over people.
Meanwhile, the ALU continues to pursue legal challenges of our own against Amazon’s criminality, with the tireless help of our union lawyer Seth Goldstein, through unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB and class action lawsuits. Amazon will not be getting away with any illegal actions against workers in Staten Island without hearing about it from us in court. The ALU knows how to play hardball, too.
Black Friday March: Enough is Enough
Last Friday, November 26, ALU worker organizers marched with Starbucks worker organizers and allies from Workers Assembly Against Racism and other activist groups to protest at the Manhattan residences of Jeff Bezos and Howard Schultz. ALU President Chris Smalls addressed the crowd in front of Bezos’s $119 million “mansion in the sky” at 212 Fifth Avenue to explain where we are in the ALU drive to win our union election. “It’s up to us. It’s not up to the billionaires.” Chris told the crowd. “It’s up to the workers to come together. If we don’t do that…they’re going to continue to exploit workers, they’re going to continue to hire and fire workers as they please, and the system is going to continue to operate the way it’s been operating for decades. I think we are saying in this country right now, ‘Enough is enough.’”
The protest was coordinated as part of a global movement against Amazon’s abuses, organized under the banner Make Amazon Pay. As Alex Press reported in Jacobin, “The actions traverse Amazon’s supply chain, ranging from garment workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia to delivery drivers in Italy to the River Club development site in Cape Town, South Africa, where Amazon hopes to build Africa Amazon’s headquarters.” In the United Kingdom, activists with Extinction Rebellion blockaded roadways and shut down several Amazon warehouses. In Germany, the Verdi union announced that several thousand Amazon workers refrained from working on Black Friday, and in Italy, the Assoespressi union which represents 12,000, drivers leveraged the threat of a strike to win an agreement with Amazon. When workers unite and show our strength, we win.
Join the Team and Make History
If you want to join us in this beautiful struggle, you can contact us by email, DM us on social media, or talk to us in person at the warehouses in Staten Island. As ALU organizer Natalie Monarrez said in a Status Coup video which was recently shared by Susan Sarandon, “being involved with the Amazon Labor Union gives me the motivation and the purpose I need”—even as Amazon’s below-industry-standard wages make it hard for her to even find an affordable apartment to live in.
Status Coup News @StatusCoupNatalie Monarrez is one of many New York @amazon worker who is homeless and sleeps in her car. Despite her situation, the current union drive at her Staten Island warehouse gives her motivation and purpose, she told @JordanChariton https://t.co/x4owTA8Inh
If you can, please help our ALU organizers who work and organize without a home of their own to return to after giving their all to Amazon and to their fellow coworkers every night:
We’re only in Game One of this series against the Seattle Amazonians—extending into extra innings as we seek to refile our petition for election soon—and it will take our A-game from every player on the team, and the roar of support from every ALU fan cheering us on, to knock this out of the park and bring all of our coworkers home.
Until Next Week!
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