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Amazon Labor Union President: ‘We’re going to march to Jeff Bezos’s house’

Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss Amazon losing its appeal to reverse the JFK8 union vote, basic employee rights, union representation, and the March for Recognition happening on September 5.

Video Transcript


BRIAN CHEUNG: But a major win for the Amazon Union, after a federal labor official yesterday sided with workers in Staten Island over Amazon. The company appealed a spring vote to unionize at the JFK 8 warehouse. But yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board recommended that Amazon's objections be rejected.

For more on this, let's bring in Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls for more on this. And Chris, you know, a lot has happened over the course of this week. But of course, all eyes on that NLRB announcement yesterday. Quick reaction from the ALU standpoint.

CHRIS SMALLS: Oh, definitely excited. This is a celebratory moment for us. I'm happy and proud to share this moment again with everybody in the labor movement and the working class across the country, because if we get a contract here at JFK 8, it's gonna be monumental for the labor movement all across the country as well.

AKIKO FUJITA: What are those conversations with Amazon's stand right now, Chris? I mean, you've certainly raised a number of issues over the years in terms of where the concerns are, the wages, but also the working conditions. What do those talks stand?

CHRIS SMALLS: Well, we were waiting for this hearing to come out, which we're happy that it came out yesterday, so that we can file a bargaining order agreement so that they can come to the table and negotiate a contract. So right now, we're still in stalemate because they have a chance to appeal the decision even yesterday.

But obviously, they have no basis to claim that we, you know, were influencing the election or any of their claims about the objections weren't founded. So we're hoping that they just come to the table in good faith. But that oddly won't happen. And we're probably going to have to continue to push forward and fight legally as well.

BRIAN CHEUNG: And just as a reminder here, you know, now that the next step, I imagine, is coming to the table. You hope that they can come to the table in good faith. I imagine, they're saying the same on your side as well. What are you arguing for? What are you asking from Amazon to improve the conditions and the pay, and all the other things that I imagine JFK 8 and other warehouses around the country, as well, have on their minds?

CHRIS SMALLS: Well, the workers want higher wages. They want better benefits, better medical leave options and accommodations. They want human representation, not an A to Z app, or a computer, or a email that's firing and hiring. They want pensions. They want job security. They want longer breaks. You know, these workers work 10 to 12 hours, only get 30 minutes, 45 minute breaks. It's not enough.

And they want free college for themselves and their children. A lot of things that unions provide across this country. And that's just a few basic things. You know, other than that, they want dignity and respect. You know, Amazon treats people like numbers and robots.

They have a high productivity system. And they have a hiring and firing system that doesn't work for the working class, doesn't work for these communities. And they want a job that's going to be sustainable for a long time. And that's exactly what the union is going to provide.

AKIKO FUJITA: Chris, we're going into Labor Day weekend. You certainly have a march planned for Monday. You know, Brian was just talking about the strong support that we've started to see, broadly, from the public in the US for the labor movement. Amazon, obviously, leading the way with you behind that movement. We've got Starbucks. We've got Apple. We've got a long list of names coming through here. What's the message you want to try and send with this march?

CHRIS SMALLS: Well, I'm inviting everybody in those industries to come join us in these marches. We're starting at Howard Schultz' house. And then we're gonna march to Jeff Bezos' house next. And then we're gonna end up in Times Square where we're gonna have other industries speak from Apple workers, to Trader Joe's, to women in the fashion industry.

All these different industries from different parts of the country are traveling in to New York City on Monday on Labor Day to help amplify these elections and these campaigns that we've won already, to be recognized as bona fide unions. And everybody else in these other industries that are continuing to fight, it's important that we all stand together and bond together as a union. And we are just here to bring back the real meaning of Labor Day in New York City. So I'm happy and excited to do that on Monday.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Chris, I understand that your reach is beyond just Amazon, as you were mentioning, with a number of other kind of other union-- potential unions at other companies also going to be there. But I want to ask about Amazon, specifically, because I understand that you were up in Albany earlier this week, had a little bit of a run in, being threatened with arrest out there. I mean, what's the atmosphere right now as you try to go to other warehouses as well and try to expand what you've done in Staten Island?

CHRIS SMALLS: Yeah, well, right now, Amazon has me as, you know, public enemy number one for them. So wherever location I seem to pop up at, you know, the police end up there. And it's unfortunate that they're demonizing me like that because actually I'm protected under Section 7.8 where I'm actually a former employee that can't be barred from any Amazon facility.

So for them to use the police as an intimidation factor to try to stop workers from talking and engaging with me about union conversations, it's not gonna work. We're gonna use the laws and protections that we have as workers. And that's the reason why I continue to show up and be out there on the front lines because it's important that my presence is there.

And Amazon workers and all workers need to know their rights, that no employer can bar them if they're a former employee or if they're a part of the working class. That includes everybody. And especially at a public bus stop. You know, Amazon is trying to privatize public bus stops.

That means that there's some money in contract somewhere in the city that we have to discover and find out why they're getting these contracts with their privatized and public bus lines, and get to the bottom of that as well. Because that's not gonna happen when it comes to union organizations where we can't stand outside a facility at a public space to talk to workers.

AKIKO FUJITA: Amazon Labor Union president Chris Smalls, appreciate the time today. We'll be watching out for that event come Monday.