Union leaders oppose Amazon’s labor practices at Senate hearing

Christian Smalls, founder of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), speaks during a Senate Budget Committee hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., on Thursday, May 5, 2022. titled “Should taxpayers transfer money to companies that violate the Labor Law?”

Eric Lee | Bloomberg | beautiful pictures

Chris Smalls, a former Amazon workers and leaders of an emerging labor union, challenged lawmakers over the tech giant’s labor record at a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders convened a hearing as part of his push asked the White House to stop providing federal contracts to companies like Amazon accused of unfair labor practices. Sanders called Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos, who was invited to the hearing but did not attend, in his opening remarks for discouraging consolidation at the company.

Smalls is president of the Amazon Labor Federation, a grassroots organization led by current and former employees of the company. Last month, workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island voted in favor of the company’s first U.S. union, despite a high-profile anti-Amazon campaign. However, ALU was unable to replicate its success earlier this week, when workers at the second Staten Island warehouse refuse union.

Smalls said Amazon violated labor laws “with impunity” and would therefore be barred from accepting government contracts.

“We cannot allow Amazon or any other employer to take taxpayer money if they engage in illegal union vandalism and deny workers’ rights,” Smalls said. in his testimony. “We cannot provide federal contracts to these employers. We cannot allow them to receive taxpayer benefits from our state and local governments.”

Representatives from Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., called the subject of the hearing “radical” and criticized Sanders for getting rid of Amazon.

“This is an attempt to get the results you want, using the U.S. Senate as your vehicle,” says Graham. “This is very dangerous. You can have surveillance hearings all you want, but you’ve identified Amazon as a crap company. That’s your political bias.”

Smalls hit back at Graham, saying, “It sounds like you’re talking about more companies and businesses in your speech, but you forget that people are the people who make these companies work and us. unprotected.”

Graham then asked Smalls if he had filed a complaint against Amazon. Small fired by Amazon in 2020 after the company claimed he violated social distancing rules. Smalls argued that he was fired in retaliation for organizing a protest in the early weeks of coronavirus pandemic to call for stronger safety measures. His dismissal caused widespread outrage, including a complaint from New York Attorney General Letitia James, who sought to force Amazon to redistribute Smalls.

Smalls said the process of identifying accountable companies “didn’t work,” and Graham replied that it was Smalls’ opinion.

“It’s a fact,” Smalls retorted.

At the hearing, Smalls was attended by Teamsters President Sean O’Brien, along with other panelists. Teammates announced last year a new push to organize Amazon facilities and it was aimed at the company’s expansion efforts across the country.

On Thursday, the White House is expected to host Smalls and other organizers, including a group seeking to organize Starbucks workers, in a meeting to discuss the “extraordinary efforts of Starbucks.” them to organize unions in their workplaces”. a White House official told Reuters.

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