At the invitation of Joe Biden, Amazon unionist Christian Smalls did not go unnoticed in the Oval Office

“Today I met with local labor organizers to thank them for their leadership in organizing unions. Of the’Amazon Labor Union at IATSE at Titmouse Productions, these people are inspiring a movement of workers across the country to fight for the wages and benefits they deserve,” Trump tweeted.

A signal”

And this meeting did not go unnoticed, with some referring to a “strong signal to the American trade union world.”

“This pro-labor-pro union wave that has swept across the nation is thanks to years of organization led by the likes of Smalls. I am so pleased to see the Biden administration officially recognizing these efforts. I hope meetings like this mean more worker protections ahead.”

Smalls’s Revenge on Amazon

Christian Smalls caused a surprise in early April by becoming Amazon’s first union in the United States. At the age of 33 and unemployed, he worked in the JFK8 warehouse until March 2020. With the emergence of the Covid-19 epidemic, faced with a still little-known and devastating virus, he revolted against the lack of protection and called for a mini-strike. The protest does not draw a crowd but draws attention, at least at Amazon. He is fired two days later, officially for not respecting the health rules.

According to an internal memo leaked to the press shortly afterwards, a senior corporate official said of him that he “is not intelligent, does not know how to express himself clearly” and that he must “become the face of the entire union movement”.

“That’s what I became,” he told AFP two years later. Meanwhile, he demonstrated outside several homes of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to defend the rights of essential workers. He also went in the spring of 2021 to support activists trying to unionize at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama.

A “spark” for a new movement?

With his rapper style, this African-American “doesn’t look like a traditional union leader,” ALU member Justine Medina admits. But “he’s brilliant, he knows how to inspire people, assign tasks that suit everyone, bring people together,” she says. And all the media attention “doesn’t go to his head, he stays sober”, she assures.

Starbucks, Apple and Alphabet are also dealing with union plans. Christian Smalls hopes ALU will be “the spark that will start a whole movement at Amazon”.

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