Support radically independent journalism.

Amazon executives described Smalls as “not smart or articulate.” Smalls was fired after organizing a walkout over employee safety at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse.


Story Transcript

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors. It will be updated. Speaker 1: We want that building shut down for two weeks, and we want it sanitized, full two weeks with pay. Jaisal Noor: Welcome to the Real News. I’m Jaisal Noor Amazon executives circulated a memo discussing plans to smear fired worker Chris Smalls who is organizing a strike against unsafe working conditions, by Vice as Paul Blest reported. The memo was discussed at a meeting, attending by CEO Jeff Bezos, and stated, “Smalls is not smart or articulate.” New York congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, tweeted that this showed Amazon was carrying out a racist and classist PR campaign. She said, “If execs are as concerned about worked health and safety as they claim, then they should provided the full paid sick leave all workers deserve.” Amazon workers are among the ranks of those deemed essential, which means they are continuing to perform their jobs despite the risk of COVID-19. Many say their employers are endangering their lives by failing to protect them from this ongoing pandemic. Well now, joining us to respond to this leak and to discuss all of this is Chris Smalls himself. He was fired from Amazon, they say, from failing to socially distance. Thank you so much for joining us. Chris Smalls: Thank you for having me. Happy to be here. Jaisal Noor: We know this is a crazy time for everybody, but especially for frontline workers like yourself, and especially for folks like yourself that risked it all. Just having a job right now is really important to people, and you risked it all to fight for your fellow workers. I wanted to start off by asking you to respond to this memo that laid out their plan to smear you, undermine you, attack your reputation and what you stand for saying your not smart or articulate. Like AOC says, “That’s racist too.” Give us your response. Chris Smalls: My response to that is thank you. No lie, we know what we’re dealing with. Like you said, the entire knows exactly who these people are now. My response is thank you. Now we know what they want to do, but guess what, I’m not falling for the trap. This is not about Chris Smalls. It never was. This is about the people. Like you said, “It’s about the frontline workers.” It’s about all of us. They’re not battling me. They’re battling everybody, everybody that I’m trying to give a voice to, that’s standing with me, that’s supporting me. It’s going to be Amazon versus everybody. It’s not going to ever be Amazon versus Chris Smalls. If that’s what they think is going to happen, they’re sadly mistaken. Jaisal Noor: Amazon spokesperson Jay Carney who is the former press secretary for President Obama, he got ratioed on Twitter for saying that you purposely violated social distancing rules repeatedly, and you were put on paid 14-day quarantine for COVID exposure. He said you returned to the site, and you put your team at risk. It turns out he was repeating those talking points too right there. He was widely attached for that. Do you have a response to this PR? Basically they’re saying that you put workers at risk. Chris Smalls: Did you check my Twitter feed recently? If you look at my Twitter right now, there’s my response. That was just two weeks ago. What safety guidelines? We didn’t have any. We didn’t have any. We just had a huge party two weeks ago. Activities committee. Where these rule are? Where are they in black and white? When was I warned multiple times? It’s all false. Don’t believe the hype. As you can see, this company is full of lies, full of coverups. That’s what they are. Slowly, but surely, it’s unraveling. They put a target on me. They picked the wrong person. That’s all I’ve got to say. They picked the wrong person. I did nothing but been dedicated to this company for the last five years of my life. Last week I was a regular guy. I’m a father of three kids. I didn’t ask for none of this. On Monday, the world fell into my lap. I’m going to embrace it. That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m telling the truth, so if my truth is exposing what this company really is, so be it. As you can see, I’m not the only one to feel that way. Everybody is coming together now in solidarity. That’s exactly what I wanted. We’re going to need that to obviously take down these billionaires that’s collecting all this blood money while the people that have the power, I want you guys to know that we have the power. We’re the ones that’s making them rich. How to hurt them? Stop their money. Walk out. Stop working for them. You have the power. If you stop working, they don’t get money. Period. Jaisal Noor: Now, I’ve been talking to Amazon workers here in Baltimore where they’ve also had cases of COVID-19 at the warehouses. This is what they told me. They said that you’re firing was a message. They’re trying to make an example out of you to deter other organizing in workplaces. They say, “They also face unsafe conditions.” They say, “Inside these warehouses it’s impossible to socially distance because Amazon is trying to hire 100,000 more workers.” I talked to someone that goes to these shifts in the middle of the night, but there’s still 100 people there or more. Chris Smalls: Yeah. Jaisal Noor: Yeah. There’s maybe people corroborating what you’re saying. Chris Smalls: Hmm-hmm. Jaisal Noor: Talk more about what your message is to these workers because for a lot of folks if they had a second job that job is gone now. If they worked at a restaurant or a bookstore, that place is shut down. This might be their only chance to put food on the table. Chris Smalls: Understood. Yeah, I am these workers. I was, well, before they terminated me. I know exactly what they’re going through. People are emailing me from all over the world. Canada, Brazil, Tokyo, London, you name it, I’m getting emails from buildings from all over. I don’t even have that anymore. I know exactly what you all are going through. We’ve got to do something about it. The only way we do something about it right now, like I just said, walk out. The building is run by people. These billionaires don’t know anything about what’s going on in our operations. Nothing. All they know is it’s got to get done. All they know is the money is coming in. They don’t know how it’s coming in. That’s the crazy thing, they don’t even know how. In response to that, piggybacking off of that, that’s why they all are just repeating the same thing, I’ve violated safety protocol. They don’t even know what they’re talking about. They’re repeating what that building is telling them to repeat. It’s going to backfire on all of them because they have my full consent. Release the video of what I did for the entire week. That’s all you’ve got to do Amazon. Release it. I have nothing to hide. I’m telling my truth. My truth is exposing them. We know what we’re dealing with. We know we’re dealing with a pandemic. We know we’re dealing with a virus that’s in every last one of these buildings. If it’s not in your building right now, you listen and watching, it’s coming if it’s not already there. We know that. That’s a fact. That’s a fact. It’s dangerous to work in these buildings right now. They’re trying to clean these buildings. Set them down. Sanitize. The building don’t have the virus. The people have the virus. You can’t stop it. You can’t stop the spread of it once the people get it. The building has cardboard, metal, plastic. It can host the virus for a little bit of time, but the people are the ones that’s breeding it. This is what we’ve got to realize. You can’t practice social distancing in a building. You’re right. You can’t. The way we work, the way we operate, be on top of each other, we eat lunch together, we go in and out the doors, putting food in and out of the microwaves, you’ve got to know that. Yeah, I know. I know exactly what you all are doing. Them yellow totes? You can’t clean all of the totes. Who knows how many we’re dealing with. These are the things you all have got to be mindful of. Do you all really want to risk your lives with some money right now? I know they’re paying two dollars extra plus double time, it’s blood money. They tell you, “Go make $6000 a month,” but you’re going to take home the coronavirus, or stay home with no pay. Those are your choices right there. Do you really want that? No. The world needs to wake up. My message to world is, “Think about it. God forbid, 800,000 employees worldwide, God forbid we’re all carriers.” You’ve got to wake up. 500,000 employees nationwide, 500,000. This virus spreads to two and a half people. Two and a half, 500,000, two million, two million plus another two and a half, we’re about to end human life literally. What do you think? Think of the bigger picture. One of the Amazon principles, “Think big.” Right? Always one of the Amazon principles, “Think big. Think big.” Jeff Bezos is thinking big. All he’s preaching about is his spacecraft, his space ship. What are you going to do? Kill off the population and then fly to another planet? It seems like that. It seems that way. Jaisal Noor: Chris. Chris, we want to thank you so much for joining us. We know that this is a really difficult time for you, so we appreciate you taking the time out and speaking to us. We definitely want to have you on again. Keep up with your struggle and your fight. Thanks so much for speaking with us. Chris Smalls: Thank you for having me. Stay safe you all. Jaisal Noor: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.

Jaisal Noor

General Assignment Reporter

Jaisal is a host, producer, and reporter for TRNN. With his expertise in education policy and systemic inequity, he focuses on Baltimore, Maryland. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio NewsDemocracy Now! and The Indypendent.

Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years.