Amazon's treatment of fired warehouse worker 'racist and classist'
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has slammed Amazon calling its treatment of a fired warehouse employee 'racist and classist' after leaked notes revealed the trillion dollar company's plans to vilify him after he led a walkout over coronavirus health concerns.
The US Representative waded into the drama with the retail giant Thursday night, after the notes surfaced showing the firm's PR strategy to smear ex-worker Christian Smalls.
'Amazon's attempt to smear Chris Smalls, one of their own warehouse workers, as 'not smart or articulate' is a racist & classist PR campaign,' AOC tweeted.
'If execs are as concerned abt (sic) worker health & safety as they claim, then they should provide the full paid sick leave ALL workers deserve.'
In the memo obtained by Vice News, top Amazon executives planned to smear 31-year-old Smalls, a management assistant, after he spearheaded a walkout of several employees on March 30 over coronavirus safety fears.
The top bosses referred to Smalls as 'not smart' and discussed placing him as the face of the workers' walkout.
'He's not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we're trying to protect workers,' wrote Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky.
In the memo, which took place at a day meeting and included CEO Jeff Bezos, Zapolsky's notes reportedly show executives mapping how to navigate bad press of Smalls' firing.
They allegedly wanted to make Smalls the center of Amazon's narrative about worker safety.
Zapolsky wrote: 'We should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer's conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal, in detail, and only then follow with our usual talking points about worker safety.
'Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.'
The memo allegedly showed executives considering using Smalls to discredit the company's labor movement.
It was also revealed in the memo that Amazon attempted to buy millions of protective masks for staffers and has considered producing its own masks.
Smalls led the walkout of staff on Monday, claiming that the company had not provided adequate protective gear or cleaned the Staten Island warehouse after at least seven workers fell ill from the virus.
Amazon has since fired Smalls from the company, a move that he said is in retaliation for begging management to sanitize the warehouse and be more transparent about sick workers.
'They pretty much retaliated against me for speaking out,' said Smalls to the New York Post. 'I don't know how they sleep at night.'
'There are positive cases working in these buildings infecting thousands,' warehouse worker Smalls wrote on Twitter.
But Amazon said he was fired for violating a company-mandated 14-day quarantine after he was in contact with an infected employee.
Smalls' location, known as JFK8, started an effort to unionize workers in 2018.
Of the memo, Zapolsky told Vice News that his 'comments were personal and emotional.'
'I was frustrated and upset that an Amazon employee would endanger the health and safety of other Amazonians by repeatedly returning to the premises after having been warned to quarantine himself after exposure to virus Covid-19,' said Zapolsky.
'I let my emotions draft my words and get the better of me,' he added.
The notes also reportedly explore Amazon's concerns with the pandemic - which has infected more than 245,000 and killed 6,056 in the US - and its efforts to increase testing.
Zapolsky wrote that testing all employees, even asymptomatic ones, could be beneficial for the company.
He wrote: 'That can have benefits both for the system and for our employees. Every test we do is incremental and is one less test that existing resources have to do.'
Amazon discussed PR strategies over their face masks supply with 'different and bold' ways of handing out extra masks to hospitals and independent grocery stores.
'If we can get masks in quantity it's a fantastic gift if we donate strategically,' wrote Zapolsky.
Another idea for giving masks away — give 1,000 masks to every police station in the country,' he said, adding that it may 'reminds folks it's not just medical workers who need these.'
Vice News said Amazon executives brainstormed different ways to obtain or produce masks. Working with other companies with resources to make masks was also suggested.
Thus far, Zapolsky wrote that Amazon has at least 10million masks for 'our operations guys', with an additional 25million coming from a supplier in the next two weeks.
'There are ways of making FDA approved surgical and other masks from fabric and we're working with those manufacturers as well,' said the notes.
The notes said that that Center for Disease Prevention and Control would recommend face masks to citizens, if not for a supply shortage.
'CDC's hesitancy to recommend masks has been to manage supply (though that's a bad reason to sacrifice scientific integrity),' said Zapolsky.