Amazon processing assistant Chris Smalls called for a worker walkout due to allegations that the company was mishandling the coronavirus pandemic.
A few hours afterward, Amazon fired Chris Smalls. The company cited his breach of health and safety rules, as well as a disregard for social distancing regulations.
I wasn’t the only person to see through the flimsy excuses from Amazon.
John Oliver is also enraged by this disgraceful action by the tech company. However, the TV host can’t help but miss the point entirely.
Not only did Amazon fire someone for trying to secure a safer workplace for his fellow employees, but they also intended to make him the “face of the entire union/organizing movement.”
Leaked notes from a meeting that included head chief Jeff Bezos quote general counsel David Zapolsky as saying:
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. 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.
Zapolsky concluded by advising:
Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.
John Oliver’s response?
That is so racist I can’t even point out how smart and articulate Smalls is without also sounding racist.
John, I know that racism sells. It’s always a hot-button topic, and rightfully so, but in this instance, you’ve muddied the waters.
The racism angle here is tenuous at best. More important, it’s not the real issue.
The bigger story is the lengths to which Amazon will go to hide their corner-cutting at a time when health and safety couldn’t be more critical.
By turning this issue into a debate about why Amazon chiefs referred to an African American processing worker as “not smart or intelligent” is taking the focus away from the big picture.
A huge corporation tried to silence health concerns during a deadly, worldwide pandemic. And Jeff Bezos, one of the wealthiest people on the planet, is part of it.
This is the story here. I say again; Jeff Bezos was part of it.
A corporation slandering a former employee who’s attempting to unionize their fellow workers isn’t news, sadly.