In a time when social distancing is a must and the coronavirus virus is spreading like wildfire, you would think a public rally for safer work conditions would be the last thing anyone would want to get involved in. However, it’s precisely what former Amazon plant manager Chris Smalls is calling for.
Smalls was fired from his five-year job at Amazon last week when he violated the companies quarantine rules.
He was one of several employees sent home last week when a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19. According to both Amazon and current New York City policies being exposed entitles you to two full weeks of self-quarantine. And lucky for Smalls, this would have been fully paid.
However, because Smalls felt like Amazon was not doing an excellent job of keeping the Staten Island warehouse clean and safe for its employees, he was back the very next day to launch a public strike or walkout.
Smalls said the company was not being honest with its employees about how many cases there had actually been. Therefore, he wanted the entire plant to be shut down for a time so that significant cleaning could be done, and employees would be less likely to be exposed. Although, he admitted he also wanted higher pay.
But the strike didn’t really go as he had probably hoped.
Only 15 employees out of over 4,000 joined him to protest. And then he was fired.
Smalls said that Amazon fired him as revenge for protesting and making his feelings public. However, Amazon is sticking to their story that he was ordered to take two weeks of paid quarantine and violated it, risking the infection of thousands of more employees.
Amazon says it feels like most of the nation does that protest in general, is a good thing, or at least can be used for good. It is a constitutional right and allows citizens and workers to fight for their rights. The history books are filled with positive examples of this.
However, during this time, public protests could have damaging effects on a community, company, and even entire states.
No matter the case, Smalls feels wronged. And so he is organizing yet another protest on Staten Island. But this one is much more public.
According to ABC7 in New York, “Chris Smalls sent out a text announcing that the protest will take place at Amazon’s Staten Island facility. Smalls has called for the company to halt operations because of the pandemic. Amazon said he was fired, violating the company’s quarantine rules.
Smalls had said the company is not being honest with employees about the number of colleagues who have tested positive for the virus in recent days and that management has only confirmed that one worker at the warehouse has come down with the virus.”
But Smalls says, “That’s a bold-face lie because I sent home the third case directly.” And he adds that he knew of seven cases at the plant last week.
No matter the case, it doesn’t seem as though Smalls has thought this process through much. If he really wanted to put Amazon in its place for unsafe working conditions due to the virus, breaking quarantine does little to show that he is any better. It would seem that his point would be made in a much safer (and likely get more of a response) if he went through online channels like YouTube or social media.
But even if his logic weren’t flawed, the point would have been made with his first attempt. Amazon clearly noticed, and they obviously don’t want more of the same action.
So why is he going for a second round?
Some say that his motives might be a bit bigger than just safe work conditions.
Liz Mair is one such person. According to her and several others, this has more to do with “unionization rates in retail (lower than in other sectors) and never letting a good crisis go to waste.”
Companies like Instacart, an Amazon subsidiary, Walmart, and Target are all seeing similar protests happen during this time, and it all goes back to remaking the economic infrastructure to appease the leftist agenda.
It’s either that, or Smalls found a small bit of the limelight and wants more. But if he isn’t careful, he might find that limelight looks more like a jail cell than celebrity status.