Amazon union chief bashes Biden

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The Big Story 

The leader of Amazon’s only successful unionization effort said Monday that American workers can’t rely on the Democratic Party to secure better pay and working conditions.  

© AP Photo/Seth Wenig

“We’ve seen over the last few years, the uprise and the resurgence of labor, which is great,” Amazon Labor Union (ALU) president Christian Smalls said at a taping of the “Touré Show” at SXSW, the technology and culture festival in Austin, Texas. 

“But when we think about the federal laws that haven’t been touched since the 1930s, since the Great Depression — it doesn’t add up.”  


The union leader’s remarks come a week after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was named the richest man in the world, reclaiming the title from Elon Musk


Smalls rose to the national stage in April 2021 when he helped lead unionization efforts at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island and alleged bosses had tried to cover up COVID-19 cases. 


Efforts to expand the ALU have been slow — the Staten Island facility Smalls helped organize has been the only successful one so far. 


Some employees have blamed Smalls for the failure to grow. Members of the ALU executive board stepped down in late 2022 to protest what they characterized as Smalls’ disorganized and authoritarian leadership style. 


Those dissident members wrote in a July lawsuit wrote that the ALU inner circle “refuse to hold membership meetings, they have unilaterally ‘amended’ the constitution to keep themselves in power indefinitely, they have threatened their opponents, most of whom made up the core group which won the Amazon election in the first place, and, most importantly, they refuse all efforts to have a fair, democratic, election.”  


The ALU called the allegations “frivolous.”  


Smalls did not directly address the allegations in the interview on Monday. But he did criticize media portrayals of the unionization push within Amazon, saying, “I just have to continue to let the work speak for itself.”


The union leader also described a “bad” meeting with Biden in late 2022. 


“I met [Biden], I met a lot of these politicians that we thought would be looking out for the working class. And y’all — there ain’t no cavalry coming. I met with Joe Biden for an hour, and I don’t remember the conversation — it was that bad. When I left the White House, I felt empty,” he said.


Six months later, Amazon secured an $8 billion loan from the federal government. Smalls said “that just told me right there that, once again, if we don’t organize, nothing’s going to be given to us. Nobody’s going to be held accountable.”


“So it’s a must. It’s our duty. Because we’re at a point of no return. We have to organize ourselves. Because no amount of money in the world can stop the power of people when we come together.” 


The Hill’s Saul Elbein has more here

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