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Amazon Labor Union rallies support in Arizona ahead of labor board hearing

The Amazon Labor Union held a rally in Phoenix on Monday ahead of a National Labor Relations Board hearing to examine the legitimacy of the ALU’s victory in New York.

In the NLRB suit, Amazon contends the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in Brooklyn favored the union and ultimately facilitated the ALU’s victory. No further details on the substance of these claims were provided.

ALU’s president Christian Smalls was in attendance and gave comments to a crowd outside the NLRB’s regional building in Phoenix. Smalls created the ALU following his termination in 2020 after expressing concerns over Amazon’s substandard Covid-19 procedures.

“Right now, we have the window of opportunity to change everything, change the whole system,” he said to the Phoenix crowd supporting the ALU in the suit. “We have to take advantage of that. You got to come together — all industries, no matter [who] you work for. Amazon, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Dollar General, or Durant’s across the street, it doesn’t matter, unionize your workplace. Don’t quit your job.”

Smalls also denounced Jeff Bezos and a profiteering class by calling upon the younger generation to rise in opposition to worker exploitation.

“Jeff Bezos, these billionaires, the [1%] class, they’ve been exploiting our labor for a very long time, and they got to stop, enough is enough,” he said. “And I think, you know, the younger generation and the revolution that we’re in right now, [they’re] going to be a one to do it.”

Among the crowd were various union leaders, members of a local Marxist organization and Democratic politicians Marco López Jr. and Katie Hobbs, who are both running for governor. When asked about the heat in Arizona and the impact it has on workers and their rights, Smalls conceded that Arizona has unique challenges and hinted at efforts across the nation.

“You know, these warehouses, they’re really hot as it is,” he said. “Some of these buildings have 16 miles of conveyor belts that run 24/7. Do you know how much heat that generates? The heat rises in the building. You got a top floor; you’re burning up by the end of the day. I can [only] imagine what’s going on in these warehouses. I forget about it. I probably wouldn’t last. Filing complaints with OSHA only goes so far; we already know that. This is another government underfunded, you know, nobody cares about type-of-deal.”

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Others at the event outlined concerns about the daily heat Arizonan Amazon workers face.

“We had new water machines that had been down, things like that, but when I went to OSHA, OSHA basically told me we don’t make laws to govern temperature, because if we did, then there would be no construction [in Arizona],” said JC Hernandez, a former employee with Amazon and ALU advocate.

In 2021, Amazon reportedly spent more than $4.3 million on anti-union consultants. Leaked memos from an Amazon meeting referred to Smalls as insignificant and alluded to him as being an excellent person to battle in an anti-unionization effort.

“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 meeting notes for the company.

In 2021, Smalls started the ALU after raising $120,000 in GoFundMe capital. Smalls and the ALU innovated the union organizing landscape by prioritizing social media engagement and coordinating potlucks and socials catered to the predominantly ethnic workforce at their facility.

The NLRB hearing had no findings of substance Monday and will reconvene Tuesday via Zoom.

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Gene Moreland/TucsonSentinel.com

In 2021, Amazon reportedly spent more than $4.3 million on anti-union consultants.