The recent success of employees at Amazons’s New York fulfillment centre in forming a union might be the best example of David defeating Goliath since the biblical incident. The union, spearheaded by Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee and now president of the union, is the first Amazon union in American history.

Smalls spent a year working with his friend Derrick Palmer, who is still employed in the warehouse, and a small band of colleagues. The odds against them were overwhelming. They organized without help from a national organization, raising their entire budget of $120,000 through GoFundMe. Their headquarters was the bus stop outside the warehouse. They built bonfires to warm colleagues waiting to go home, and even brought food, including home-cooked soul food provided by Mr. Smalls’ aunt. They used Spanish-speaking organizers to reach Hispanic workers and made TikTok videos to reach workers across the city.

Amazon, by contrast, spent $4.3-million on anti-union consultants. In response to the union effort, it formed a reaction team involving 10 departments, including its Global Intelligence Program, a security group staffed by many military veterans. It monitored organizers’ social media, showered workers with text messages and blanketed the warehouse with signs saying “Vote NO” or claiming, falsely, the union leaders were outsiders. It often held more than 20 mandatory anti-union meetings with workers a day. And, of course, they fired Smalls.

Why, one wonders, do workers who are only trying to introduce democracy into their workplace face such overwhelming odds. Why does the company have all the leverage? Shouldn’t a country that includes freedom of assembly in its constitution make it easy to assemble a union? Where is the constitution when it’s needed?

In any case, the success at the New York facility is no small (no pun intended) victory. Amazon is the second-largest private employer in the country, and New York is the country’s most important consumer market.

Another election, also brought by the new Amazon Labor Union, at a neighbouring Staten Island facility, is scheduled for later this month. David ain’t done yet.

One thought on “Smalls vs. Amazon as David vs. Goliath”
  1. Why, one wonders, do workers who are only trying to introduce democracy into their workplace face such overwhelming odds.
    One does not want the serfs getting uppity? Next thing you know they will want decent pay or actual human rights or justice in the workplace.

    I was thinking more serious note, I would postulate that we have at least two things here. The first one would be that Senior Management in a large corporation is naturally authoritarian. You probably don’t get to be head of General Motors or Amazon if you are a sort of granola eating hippie type, to show my age. Therefore a union is a direct challenge to their power and authority. I might even be short of a direct threat to their self-image. in the more specific case such as Amazon the owner is probably a megalomaniac and see a union as a personal insult.

    From a legislative point of view, I suspect it is true that in most western democracies almost all legislators are from the middle or upper class and are much more likely to sympathize with the owner or capital class than the workers so it is easier for the owner class to get legislation or block legislation that favours them rather than workers as the case may be. This may not be deliberately trying to keep down workers but due to a lack of understanding. Probably very few legislators have been worried on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis if they can buy food or pay the rent or get that banger back on the road to get to work.

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