So much for social distancing, eh? Amazon fired former assistant plant manager Chris Smalls last week, which they claim was for violating their quarantine rules after he got exposed to a co-worker who tested positive for coronavirus. Smalls had launched a one-day strike of sorts at the Staten Island facility over what he claims is Amazon’s dishonesty over infections at the warehouse, and says they fired him in retaliation for going public.
The only thing the two sides seem to agree on is that Smalls got exposed to COVID-19, which should prompt a two-week self-quarantine, especially in New York City. So why is Smalls staging a public protest today, one week later?
The amazon worker who organized a one-day walkout last week over working conditions during the current health crisis is mobilizing a rally for Monday.
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.
“That’s a bold face lie because I sent home the third case directly,” Smalls said, adding that he had known last week of a total of seven cases at the facility that employs more than 4,000 people.
Let’s say that’s true. Doesn’t that mean Smalls should keep his protest to online channels rather than staging public demonstrations? In fact, shouldn’t he have stayed home a week ago too, when Amazon was paying him full salary to quarantine for a fortnight (they claim, anyway)? After all, if this demonstration is intended to rebuke Amazon for bad practices in protecting against the coronavirus outbreak, then showing up in public outside the warehouse after exposure undercuts Smalls’ criticism for Amazon allegedly doing the same thing inside the facility.
Our friend Liz Mair sees an entirely different agenda at work here, along the lines of advice from Rep. Jim Clyburn to exploit the crisis to remake the entire economic infrastructure:
Just for the record, expect to see more of this and not targeted at Amazon. Instacart, Walmart, Target… this is about unionization rates in retail (lower than in other sectors) and never letting a good crisis go to waste.
— Liz Mair (@LizMair) April 6, 2020
Anyway, that's what this is about. And remember, Instacart is offering bonuses of $25 to shoppers (not the $5 erroneously reported) and Amazon is offering $17 hourly base pay/$34 hourly overtime to fulfillment center workers. No idea what Walmart and Target are doing…
— Liz Mair (@LizMair) April 6, 2020
Is that what Smalls’ agenda is, or is it a legitimate warning about Amazon’s practices? Or just revenge for having been canned? If it’s intended as a legitimate warning, then last week’s highly covered demonstration should have been sufficient. The impression today’s stunt leaves is that Smalls either has another agenda, or he’s just getting addicted to the attention.
Under normal circumstances, there’s nothing wrong with public demonstrations. In fact, they’re a good release valve for political passion, which can easily take other forms if bottled up. However, in the midst of a pandemic that is both highly contagious and killing thousands of people in New York City, now isn’t the time to stage repeated public stunts. Press releases and YouTube events would be a much better idea, and perhaps the NYPD might explain that to Smalls at some point.