Who is Christian Smalls?
Christian Smalls is a former Amazon employee who has filed a class-action discrimination lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York, against the e-commerce giant on Thursday, alleging that the company failed to provide personal protective equipment to its workforce and subjected a group of African American and Hispanic workers to inferior working conditions compared to its mostly white managers.
Smalls started working at Amazon’s JFK8 State Island facility in 2015 and was promoted to a mid-level management position the following year, according to the suit.
Why was Christian Smalls fired?
According to the complaint, Christian Smalls brought a group of non-White workers to meet with management about working conditions after one of his colleagues tested positive for the coronavirus, but that management “repelled the workers…and did not demonstrate concern for the group’s health/welfare.”
He noted that after arranging to meet again with a group that included White workers, management “appeared far more receptive to the group’s health and safety-related concerns.”
In addition, Smalls claimed that management was ignoring guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ As a result, Smalls organized a walkout on March 30 in which approximately 60 demanded that Amazon close down the building until it could be deeply cleaned and sanitized.
He was later fired after Amazon said he violated the terms of a coronavirus quarantine.
What Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski says
Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski said in a statement Thursday that the company’s focus on customers is “central to our work in diversity and inclusion.”
“Diverse teams help us think bigger, and differently, about the products and services that we build for our customers and the day-to-day nature of our workplace,” Levandowski said.
Smalls was terminated for putting the health and safety of others at risk, she said.
Christian Smalls sues Amazon
Smalls has filed in US district court in the Eastern District of New York against Amazon that calls for more protection for workers who continue to handle packages in the company’s facilities amid the pandemic.
Today I filed a Class Action lawsuit in the state of NY on behalf of all @Amazon employees and all essential workers that was unprotected all across the world during this pandemic. as I said in the beginning it’s not Amazon vs Chris Smalls it’s Amazon vs the People @JeffBezos
— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) November 12, 2020
The suit marks a high-profile attack against Amazon for its safety practices in the early months of the pandemic when a surge in consumer demand for e-commerce put additional strain on the company’s logistics network. Amazon has said it has provided more hand sanitizer and required social distancing at its facilities.
But even as the policies were rolling out, workers themselves were saying it was not enough.
Smalls is not the only Amazon worker to complain about safe working conditions. Amazon employees nationwide have staged protests and written petitions.
Christian Smalls GoFundME page
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Smalls that has raised $44,220 out of the $50,000 goal.
The page stated: “Chris Smalls, a management assistant at the facility, known as JFK8, said he was fired Monday afternoon following the strike. Smalls and other employees walked out to call attention to the lack of protections for warehouse workers. The workers are also urging Amazon to close the facility after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus last week.”