Amazon Responds to Union Rally at KCVG Facility, Discredits ALU President Chris Smalls

Amazon discredits Chris Smalls as a KCVG union organizer based on the reasons he was fired from the Amazon facility in New York, which he unionized.

Mar 20, 2023 at 12:14 pm
click to enlarge Amazon Labor Union president Chris Smalls speaks to a crowd of Amazon Air Hub workers and supporters as police officers stand by to keep the rally from advancing closer to the facility. - Photo: Aidan Mahoney
Photo: Aidan Mahoney
Amazon Labor Union president Chris Smalls speaks to a crowd of Amazon Air Hub workers and supporters as police officers stand by to keep the rally from advancing closer to the facility.

Amazon corporate has responded to the union rally held outside the KCVG Air Hub in Northern Kentucky on Saturday, March 18, saying the rally was mostly made up of non-KCVG workers.

Union organizing Air Hub workers and their supporters gathered streetside to raise awareness of the union effort at KCVG, Amazon’s largest Air Hub facility in the world, located just outside the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Rally participants flashed signs that read "UNION YES!" and "Unionize Amazon Everywhere” to passing cars and trucks, some honking in support, including at least three Amazon Prime delivery trucks.

In a statement emailed to CityBeat after the rally, Mary Kate Paradis, a public relations manager for Amazon, said the majority of the rally’s 75 attendees were outside organizers.

“Despite a very small gathering initiated and mostly attended by outside organizers, our employees at KCVG continued to do what they do every day, deliver for our customers. While we’re always listening and looking at ways to improve, we remain proud of the competitive pay, comprehensive benefits, and engaging, safe work experience we provide our team at KCVG,” Paradis said.
Air Hub employees started union efforts in November after upper management announced there would be no peak pay for the 2022 holiday rush, which is normally an extra $2 per hour. Union organizers are demanding a $30 hourly wage for all of the Air Hub's 4,000 employees, as well as 180 hours of paid time off and union representation at disciplinary hearings. Employees currently make an average of $19 per hour, and would need to work at the company for six years or more to receive 120 hours of annual paid vacation time, or 15 days.

Saturday’s rally was planned to take place in the facility's parking lot, but site security blocked off the entrance near Day One Drive to anyone who was not an Air Hub worker.
click to enlarge Workers and supporters of Amazon's Air Hub facility in Northern Kentucky rally for support of a growing union effort at the facility. - Photo: Aidan Mahoney
Photo: Aidan Mahoney
Workers and supporters of Amazon's Air Hub facility in Northern Kentucky rally for support of a growing union effort at the facility.

Paradis said the site was blocked off to organizers as a safety measure, and that the facility parking lot is never open to non-credentialed visitors.

“Our priority is to ensure the safety and privacy of our employees. As always, non-credentialed employees, community members and media must follow our standard process which prohibits the public from entering private property,” Paradis said.

One of the rally’s speakers was Chris Smalls, the national Amazon Labor Union president and former Amazon warehouse worker who famously helped unionize the company’s Staten Island facility. Organizers told CityBeat that Smalls got past the security checkpoint at the Air Hub on Saturday to help run a union sign-up table outside the facility’s doors, but Amazon's site security asked Smalls and other organizers to leave the facility due to “safety and privacy” concerns.

Amazon discredits Smalls as a union organizer based on the circumstances surrounding his termination with the Amazon facility in New York.

“Mr. Smalls, a former employee at a fulfilment center in Staten Island, New York, was terminated for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of his employment. Mr. Smalls received multiple warnings for violating COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, and despite instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite putting the teams at risk,” Paradis said. “Smalls has no connection with KCVG and despite informing him that he was not permitted on our property, he disregarded the safety and privacy of our employees and the security protocols at our site.”

The day before the rally, Amazon sent all KCVG Air Hub employees a text message that warned employees to protect their “personal information” from union organizers. “It’s important to remember you have no obligation to speak to any person or group, including a union organizer,” the company said in a statement linked in the text message.

Saturday marked the start of KCVG’s union card authorization drive. If enough KCVG employees sign a union authorization card, the next step would be an election held by the National Labor Relations Board where KCVG workers could vote to formally unionize. A win would mean the company would be required to engage in good-faith talks about the union’s demands, though Amazon could try to fight a win in court.


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