After Covering Up Domestic Assault for a Year, Amazon Labor Union Leader Resigns

Amazon labor Union Leader Vice President Derrick Palmer (left) and Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls (right) are close allies. For more than a year, Smalls resisted calls to remove Palmer after he admitted on tape to choking his girlfriend.

After publishing our story on Monday, Amazon Labor Union emailed Payday Report on Thursday to say that Amazon Vice President Derrick Palmer resigned effective immediately.

Palmer’s resignation comes after Insider reported that Palmer confessed on tape to the police that he choked his girlfriend in May of 2022. Despite Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls knowing for more than a year about the incident and pending criminal charges against Palmer, Smalls took no action and publicly defended his close friend Palmer.

Smalls even publicly resisted calls for Palmer to resign, telling Insider last week, “Listen I’m so sick of your racism stop contacting me about nonsense. Stop attacking Black leaders because you have nothing better to write about for Christ sake and leave me the fuck alone.”

However, after Payday Report published a story yesterday that verified Insider’s reporting on the cover-up of sexual misconduct within the union, the ALU announced that Palmer would be resigning as Vice President of the union and that ALU’s Recording Secretary Michelle Valentin-Neves would be taking over in his position.

“Amazon Labor Union Vice President Derrick Palmer has submitted his resignation as vice president of ALU, effective immediately, citing personal issues unrelated to the union,” the union said in a statement emailed to Payday Report on Tuesday.

The union declined to say whether Smalls or the union would conduct an internal investigation into why Smalls defended his close friend for more than a year. In May of 2022, Palmer confessed to the police that he choked his ex-girlfriend, which was verified in photographs of wounds on his ex-girlfriend’s neck, and is currently standing trial on criminal charges.

“Dear Brothers & Sisters, Amazon Labor Union, Vice President Derrick Palmer has submitted his resignation as Vice President of ALU effective immediately. Due to the matter being before the court, the Amazon Labor Union has no comment at this time,” Smalls said in an email sent to union members.

When reached for comment about whether the union would conduct an investigation into why Smalls allowed Palmer to stay in a leadership position for more than a year, the union declined to comment. The incident is part of a troubling pattern of the Amazon Labor Union losing union elections and alienating union members with divisive top-down tactics.

Earlier this year, Payday reported on the dysfunctionality and lack of union democracy within the Amazon Labor Union that had led to several high-profile lopsided defeats and the abandonment of some organizing drives. The union currently lacks any constitution. Even more troubling, Amazon Labor Union (ALU) president Chris Smalls has said that he will wait three years before even holding union leadership elections as the union loses its momentum and suffers defeat after defeat. 

Small’s refusal to publicly comment on why he refused to take action is part of a troubling trend of young, high-profile labor leaders refusing to combat sexual misconduct in their unions. Last year, Payday Report exposed how the nation’s largest journalist union, the NewsGuild, and its president Jon Schleuss refused to fulfill a promise to conduct an independent investigation into the cover-up of sexual misconduct within the union’s leadership. 

Similarly, Payday Report has exposed that SEIU President Mary Kay Henry has refused to conduct an independent investigation into the sexual misconduct within her union despite numerous lawsuits and years of calls for the union to do. 

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About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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