Amazon Labor Union Leader Admitted to “Choking” Ex-Girlfriend 

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.

UPDATE: 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.  

Intially, Smalls resisted calls for Palmer to resign telling Insider, “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.”

“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 released ALU’s Recording Secretary Michelle Valentin-Nieves, has been unanimously elected by ALU Executive Board members meeting on Monday, May 8 to serve as the union’s vice president. Claudia Ashterman has been appointed to serve as the Acting Recording Secretary.”

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. 

At the time, Payday received much criticism for our reporting on the dysfunctionality and union democracy within the union. 

For months, many questioned our reporting and even our motives, but since then we have been vindicated.  Major outlets such as the New York Times have come out with in-depth reporting that confirms and expands upon much of Payday’s reporting. 

Now, a new expose by Insider reveals that Amazon Labor Union vice president Derrick Palmer confessed to the police on tape to choking his ex-girlfriend and is currently facing criminal charges for it.  Not only did Palmer admit to choking his ex-girlfriend, but photographs of her neck obtained by police showed clear physical signs of choking. 

Despite Palmer’s video-taped confession of choking his ex-girlfriend and physical evidence of injury backing up the confession, Amazon Labor Union Chris Smalls was initially refused to remove his close ally as Vice President of the Amazon Labor Union or even publicly address the situation. 

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

Without a union constitution and no elections, union members have no way to change course. Meanwhile, the Amazon Labor Union, under Chris Smalls, suffers embarrassing defeat after defeat. 

For nearly a decade, Payday Report has been one of the few outlets to cover sexual assault within the labor movement. I’ve felt passionate because I’ve seen how the culture within unions can turn toxic when leadership permits sexual misconduct to happen. (See our 2020 piece “Breaking the Code of Silence on Sexual Misconduct within the Labor Movement”)

When unions permit sexual misconduct to persist in their leadership, they decay as an organization and they often do as we have seen here in Pittsburgh. At the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, union leaders violently retaliated against a sexual misconduct whistleblower and refused to clean up their act. The result is that their union is currently losing an 8-month strike where 2/3rd of the union has either crossed the picket line or found work elsewhere. 

Allowing union leaders, who have committed sexual misconduct, to cling to power almost always results in unions losing in the workplace. 

Many left-leaning so-called “labor journalists” have looked the other way and even helped to cover up abuse because they depend on union leaders to promote their work.

However, Payday Report has continued to report on sexual misconduct because it’s just simply wrong. We have been able to do this because our readers have always gotten our back in covering tough stories of sexual misconduct, union democracy, and accountability within the labor movement. 

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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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