In February, Payday Report received much criticism for writing about union democracy debates within the Amazon Labor Union and their abandonment of organizing efforts within Kentucky At the time, we defended our work as being well sourced and important for dialogues on union democracy issues within the labor movement.
Now, major publications are citing Payday Report’s coverage of union democracy. Both the Detroit Free Press and USA Today Network highlighted Payday’s coverage of union democracy in a major feature. Now, Insider has highlighted Payday’s work in a heavily forwarded and indepth article entitled “A Rift, A Fistfight, and a Walkout: Chris Smalls and the Bad Blood within the Amazon labor Union”.
In late 2020, a group of 15 people involved in the Congress published an open letter criticizing Smalls’ failure to file for nonprofit status, establish financial transparency, and take steps to ensure the safety of protesters at a rally, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Insider.
“Smalls has created a culture of resistance to infrastructure and documentation,” they wrote. “As a result of this avoidance, we have no organization. We have nothing tangible to offer essential workers — no financial assistance, no substantial legal aid, no resources. We cannot even help our own struggling Amazon employee members.”
Smalls told them to stand behind him or leave.
“I don’t owe anyone anything,” Smalls texted dozens of people in the organization’s group chat, according to a transcript of the chat obtained by Insider. He added he was not “obligated to show proof to those who’ve been conspiring behind my back.”
“Those who I hope to have helped turned on me for what is really nonsense,” he wrote, telling people who disagreed with him to “just simply dismiss yourself.”
The signatories, who were mostly women, queer people, and people of color, some with extensive organizing experience, quietly left the organization, according to interviews with three of them. All three said they believe in Smalls’ mission and support the goals of the Amazon Labor Union, but worry about Smalls’ ability to lead.
“To see someone who I believe to be abusing their power, an emperor with no clothes, continue to gain traction was not only painful, but also to see the Amazon Labor Union, or the movement in general continue to grow, I’m like how do I speak to what I experienced without discrediting the entire movement?” said one of the organizers who criticized Smalls in 2020.