“He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky wrote in notes from a meeting.
The memo, obtained by Vice News, detailed the efforts the company made to quash the credibility of Chris Smalls, the employee who helped organize a demonstration to protest the company’s actions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Smalls ― an Amazon employee for five years― said the company did not enact adequate measures to protect workers at its facility in Staten Island, New York.
He was later fired.
“Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe,” Smalls said in a statement obtained by HuffPost earlier this week. “I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.”
In his notes from a meeting on the matter, Zapolsky wrote of efforts to convince the public that what Smalls did was “immoral.”
“We should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer’s conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal, in detail, and only then follow with our usual talking points about worker safety,” Zapolsky wrote. “Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”
In his response to questions from Vice News, Zapolsky said he let his emotions take over.
“I was frustrated and upset that an Amazon employee would endanger the health and safety of other Amazonians by repeatedly returning to the premises after having been warned to quarantine himself after exposure to virus Covid-19,” the disease caused by the coronavirus, Zapolsky told the outlet. “I let my emotions draft my words and get the better of me.”
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