On Thursday Vice got ahold of a memo from a meeting of Amazon's top executives detailing their strategy "on the coronavirus situation," as well as their media response to employee-led protests of working conditions.
As the virus spreads throughout the company, the execs in the meeting chose to focus on ways to smear Chris Smalls, who was fired after he organized a demonstration at a Staten Island facility where several employees had tested positive for the virus.
In the memo, Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky said Smalls was "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."
They also planned to use him as "the face of the entire union/organizing movement," and to make themselves look good for strategically donating stores of face masks.
Amazon said they fired Smalls on Monday because his demonstration violated a 14-day quarantine the company had imposed on him after he'd come in contact with a COVID-positive employee. When progressive politicians jumped on the story later in the week, Amazon bosses fired off PR-approved hits on Twitter.
. @SenSanders, I’m confused. Thought you wanted us to protect our workers? Mr. Smalls purposely violated social distancing rules, repeatedly, & was put on Paid 14-day quarantine for COVID exposure. 3/30 he returned to the site. Knowingly putting our team at risk is unacceptable. https://t.co/WR49t6Qkij
— Jay Carney (@JayCarney) April 1, 2020
You have been misinformed again Sen. Sanders. Mr. Smalls purposely violated social distancing rules multiple times and on 3/28 was put on Paid 14-days of quarantine due to COVID exposure. 3/30 he returned to the site. Knowingly putting our team at risk is unacceptable. https://t.co/pRDW4ztrpq
— Dave Clark (@davehclark) April 1, 2020
Smalls said he wasn't the only person who'd come in contact with that person, and claims he was "singled out after pleading with management to sanitize the warehouse and be more transparent about the number of workers who were sick," according to Vice.
Zapolsky told Vice he let his "emotions draft my words and get the better of me." Maybe he can try (and fail) to excuse the dog-whistling in the memo as an emotionally driven mistake, but his emotions didn’t draft the strategy he was contemplating with the senior bosses of Amazon to use Smalls as anti-union PR. And his emotions didn't forward the memo "widely" to the rest of the company. Next time Amazon's top minds announce some "plan" to do something vaguely philanthropic—like buy a bunch of masks and hand them out to cops—remember the moment they tried to crush an employee for ringing the alarm about unsafe working conditions during a fucking pandemic, and remind yourself that their only motivation is to achieve eternal growth so that Jeff Bezos can go into space sometimes.
Anyhow, it will not shock you to learn that Zapolsky co-hosted a fundraiser at his Queen Anne home for Joe Biden back in October, just weeks after Amazon tried to buy the Seattle City Council elections. Zapolsky and other members of the company's S Club 7 donated to the Chamber/People for Seattle slate, most of whom, thankfully, lost badly in November. Could you imagine Mark Soloman calling on the Governor to cancel rent payments, or Egan Orion pushing for payroll tax on big business to pay for the COVID response?