Leaked Amazon Memo Shows Plan to Smear Fired Black Whistleblower: ‘He’s Not Smart or Articulate’
VICE News obtained an internal Amazon memo that shows how Amazon executives planned to smear a black warehouse manager, Chris Smalls, who organized a strike and blew the whistle on Amazon allegedly downplaying of death numbers in its Staten Island, New York Warehouse on April 30.
Smalls told his side of the story to MSNBC host Chris Hayes on April 1, and was very articulate.
Back at Amazon, the racially-charged smear memo was written by Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky:
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.
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.
Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.
The memo was reportedly written during a high level meeting that was attended by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon SVP of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney, who used to be the press secretary for the Obama administration.
Amazon claimed Smalls was fired for allegedly violating an Amazon 14-day quarantine after coming into contact with an employee who tested positive for the coronavirus.
However, Smalls told Fortune that he was only told about the quarantine policy on the same day that he was fired:
I violated a quarantine policy that nobody has seen. Where is this quarantine policy? . . . When was this implemented? We don’t know this stuff . . . Their policies are so vague and flawed that we don’t even know what the policies are. When did they implement it? I don’t know, I have no clue.
Zapolsky told VICE News that his “comments were personal and emotional” and, then he smeared Smalls again:
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. I let my emotions draft my words and get the better of me.