“The types of things Amazon is doing… Breaking the law, intimidation… These are real things that traumatize workers in this country,” Smalls said in his opening statement. “We want to feel that we have protections. We want to feel that the government is allowing us to use our constitutional rights to organize.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) defended Amazon, accusing Senator Sanders of unfairly targeting the company.
“You’re singling out a single company because of your political agenda to socialize this country,” Senator Graham said. “Every time I turn around, you’re having a hearing about [how] anybody who makes money is bad.”
Graham outlined that the NLRB has a process in place for workers to file complaints if they feel they are being treated unfairly, saying that he disagreed with a Senate hearing taking place at all.
“You can have oversight hearings all you like, but you’ve determined Amazon is a piece of crap company. That’s your political bias,” Graham told Sanders. “[Amazon is] subject to laws in the United States, they shouldn’t be subjected to this.”
In response, Smalls directed his opening statement to Senator Graham.
“I think that it’s in your best interest to realize that it’s not a left or right thing. It’s not a Democrat or Republican thing. It’s a workers’ issue,” Small told the senator. “We are the ones that are suffering in the corporations that you’re talking about, […] in the warehouses that you’re talking about. So that’s the reason why I think I was invited today to speak on that behalf, and you should listen, because we do represent your constituents as well.”
He continued, “The people are the ones that make these corporations go, it’s not the other way around.”
At Senator Sanders’ urging, Smalls explained the working conditions of the now-unionizing fulfillment center where he used to work. He said that workers commuted from all boroughs of New York, as well as parts of New Jersey, which meant that they would commute for about two and a half hours each way, work a 10- to 12-hour shift, and receive minimal break time. He testified that hundreds of union busters came in from across the country, as well as from overseas. These representatives would host “captive audience” anti-union meetings every 20 minutes with groups of 50 to 60 workers. Smalls said that these captive audience presentations happened four times per week.
“Imagine being a new hire at Amazon. Your second day, you don’t even know your job assignment, and the first thing they do is march you into an anti-union propaganda class,” Smalls said. He added that the facility was plastered with anti-union signs, telling workers to vote no to unionization and emphasizing that unions require a dues expense on the workers’ part.