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Amazon lawyer, at Jeff Bezos-attended meeting, portrays fired worker as ‘not smart or articulate’

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An Amazon exec tried to denigrate a former employee at its Staten Island fulfillment center after the worker was fired, according to a report.

At a meeting that was attended by CEO Jeff Bezos and other top executives at the tech giant, Amazon SVP and General Counsel David Zapolsky reportedly described Christian Smalls as “not smart or articulate,” adding the company should portray Smalls’ actions in a negative light.

“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,” Zapolsky wrote in notes from the meeting, according to Vice, which first reported the news.


In this Aug. 3, 2017, file photo, workers prepare to move products at an Amazon fulfillment center in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Zapolsky’s notes continued: “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.”

Fox News has reached out to Amazon with a request for comment. Smalls has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

The report comes as Amazon is feeling increased pressure from lawmakers, as well as its own employees, for alleged lax working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon spokesman Jay Carney, a former White House press secretary for President Obama, hit back at Sen. Bernie Sanders I-Vt., on Wednesday after he tweeted that Amazon’s firing of Smalls was “immoral.” Democratic presidential candidate Sanders has been a vocal critic of Amazon.

Earlier this week, Smalls, a former worker at the Staten Island fulfillment center, demanded that the Jeff Bezos-led company close its Staten Island fulfillment center for a deep cleaning after a worker tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-March.

Smalls, along with allegedly more than 100 workers (a number Amazon disputes), walked off the job at about 12:30 p.m. Monday, the New York Post reported.

After the news of Smalls’ termination, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered an investigation into the incident.

New York Attorney General Letitia James also issued a statement, saying “it is disgraceful” Smalls was terminated after he “bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues.”

Amazon disputed Smalls was fired for standing up for his fellow workers, telling Fox News it terminated him because he violated several terms of his employment.

“Mr. Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk,” a spokesman said earlier this week. “He was also found to have had close contact with a diagnosed associate with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we’re taking at sites around the world. Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk. This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues.”


In March, a group of four U.S. senators, including Sanders and Cory Booker, D-N.J., wrote a letter to Bezos expressing their concern about the health and safety of Amazon warehouse workers.

The Washington Post, which is also owned by Bezos, reported that Amazon workers at 10 warehouses around the country have tested positive for COVID-19.

On March 11, Amazon announced it would give all employees diagnosed with COVID-19 – and those placed into quarantine – up to two-weeks pay.

A source familiar with Amazon noted the company has boosted its pay at the Staten Island fulfillment center, as well as its other fulfillment centers, giving workers an additional $2 per hour on top of the regular wages at the facility, which range between $17.50 and $23 an hour. They also receive double time for overtime and the company recently instituted daily temperature screenings at the fulfillment center, which houses some 2,500 employees.

As of Friday morning, more than 1 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 245,00 of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.


Fox News’ Vicki Choi, Gillian Turner and Lissa Kaplan contributed to this story.


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