Chris Smalls Calls for Union Reform and Young Worker Engagement

Chris Smalls, leader of the Amazon Labor Union, spoke at the Robert Tressell festival in Dublin, emphasizing the need for unions to connect with young workers and for legislative change. Smalls called for grassroots organization and criticized restrictions on union representation in the US and Ireland.

author-image
Nitish Verma
New Update
Chris Smalls Calls for Union Reform and Young Worker Engagement

Chris Smalls Calls for Union Reform and Young Worker Engagement

Chris Smalls, the leader of the successful unionization drive at Amazon's JFK8 depot in New York, spoke at the Robert Tressell festival in Dublin, emphasizing the need for trade unions to better connect with young workers and for legislative change to remove restrictions on union representation.

Smalls led the only successful unionization drive at an Amazon facility in the United States, with a majority vote in favor of union representation at JFK8 depot in Staten Island, New York in 2022. He criticized the lack of young people in the trade union movement, stating that they need to be invited in to build an "intergenerational, multicolored movement."

Why this matters: The labor movement's ability to adapt to changing workforce demographics and engage with young workers will have a significant impact on its long-term viability and effectiveness. As the workforce continues to shift, the union's ability to connect with and represent the interests of young workers will be crucial in advocating for fair labor practices and protecting workers' rights.

In his speech, Smalls called for legislative change in the United States and Ireland to remove restrictions on union representation. He criticized US President Joe Biden for failing to bring about such change during his first term. Smalls emphasized the need for grassroots organization and criticized "big labour" for not understanding this approach.

"We are still the only union voted for by American Amazon workers but we are being crushed," Smalls stated, highlighting the challenges faced by the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) despite their historic victory. He has faced criticism from fellow organizers for traveling too much, but Smalls believes it is necessary to "plant seeds internationally" to ensure the survival of the ALU.

Smalls' speech was part of the Robert Tressell festival, an event organized to celebrate the Irish-born author Robert Noonan and his book, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. The event also included addresses by President Michael D Higgins, former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, rail union leader Mick Lynch, and Dublin MEP Clare Daly.

Chris Smalls' call for union reform and young worker engagement comes at a critical time for the labor movement. As the Amazon Labor Union faces challenges in the wake of their historic victory, Smalls' message underscores the importance of grassroots organizing and the need for unions to adapt to the changing workforce demographics. His presence at the Robert Tressell festival alongside prominent political and labor figures highlights the growing attention on workers' rights and the fight for fair representation in the workplace.

Key Takeaways

  • Chris Smalls, Amazon Labor Union leader, emphasizes need for unions to connect with young workers.
  • Smalls calls for legislative change to remove restrictions on union representation in US and Ireland.
  • He criticizes "big labour" for not understanding grassroots organization approach.
  • Smalls' Amazon Labor Union faces challenges despite historic victory, citing need for international support.
  • Union reform and young worker engagement are crucial for labor movement's long-term viability.