An Amazonian Bone to Pick

Whenever my mother looked me in my eyes and started her conversation with, “I have a bone to pick…” I knew she was upset about something or someone.  Or, I might have done or said something she did not approve of, I was often the smart-ass spoiled daughter.  What was bottled up inside my mother that she did not speak on at the time had exploded, and a bone was about to be picked. 

I find that lately people of all ages are picking bones, especially given this current infested administration and lack of competent, educated and compassionate leadership.  People are plain fed up and they are speaking on what they believe is unfair treatment and a lack of consideration by some of their fellow human beings. 

This brings me to a young father of three who spoke out and lead a charge recently over Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his lack of compassion and responsibility to protect his employees during the COVID-19 virus.   I have been an Amazon customer for about fifteen years.  I am currently employed by Amazon as an Amazon Prime Shopper at Wholefoods Market – first in San Francisco, my hometown, and currently in Los Angeles, where I now reside.  As a customer I have no serious complaints about Amazon.  As an employee I have, however, a few bones myself to pick, although, I have only spoken out to fellow co-workers. 

My Skype chat with Chris Smalls.

In February 2019 I resigned from a full-time job, was heavy in debt. and I was about to lose my apartment after being there for 17 years;  I was in pain from having suffered familial loses and euthanizing both my 17 year-old cats in the last three years.  But, it was burying my mother in 2016 that triggered the unrelenting, unfair cinder block shroud of grief that had caused me to punish myself for living.  By 2019 I had bones to pick, with God.  

My long-time friend, a Los Angeles native who is employed with Amazon in the Los Angeles warehouse suggested I apply online with Amazon.  “Don’t be dumb, you have to work, you have to eat.  Just go online, they will hire you right away,” my friend said.  I applied, got the job as a shopper and after the orientation and drug test I began working in April 2019. 

Jeff Bezos acquired Wholefoods and placed shoppers at Wholefoods supermarkets, where Instacart once stood.  A shopper picks groceries for Amazon Prime customers at Wholefoods, bags the groceries and “stages” them on shelves and in refrigerators for independent drivers to pick up for delivery.  I actually adore being a shopper, the best part is meeting new people, many of whom had their own life stories to share and maybe even a few bones to pick.  Plus, the job is completely cardiovascular, walking for four and a half hours every half shift, sometimes two shifts.  By the end of the day I was exhausted but fulfilled, I had a job where I felt productive, important and hopeful. There were issues like how shoppers have to get their shifts on a first come, first serve basis and other things, but I let all that go for the simple fact that I was able to feed myself and get back on my feet.  Fast forward to COVID-19 virus that is crippling the world.

My friend, the Amazon warehouse employee, has recently lost a co-worker to the COVI-19 virus.  He has not been to work for weeks and is not receiving stay-home pay.  Many other Amazon employees are at risk, including myself, I commute to and from work, I cannot afford not to work. 

Currently there is so much online about Chris and what he is trying to accomplish, all you have to do is google him to find many articles about his fight with Jeff Bezos to protect his employees during this troubling time.  There are also articles about Amazon being against Chris and trying to darken his name.  But, there are also noted people who support Chris’ efforts including Us Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Bernie Saunders, Alexa (yes, the voice of) and many others.  I am a playwright and creative writer, not a journalist, but I wanted to get to know a little about the determined and compassionate young man and why he felt the need to speak out. 

Chris Smalls is the eldest of three boys single-handedly raised by their strong black mother.  Born in Passaic, New Jersey and raised in Hackensack, New Jersey, I asked Chris what he wanted to be as a child.  Chris stated that he had always wanted to play basketball, (Chris stands six foot, one inch tall).  He also wanted to be a rapper, The Notorious B.I.G. (Chris Wallace) is one of his favorites. 

Chris began with Amazon in 2015 as a Tier 1 picker in the New Jersey Amazon warehouse then he transferred to the Connecticut warehouse and then Staten Island warehouse.  Chris was impressed that one of his co-workers, a black male, was promoted from Tier 1 position.  After 7 months of very hard work and determination Chris, who was married at the time with a growing family, was promoted to manager with a full staff.  Chris’ pay started at $12.75 per hour, $12 was minimum wage in NYC at the time.  By the time he made manager his wage went up to $18 per hour which helped him to support his family.  Chris “opened” three buildings starting in New Jersey, then Connecticut and finally Staten Island.  For Chris being manager of a hugely successful company like Amazon was what the American dream was all about.

What struck me about Chris’ determination to fight Amazon “big wigs” during the virus situation is that he mentioned he always felt he was a leader, he always knew he was, not that he wanted to be, but he felt he was meant to be a leader especially when it came to leading people toward a positive outcome.  He claimed he got his encouragement from his mother.

When the COVI-19 virus took over the world Chris noticed measures were not taken to protect Amazon employees, there was no testing or proper protection, therefore, sick employees were working at facilities, at warehouses or as shoppers at Wholefoods Markets and risking contaminating their peers and customers.   Amazon offered no stay home pay.  Chris told me he was approached by many Amazon employees from all over the world including Germany, Tokyo, Australia, Canada and Sweden who requested paid time off and retro back pay for the month of March.  They have begged him to continue to speak and have praised him for his efforts. 

Where I work many of us Amazon employees wonder if this virus is so deadly, and from many accounts it is, why are Amazon employees sent to work?  Where are the virus tests given for employees?  Why work if we are not sure if we have the virus?  We still have no concrete idea where the virus came from and how it is transmitted.  Why isn’t everyone tested?  These are questions we Amazon co-workers share with each other but not aloud.  Not the case with Chris Smalls. 

It is my hope Chris’ fervor and altruistic drive will not only gather more hard working Amazon employees to come together in solidarity to make sure we are treated fairly and protected in order to help Amazon maintain its thriving company.  Before we signed off, I asked Chris, “Chris, what do you consider a patriot to be?”  He replied that a patriot is chosen by the people for what that patriot does on behalf of people.  

Until then, here’s to Christian Smalls, a true patriot and American hero, an Amazonian bone picker who stepped up, stood out to lead the charge during the COVID-19 crisis to help raise the voices of Amazon warehouse and shopper employees all over the world for employee protection! Thank you, Chris!  Keep moving forward, sir!

Please see the video trailer for a new film featuring Chris Smalls. HERE.

Social network links for Chris Smalls:

Chris Smalls Productions