NEW YORK, NY (April 13, 2022) - Josefa Velásquez of THE CITY wins the April Sidney Award for “Meet Christian Smalls and Derrick Palmer, the DIY Duo Behind the Amazon Labor Union’s Guerrilla Bid to Make History,” a profile of the two young Black men who led the first successful unionization drive in Amazon history at the JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island.
The profile, which was published before the union’s upset election victory earlier this month, chronicles the unconventional youth-oriented approach that Smalls and Palmer took to running the campaign for their independent Amazon Labor Union (ALU). The organizers connected to JFK8’s young workforce with a combination of tireless in-person outreach and effective use of social media to dramatize their struggle.
According to a leaked memo, Amazon execs sought to make Smalls “the face of the entire union/organizing movement,” and ironically, they got their wish.
After being fired and arrested for organizing, Smalls made a public bus stop the nerve center of his outreach, spending days chatting with JFK8 employees on their way to and from work. ALU proved its commitment to the well-being of workers with concrete actions, like installing a heat lamp at the bus stop and fighting to keep it running. Unlike Smalls, Palmer was not fired, so the two were able to organize on both the inside and outside.
“This story conveys the creativity, brilliance, and bravery behind the historic ALU victory,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein, “They showed that the union is the workers.”
Josefa Velásquez is a senior reporter at the non-profit news website THE CITY, where she covers inequality in the five boroughs. She had previously been covering New York politics for THE CITY at the state Capitol in Albany. A native of Chile, Velásquez has spent the bulk of her career focusing on politics and how it influences everyday life.
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