Amazon communications chief Jay Carney, a former press secretary for President Barack Obama, was slammed on Twitter for attending a Black Lives Matter rally in Washington, D.C. Carney was among those who publicly criticized Chris Smalls, the black employee who organized a walkout at Amazon's Staten Island, New York facility to protest Amazon's lack of coronavirus safety measures at the facility. Smalls was fired after the walkout, and Carney once accused him of "purposely" violating coronavirus guidelines at the facility.
On Saturday, Carney shared a photo of himself at the Black Lives Matter rally in Washington, complete with a face mask. He wore a Black Lives Matter shirt. "Stopped by a certain church today," he wrote in the caption, referring to St. John's Episcopal Church. The tweet was instantly met with people reminding him of Amazon's controversies, particularly the situation with Smalls.
Smalls worked as a management assistant at the Staten Island facility until he was fired in late March. He spearheaded a walkout joined by at least 50 people, who complained about a lack of protection from the novel coronavirus at the facility. After he was fired, Smalls said Amazon would rather fire an employee "than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe" and was "outraged and disappointed" by the company. "As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe," Smalls said in a statement to CNBC.
Jay Carney works for Amazon, who fired and tried to smear a Black Amazon employee who was trying to organize for safer working conditions during the global coronavirus pandemic.
Carney was part of that smear effort. https://t.co/iV3GK3MSW6— Bhavik Lathia (@bhaviklathia) June 6, 2020
Amazon confirmed Smalls was fired but insisted he was fired after receiving "multiple warnings" for violating social distancing guidelines. The Internet retail giant said he also refused to quarantine himself after he came in contact with an employee who tested positive for coronavirus. Amazon also said only 15 people walked out of the facility, not 50. "The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day," Amazon said.
wow awesome man by the way you hear about this??? pic.twitter.com/tn7r6Ke1KP— jordan (@JordanUhl) June 6, 2020
When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders voiced support for Smalls, Carney lashed out on Twitter, repeating many of the same points Amazon made in its official response. "Thought you wanted us to protect our workers?" Carney wrote to Sanders. "Mr. Smalls purposely violated social distancing rules, repeatedly, & was put on Paid 14-day quarantine for COVID exposure. 3/30 he returned to the site. Knowingly putting our team at risk is unacceptable."
Really? Your company fired a Black man two months ago for organizing to get protections for COVID, sells racist facial recognition software to police departments and is the largest advertiser left on Breitbart, which featured a Black Crime tag. You don’t get to use that hashtag.— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) June 7, 2020
On April 2, Vice published excerpts from an Amazon memo on their PR strategy for handling Smalls. At one point, Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky wrote that Smalls is "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."
In response to the note leak, Dave Clark, Amazon SVP of global operations, issued another statement, defending Smalls' firing. "This is not about any one individual," he wrote. "When anyone on our team at any level purposely puts the health of others at risk, we will take swift, decisive action without concern about external reaction. We did not, and have not ever, terminated an associate for speaking out on their working conditions, but we will act swiftly with individuals who purposely put others at risk."
Sit this one out Jay pic.twitter.com/YTgt0NEFjl— The ACAB Appreciator 🌴 (@frogbaby236) June 6, 2020