Amazon Labor Union takes its NLRB fight to Phoenix, Arizona
Local organizers hold up a banner facing the street while ALU organizers speak to the crowd behind them. | Courtesy of Duane Stilwell

PHOENIX—On the week of June 12th, the Amazon Labor Union came out to the National Labor Relations Board offices here as part of its campaign to force Amazon to recognize their union in Staten Island, N.Y. The ALU organizers who traveled to Arizona included President Chris Smalls, Vice-President Angelika Maldonado, Secretary Michelle Valentin-Nieves, and several rank-and-file organizers who were behind the historic labor victory.

Phoenix might seem like an unlikely battleground in the fight to organize the JFK8 warehouse in New York, especially when the two locations are 2,400 miles away from each other. But getting an NLRB hearing somewhere other than New York was an attempt by Amazon to try overturn the JFK8 win. The company likely hoped their objection could be heard in a jurisdiction that was less union-friendly.

In one of many legal filings that the trillion-dollar company submitted to muddy the waters of a clear victory, it made allegations against the NLRB District 29, which oversaw the union election in New York state.

Smalls called out Amazon for making baseless claims that the union vote was mishandled.

“Amazon is trying to object to our election results,” he said in Phoenix. “We beat them by over 500 ballots, 5%, and they’re claiming that not only did we cheat and threaten workers and whatever else they claim we did, they blamed the NLRB region 29 in Brookly, as well. This is the reason they moved this case out to Arizona.”

Department of Labor procedures dictated that the hearing for this particular objection by Amazon had to take place in a different district to determine whether District 29 made any errors. The NLRB’s District 28, with offices in Phoenix, was selected as the location for the hearing, despite the distance.

The ALU held rallies on Sunday June 12th at 2pm and Monday the 13th at 11am, both of which saw Phoenix Metro residents and local activists turn out to support them.

The first rally was held in the building, with ALU organizers bearing a banner reading, “UNION VICTORY AT STATEN ISLAND AMAZON.” The speech started with Smalls explaining the significance of this legal battle for all workers.

“We’re here to show workers that this decision affects everybody, even if you’re not organizing Amazon,” he explained. “The workers and people here that voted yes, we can’t even upstand that election result. Now, that shows you right there that this system is not working, right? So this is an important decision.”

Smalls ended his speech with a poignant reminder that the only people workers can rely on to look out for them are themselves:

“What we learned also throughout this campaign, is that we can’t rely on none of that. We cannot rely on these politicians; we can’t rely on celebrities. You know, there’s a lot of things circulating about who I be taking pictures with. I don’t give a damn about none of that. As you know, I’m here for y’all. I’m here with them. You know, everybody knows that’s been around me…. You realize I’m with the workers all day.”

The rally that took place the following morning did not start off as smoothly. Detectives from the Phoenix Police Department and building informed the crowd that they were trespassing on private property. Everyone was eventually forced to move out of the shade and into the hot Arizona sun. The ALU organizers and the crowd that was there to see them migrated to the street-facing front of the building in heat that would climb past 100 degrees that day.

Local organizers held up the banner facing the street while Smalls and other ALU organizers gather near the front of the building to speak to the gathered crowd.

“We’re here in Phoenix, Arizona, all the way from New York, all the way from Staten Island, representing the workers of JFK8 right now, letting them know that this decision today, or whenever this decision is made about this court hearing, affects everybody in the labor movement,” Smalls explained, “Not just ALU, but everybody in the labor movement.”

The speech went on to address how the current system of labor laws set up in the 1930s does not work for the working class today, the need for solidarity among workers, and the conditions that Amazon workers in Arizona are facing.

Chris Smalls and other ALU leaders address a crowd in front of the NLRB District 28 offices in Phoenix. | Courtesy of Rob Quarters

“If we get involved with the Arizona workers, which we are, we’ve got to walk out of these buildings,” Smalls said. “We shouldn’t be working in over 100+ degrees; that’s ridiculous. So we have to get the workers to that point where they’re militant enough to say, ‘You know what, we’re not going to work until they get some proper AC in this building.’”

Organizers passed out water to those present while the rally continued with Smalls answering questions from the crowd and ALU organizers leading everyone in chants.

In addition to community members and Phoenix Metro activists, two local politicians showed up on Monday. One was Katie Hobbs, who showed up late and left early with her entourage. The likely Democratic Party candidate to be Arizona’s next governor, she stood at the back of the crowd and hopped behind the banner for a quick photo op before leaving early.

Hobbs, who touts herself as a pro-worker candidate, was found to have violated labor laws when she fired one of her Black staffers, Talonya Adams, after Adams came to her with concerns of pay discrimination.

After the rally ended, ALU organizers talked with local activists to talk strategy. One was Laila Dalton, a lead organizer for a Scottsdale Starbucks who was fired for her union activity.

The NLRB hearing has been broadcast over Zoom. Amazon attempted to have it closed to the public, but the NLRB denied this request. The ALU made a point on both days to share this information, encouraging people to tune in and spread the word further to people who may not know the full extent of how Amazon has been abusing both its workers and the laws that are supposed to protect them.

Smalls has been regularly sharing the Zoom link for the hearing and encourages others to tune in to show support and solidarity.

Zoom link:


Check Chris Smalls’ Twitter account for hearing dates.


Christian Gunnar
Christian Gunnar

Christian Gunnar writes from Arizona.