A former Amazon employee who is leading a push to unionize a New York City warehouse of the online retailer was arrested along with two others Wednesday after authorities got a complaint about him trespassing at the facility, police said.
Christian Smalls faces charges of trespass, resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration, the New York Police Department said. He was given a desk appearance ticket and later released.
Workers at Amazon’s Staten Island facility are getting ready for a vote in late March on whether to unionize.
Police said Smalls refused to leave the site when officers asked and was taken into custody; two other men who police said tried to interfere were also taken into custody.
The two other men, both Amazon workers, were also facing obstructing governmental administration charges and were given desk appearance tickets.
Seth Goldstein, a lawyer for the group Amazon Labor Union that’s spearheading the unionization push, said Smalls was merely dropping off food for workers when the trespassing complaint was made.
“This is simply Amazon creating a situation, it’s a bad look,” he said.
In a statement, Amazon representative Kelly Nantel said Smalls “has repeatedly trespassed despite multiple warnings. Today, when police officers asked Mr. Smalls to leave, he instead chose to escalate the situation and the police made their own decision on how to respond.”
Smalls, 33, was fired from Amazon after he organized a walkout at the beginning of the pandemic over safety concerns; the company said he had put others at risk by violating distancing rules.
Amazon workers in a Bessemer, Alabama facility are also pushing to unionize. If either effort is successful, it would mark the first unionized Amazon facility in the U.S. The unionization battles have put a spotlight on Amazon and how it treats its workers. Pro-union warehouse workers have complained of long shifts and little time to take breaks. Amazon is the nation’s second largest private employer behind Walmart.