Earlier this year, Payday reported on the dysfunctionality and lack of union democracy within the Amazon Labor Union that had led to several high-profile lopsided defeats and the abandonment of some organizing drives. The union currently lacks any constitution. Even more troubling, Amazon Labor Union (ALU) president Chris Smalls has said that he will wait three years before even holding union leadership elections as the union loses its momentum and suffers defeat after defeat.
At the time, Payday received much criticism for our reporting on the dysfunctionality and union democracy within the union.
One union PR consultant, who was employed by over a dozen unions including ALU, threatened that if Payday continued to provide critical coverage of union democracy issues within the Amazon Labor Union that PR consultant would blacklist Payday from getting interviews with other union leaders that he represented. (Fortunately, Payday is often far more interested in speaking to rank-and-file union members than union bureaucrats interested in this kind of blackmail for simply telling the truth).
For months, many questioned our reporting and even our motives, but since then we have been vindicated. Major outlets such as the New York Times have come out with indepth reporting that confirms and expands upon much of Payday’s reporting.
Now, a new expose by Insider reveals that Amazon Labor Union vice president Derrick Palmer admitted on tape to choking his ex-girlfriend and is currently facing criminal charges for it. Not only did Palmer admit to choking his ex-girlfriend, but photographs of her neck obtained by police showed clear physical signs of choking.
Despite Palmer’s video-taped confession of choking his ex-girlfriend and physical evidence of injury backing up the confession, Amazon Labor Union Chris Smalls has refused to remove his close ally as Vice President of the Amazon Labor Union or even publicly address the situation.
Without a union constitution and no elections, union members have no way to change course. Meanwhile, the Amazon Labor Union, under Chris Smalls, suffers embarrassing defeat after defeat.
For nearly a decade, Payday Report has been one of the few outlets to cover sexual assault within the labor movement. I’ve felt passionate because I’ve seen how the culture within unions can turn toxic when leadership permits sexual misconduct to happen. (See our 2020 piece “Breaking the Code of Silence on Sexual Misconduct within the Labor Movement”)
When unions permit sexual misconduct to persist in their leadership, they decay as an organization and they often do as we have seen here in Pittsburgh. At the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, union leaders violently retaliated against a sexual misconduct whistleblower and refused to clean up their act. The result is that their union is currently losing an 8-month strike where 2/3rd of the union has either crossed the picket line or found work elsewhere.
Allowing union leaders, who have committed sexual misconduct, to cling to power almost always results in unions losing in the workplace.
Many left-leaning so-called “labor journalists” have looked the other way and even helped to cover up abuse because they depend on union leaders to promote their work.
However, Payday Report has continued to report on sexual misconduct because it’s just simply wrong. We have been able to do this because our readers have always gotten our back in covering tough stories of sexual misconduct, union democracy, and accountability within the labor movement.
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