For about a year, Chris Smalls has been standing near Amazon.co.uk The largest warehouse of Inc. in Staten Island, New York, is campaigning to bring the first union into the tech giant’s vast US operations. A former employee of the facility, Mr. Smalls hosted barbecues and small gatherings with supporters there, and spoke with employees on their way to work to promote the campaign.
Perseverance paid off, workers voted last week to form a union, surprising the country’s second-largest private employer. Mr. Smalls’ journey from obscure activist to successful labor activist shows how Amazon may have underestimated him – a senior executive once questioned his intelligence – and the growing momentum behind an effort of work which had previously proved fruitless. The trip also illustrates the challenges that will likely continue to make such organizing campaigns difficult.