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Amazon Worker and Union Organizer Arrested By NYPD After Mysterious "Protesters" Complaint
The NYPD denied arresting Brett Daniels on November 15; video shows otherwise: They "handcuffed me, used extreme physical force, put me in a holding cell for several hours" Daniels tells Status Coup
On the same week that Amazon began holding mandatory daily union-busting sessions at its massive warehouse in Staten Island New York, a worker and union-drive organizer was arrested while performing protected union activity outside the warehouse.
On November 15th, Brett Daniels, a Staten Island worker and member of the Amazon Labor Union [ALU], the group of Amazon workers who have been organizing to form a union at the Staten Island warehouse since April, was sitting with Christian Smalls, the ex-Amazon worker fired in 2020 for organizing workers to demand safer conditions at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, inside a blue tent.
Inside the tent, which has served as the ALU’s unofficial union drive headquarters for months, was a small contained fire pit for the union organizers to keep warm.
Daniels told Status Coup he and Smalls were doing their typical union organizing, handing out free food and books “for the people, for the workers.” As they were conducting normal union campaign activity, NYPD officer Nicholas Rosado approached them with several other officers.
“They [NYPD officers] showed us the text that said four to five protesters outside Amazon and said Chris Smalls was there,” Daniels said, adding that he was unsure who contacted the police making false claims that their union organizing was instead an unsanctioned protest.
“The police lieutenant showed me his phone and the text said ‘Chris Smalls, protesting—four to five people,’” Smalls recounted to Status Coup, emphasizing that they were just two people, not four, and both he and Daniels told officers they were not protesting but engaging in protected union activity.
But, according to the Smalls and Daniels, the officers disregarded this, telling them they could not have their blue tent up or have an open flame on public property. The order was odd considering NYPD officers had passed the blue union tent many times since the union drive launched in April—yet never demanded organizers take it down.
“We explained that we are within our rights to organize here on public property and that we meet the exemptions to the code regarding the fire and tent per New York City law,” Daniels told Status Coup. But with the officers still demanding the fire be put out and that the tent come down, Smalls and Daniels said they followed the officers instructions.
As they were letting the fire die down (they didn’t have water to put it out) and bringing the tent down, officers began asking for their IDs.
“We’re already complying,” a frustrated Daniels responded to the officers, refusing to provide his ID. He was ultimately handcuffed and brought to NYPD’s 121st precinct in Staten Island.
VIDEO of the arrest below:
Daniels and Smalls were issued two summonses; one for having an open flame on public property and the other for having movable property (the tent). Smalls, who is higher profile due to New York Attorney General Leticia James’ lawsuit against Amazon in part for illegally firing him, was not handcuffed or brought down to the police precinct with Daniels.
One of the summonses was dismissed when Smalls and Daniels went to court on December 3rd. The second was not listed when Daniels looked it up online.
“There was no case to be found under that number and said zero balance due,” Daniels told Status Coup. An NYPD spokesperson told Status Coup “neither individual was arrested, both individuals were issued summonses.”
Daniels was shocked to hear the NYPD’s denial of arresting him.
“It sounds like a funny coincidence that they took me away from organizing, handcuffed me, used extreme physical force, put me in a holding cell for several hours, yet the NYPD said they didn’t arrest me,” Daniels told Status Coup.
The rough treatment and handcuff left a mark on Daniels wrist.
Smalls noted that the NYPD’s sudden confrontation with union organizers over their tent coincided with Amazon launching daily mandatory union-busting sessions that Staten Island workers are required to sit through. Recently Status Coup obtained and published audio from one of these meetings; it was filled with HR officials pushing false propaganda about unionizing.
Smalls emphatically told Status Coup he believes the complaint to the NYPD came from a supervisor with Matrix Development Group, who owns the land Amazon leases its mammoth warehouse on.
“Days prior I got into an argument with him because I caught him at the bus stop trying to throw away our union signs,” Smalls said about an exchange he had with the supervisor for Matrix Development Group. “And then all of a sudden, a few days later here comes the cops.”
“They work hand and hand,” Smalls said about Matrix and Amazon working together to crush the union campaign.
Matrix Development Group didn’t respond to Status Coup’s request for comment on Smalls’ accusation that a company supervisor called the cops on ALU members who were organizing.
On Monday, Daniels provided an affidavit on the incident to the regional office National Labor Relations Board [NLRB]. It remains to be seen if the NLRB will investigate the circumstances that led to the arrest.
In mid-November, the ALU withdrew their petition to hold a union vote for Staten Island workers after the NLRB told union organizers they had failed to gather the necessary pro-union signatures from workers. At the time, Smalls said the ALU had “met all the requirements along with submitting over 2K signed cards.” He noted that Amazon had a high 150 percent turnover rate, resulting in many of the workers who had signed pro-union cards no longer working at the warehouse.
"We're facing a turnover rate of 150% so the card check didn't go in favor this time do not get discouraged we will resubmit ASAP,” he tweeted.
Smalls told Status Coup ALU will be resubmitting their petition to hold a union vote in the coming weeks.
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