The Evolved Man of the Week: Christian “Chris” Smalls

Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s “Evolved Man of the Week” profile. Each week we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved person, famous and non-famous individuals alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to the labor organizer, union president, native New Jerseyan, and rapper, Christain “Chris” Smalls

Smalls was born and raised in Hackensack, New Jersey, and was often bullied as a child since he was unable to have trendy possessions. As a teenager, he began working jobs, played basketball, and ran track and field at Hackensack High School. He had hoped to play in the National Basketball Association until he was run over in a hit-and-run while working a job as a car attendant. Smalls briefly pursued a career as a rapper and toured briefly with Meek Mill, but then gave this up to support his children with a series of jobs, including at Walmart, Home Depot, and MetLife Stadium from 2012 to 2015. In March 2020, the coronavirus’s spread had alarmed workers at JFK8, the Amazon retailer’s Staten Island warehouse, who believed Amazon was not addressing the threat. Smalls decided to help stage a walkout demanding health safeguards, including the worksite’s closure. He showed up despite being on paid quarantine from close COVID contact, so Amazon fired him — catapulting him to fame.

Christian Smalls, who spearheaded the fledgling Amazon Labor Union’s (ALU) battle against the $1.7 trillion company, told CBS News outlining what the group is planning next in 2022. 

“In the last 48 hours, I’ve definitely been contacted by workers from all over the country that want to start their own Amazon labor union. We’re going to absolutely help them.”

Smalls, who is interim president of the ALU, formed the group last year after Amazon fired him in March 2020 following his efforts to organize protests over Amazon’s COVID-19 protocols. He said the ALU wants to take its fight to any Amazon facility where workers show an interest in organizing. Smalls is active on Twitter, where he tweets about the ALU and other labor organizing issues. Smalls was married for seven years and has three children, including a set of twins. Smalls is frequently seen wearing streetwear and has faced some criticism for his style. Smalls says that his appearance is a part of his history with hip-hop culture. Here is Chris Smalls in his own words addressing his critics about his appearance: 

“really motivates me to continue dressing the way I do because I want y’all to understand it’s not about how I look” and that…If I was to run for president, I would look just like this … I’d walk in the White House with a pair of Jordans on because this is who I am as a person”. 

We at the Evolving Man Project are all about worker solidarity. I’m writing this as a union member and organizer myself; we wish Chris and the rest of the workers at ALU continued success at organizing the masses of workers for fair wages and benefits that all workers deserve. Today we honor Chris Smalls as our Evolved Man of the Week. 

Organizer and former Amazon worker Chris Smalls speaks outside the NLRB office before filing paperwork to unionize workers in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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