Amazon Labor Union leader Chris Smalls joined the United for Change ONT8 group on September 9 to announce union effort
Riverside, CA – A group of Amazon workers at the ONT8 fulfillment center in Moreno Valley announced during a press conference last Friday that they will be attempting to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), which helped organize a successful union effort in Staten Island, New York in April.
Several workers decided to form the group – United for Change ONT8 – in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic to address labor conditions and worker treatment inside the facility. Nanette Plascencia, the group’s founder, says many workers at ONT8 fear that they will be reprimanded or fired for union talk.
“We felt belittled a lot, like if we were worth not listening to,” said Plascencia. “It wasn’t a good atmosphere. I saw friends working as hard as they could get talked to and reprimanded. It wasn’t right. And I realized that things needed to be changed.”
Amazon did not respond to our request for comment.
For the last two years, Plascencia says she’s been talking to co-workers and friends about unionizing. She’s printed out information from websites and held teach-ins to educate people about the benefits of joining a union. “There’s about ten of us that are tight and work closely,” she explained. “These people work in different departments, so what they do is go to their own groups to spread the word.”
This is the second organizing effort announced in the last few weeks. In August, a group of workers at the Amazon Air Hub in San Bernardino staged a walkout to demand better wages and safer working conditions.
Plascencia contacted ALU leader Chris Smalls, who shared on September 9 that he’s committed to standing in solidarity with the United for Change ONT8 group.
“I heard about how they’ve been building up these warehouses over here,” said Smalls. “We’re going to put an end to the expansion of that. We don’t want [corporations] taking over our communities and setting up shop. Amazon has already done that and the only way we’re going to stop that is to bring people together.”
Smalls says the ALU understands the importance of the larger movement to hold Amazon accountable, but believes the fight needs to remain worker-led.
“I know there’s other unions and organizations involved over here, so respectfully of course we want to make sure we connect with them,” said Smalls. “To get it done, we all got to be on the same accord. We have to support the ones who broke through the door.”
When asked if she’s concerned about being fired, Plascencia instead shared words of determination.
“They know it’s me. And who I am. I even wear a soccer hat for people to find me easier. I will never stop. I put on a brave face and keep moving.”