Amazon Union president knows how powerful an outfit can be

Today, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing to review Amazon’s labor practices. During the proceedings, Senator Lindsey Graham argued with Amazon union president Chris Smalls, who accused Graham of prioritizing businesses over people. But nothing made a stronger impression than Smalls’ clothes: a New York Yankees baseball cap and a black jacket with red and yellow polka dots with the phrase “Eat the Rich” printed on the front and back.

In many ways, Smalls’ clothes said what he couldn’t. (It’s hard to lean into a Chamber of Commerce microphone and declare “eat the rich.”) Instead, Smalls’ jacket serves as a ubiquitous reminder of his politics and intentions. Unlike most people who show up to these hearings dressed to minimize any chance of standing out, Smalls took the opposite approach.

But wearing bright red clothes isn’t the only way to send a political message. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos appeared buttoned up in a nice suit when he was called to a 2020 hearing on Amazon’s labor practices. Smalls, meanwhile, uses his hat and satin jacket to oppose. He doesn’t look like a politician or an executive. He looks like a real person, a New Yorker. Or, as he told the hearing, as one of the workers who keep companies like Amazon running.


Smalls at the Staten Island Rally

André Lichtenstein

This isn’t the first time Smalls has worn his “Eat the Rich” jacket. The outerwear, made by Roku Studio, became something of a visual signifier for Smalls. (The brand did not immediately respond to messages.) He wore it to a rally outside Amazon’s Staten Island sorting center before employees there voted on unionization (vote no. was not adopted) at the end of April. He also wore the jacket during his appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show last month.

Smalls seems to understand that his appearances on Fox News, at a rally or before the Senate Budget Committee offer him the opportunity to send a message. And he knows exactly the message he wants to convey.

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