"He's not smart, or articulate." Those were the words used by a top Amazon lawyer to describe former warehouse worker Chris Smalls.

Smalls had led a walkout at the start of the pandemic in 2020 to protest working conditions at the Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse where he worked. 

He was fired the same day. 

The memo that contained those biting words was leaked just a few days later. But the words would stay with Smalls. 

They became the fuel that would drive him to lead one of the most dramatic and successful grassroots union drives in recent history. 

"When I read that memo, that motivated me to start an organization," said Smalls 

celebrating the historic victory of the Amazon Labor Union on Friday, making the warehouse Amazon's first unionized workplace in the U.S. 

At the time, Amazon said Smalls had violated quarantine and safety measures. But Smalls said he was fired in retaliation for his activism.  

The New York attorney general followed with an investigation and sued Amazon for the incident and even sought to get Smalls his job back.