The nationwide push to unionize Amazon began at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island last April, when workers voted to form the Amazon Labor Union. Amazon retaliated with spurious appeals to the National Labor Review Board to nullify the election. On Jan. 11, the NLRB ruled against Amazon and in favor of the workers—but the struggle of Amazon workers is far from over. JFK8 worker-organizers Michelle Valentin Nieves, Jordan Flowers, and Gerald Bryson join TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez for a discussion on the fight to unionize Amazon thus far, and what lies ahead.
Studio/Post-Production: Cameron Granadino
Maximillian Alvarez: Welcome, everyone, to The Real News Network. My name is Maximillian Alvarez, I’m the editor-in-chief here at The Real News, and it’s so great to have you all with us. The Real News is an independent, viewer supported, nonprofit media network. We don’t do ads and we don’t take corporate cash, which means we need each one of you to support our work so we can keep bringing you coverage of the voices and issues you care about most. So please head on over to therealnews.com/support and become a monthly sustainer of our work today. And thank you so much to everyone who is already contributing. It really, really helps.
It’s been 10 months since worker organizers at the massive JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island shocked the entire world by becoming the first Amazon facility in the United States to successfully vote to unionize with the independent Amazon Labor Union on April 1, 2022. Now, a lot has happened in that time. That’s been 10 months, and war has raged in Ukraine, coups and attempted coups have taken place in countries like Peru and Brazil. We ran through an entire midterm election cycle here in the US, and yet Amazon workers on Staten Island still don’t have a union contract with the company. In fact, Amazon has taken every step imaginable to delay the process, fighting to throw out the results of the historic Union election victory in April, all the while turning on the screws, firing pro-union workers and organizers left and right, and allegedly retaliating against worker organizers for their involvement with the union campaign.
Now, Amazon has claimed from the beginning that the election results are invalid, accusing the National Labor Relations Board of “interfering” with the election and arguing that the Amazon Labor Union organizers “intimidated” workers into voting for the union.
But on Jan. 11 of this year, the NLRB issued a seismic ruling, throwing out Amazon’s spurious claims and finally, officially certifying April’s election results. So what does this all mean for workers on Staten Island, and for their fight to hammer out a fair union contract with the company? And what can folks around the country and around the world do to support them in their ongoing struggle? To talk about all of this and more, I couldn’t be more honored to be joined today by three of those worker organizers involved with the Amazon Labor Union Campaign, and who have worked at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, including the great Michelle Valentin Nievez, Jordan Flowers, and Gerald Bryson. Guys, thank you so much for joining us today on The Real News Network.
Michelle Valentin: Thank you for having us.
Jordan Flowers: Thank you for having us.
Maximillian Alvarez: Well, it’s truly an honor to have all three of you on the call today, and I know that you’ve got a lot going on in your own lives and your working lives with your organizing, so we really appreciate you all taking the time to sit down and chat with us, because Real News audiences have been very invested in this struggle. They want to see you guys win, they’ve been following this since, if not before, the union election victory in April, and they want to know what’s been going on since then and what this ruling from the National Labor Relations Board means for the campaign.
So we’re going to dig into all of that in a second. But before we do, I wanted to take a step back and get viewers and listeners acquainted with you three. So can we go around the table and just get to know this great panel? Could you all say a little more about who you are, how you came to work at Amazon, what your involvement in the union campaign is, and what it meant to you when you all won that historic victory in April of last year? So Michelle, why don’t we start with you?
Michelle Valentin: So I’ve been with the Amazon Labor Union for a little over a year, I’m the recording secretary. I’ve been with Amazon for four years. How I ended up with Amazon was, I was actually laid off from my employment, and I was going through difficulty getting a job. And it just so happened that Amazon was one of the places that I applied to when I was laid off. And that’s how initially I was hired, because it was close to where I lived. And at that time, those years ago, my daughter was just entering her first year of high school, so I wanted to get a job somewhere that was close to where I lived.
Because I was living in Staten Island and I was getting pretty tired of commuting back and forth to work, going to Manhattan every single day. It was an hour and a half, two hour commute. So that’s how I ended up in Amazon in the first place. And with the vote, because we did win by 523 votes, so it was a significant number. I was in my house crying, hysterical, with Kleenex tissues thrown around the house. I was really emotional. Everybody else was at the NOR building and I was in my house, just a mess. I was very happy, but it was a very emotional moment for me.
Jordan Flowers: Hello everyone. My name is Jordan Flowers, you can call me Jay. I’ve been working at Amazon JFK since opening day Sept. 26, 2018. I applied there once I left college. My mom was moving out, dad was moving out, so it was the only job that could help me sustain where I lived. And if people don’t know, I have lupus nephritis, which is an underlying health issue. And Amazon had been treating me unfairly. But pre COVID, I actually ended up leaving. Not leaving, taking a leave from Amazon because I didn’t like how they were treating me and my health issue. And I ended up staying out. When Chris Smalls, Derek Palmer, Gerald also, when we all walked out on March 30, 2020, to make a change at Amazon.
Maximillian Alvarez: And what was it like for you, Jay, when the results came in April that the union had won the election?
Jordan Flowers: So actually I was in that courtroom when they were doing the count. Me and Gerald were actually in the courtroom. Me, Gerald, Chris, and Derek. It was exciting. I cried, because for two and a half, three years, me, Chris, Derek, and Gerald were traveling the world explaining Amazon, showing the profits and propaganda Amazon was doing during COVID, showing how they were mistreating, the expenses he was making, even him flying in the spaceship. And how he stated on live TV that he thanks the workers for sending him the space, and letting him know that that money he used to go to space could have been in your pockets. So again, being a fresh union, I’m still learning – I’m only 24 – That a union is great, and especially in this type of work environment, with or without a health issue, Amazon’s going to treat you unfairly. So with this [inaudible], it meant a lot to me. So I definitely was in tears.
Maximillian Alvarez: Man, I was definitely doing a lot of dumb shit and not important shit like forming a union when I was 24, so kudos to you [laughs]. And Gerald, how about you?
Gerald Bryson: Hi everybody, I’m Gerald Bryson. I’m one of the co-founders of the Amazon Labor Union along with Jordan Flowers, Derek Palmer, and Chris Smalls. Also one of the co-founders of TCOEW, which basically enabled a lot of this stuff that we’re doing today. Basically, I was there, I’m not going to go through my whole story because it’s a long one, how I got involved, but I knew that this place needed a union since day one. I’m a retired industrial construction worker, so I was into building power plants, electrical plants, renovating coal mines, oil platforms, whatever. You name it, the companies I worked for, that’s the type of work I did, industrial construction. Oil fields, stuff like that.
But with that comes a lot of toll on the body and age, so I didn’t want that. So I had come home and I was working for different companies at home, and one day I ran into Jordan, and robotics. And a little light went off because I’m always… Me and Jordan live in the same building, and I ran into Jordan and basically he was like, I’m going to work for Amazon. I’m going to be in for some technology. And lo and behold, I went and put in an application at Amazon, got in there, I believe it was 2018. If I was still in there, I’d probably be there four years, four and a half years. Basically, when the pandemic came in, that’s when a lot of changes, a lot of people were worried, and had the pandemic going around.
It was me, him, Derek Palmer, and another guy, Bertram Price. He was our head manager. At any rate, even though I didn’t know how you were getting it. And I was working under Chris Smalls at that time. He was my assistant manager, my PA. And Amazon didn’t want people to know about it. They were instructing their PAs and managers not to tell the workers that anything was wrong. If somebody was to get sick and you were working next to them, they would just remove that person and not tell the other person. That’s what was going on. And at that point, I think Chris Smalls, he needs to take a lot of credit, because that’s where it really started for us. He took a stand as a boss and told us what was going on. He didn’t have to do that. I’ll always love him for that. But people were getting sick going home, and they wanted him to shut up. He couldn’t do it anymore.
They weren’t wiping the place down, they weren’t sanitizing the place, they weren’t giving us gloves, they weren’t giving us anything, no type of PPE to work properly and safely there. And that’s where this all started. They had a carnival one weekend. The world is shutting down for this pandemic, and Amazon was having a carnival in their lobby. And that’s when we had enough, we couldn’t take it anymore. Then that’s when we started to take a stand. I wasn’t even in the same department as them anymore. I had moved on to the department I wanted to go to for a long time, and I still stood with them when the time came. I was wrongfully fired, I was wrongfully terminated, but that’s where everything started.
I had been in several unions. Fight on your day off. It’s like something out of the movie Friday. Come on. So with that being said, we moved on with TCOEW and we started to protest Bezos’s mansions and embassies, and wherever he was in the world, we went. And that’s what impacted us and gave us the drive to come back. We always had the notion… I know I did. I’m a union man, I belong to several unions. So I always had the notion that that’s what we are coming back to do. And North Carolina, they had started RSW… What is it? RWDSU. What’s it? Yeah. Sorry about that guys. They started to make their move with North Carolina Amazon down there to unionize. And at that point, even though they failed, that’s when we decided we were definitely going back to JFK8 at that time to rally and start for the ALU.
Maximillian Alvarez: Well, and let’s talk about that more. And just for folks watching and listening, TCOEW is The Congress of Essential Workers, correct? And we’ll link to that in the show notes for this episode so you all can follow them. But I want to pick up on what Gerald was talking about, because I feel like this is something that a lot of people who support you all have had to learn themselves over the past year. Because I imagine you guys and many of your coworkers, a lot of people don’t know what goes into forming a union, getting a first contract. And when we have barely above 10% of workers in this country who are part of a union, I guess that’s not a surprise. But I think people have come to understand, watching what Amazon has done to fight accepting the results of the union election, all the reports that we’ve heard of, retaliation, people getting fired, people getting harassed and surveilled for their involvement in the union.
But we’ve also seen shit like with Starbucks. People are getting fired left and right there.
Starbucks is even closing down unionized stores. And they don’t have a first contract, either. So there’s all this delay, there’s all this bullshit that you have to put up with just to get to that first contract, which, for new unions, it takes over 400 days on average to get that first contract. That’s a long time to wait for that contract. So could you guys tell us a little bit more about what it’s been like for you in the time since the union election victory in April? What have you been hearing from other folks in the warehouse? What have you experienced? For folks who didn’t realize it was going to take this long just to get the election results certified by the NLRB, what has been going on in those 10 months since then?
Gerald Bryson: I just want to say, I’m going to let somebody else answer it. For some reason I was looking at something in North Carolina, and what I was talking about, where they had their election that was Bessemer, Alabama, just to clarify that. I’m sorry about that, guys.
Maximillian Alvarez: You good, Gerald. Thanks man. Michelle, why don’t you hop in, let us know what it’s been looking like for you in the 10 months since the election victory.
Michelle Valentin: So for the 10 months since the election, there’s been a lot going on. There’s been a lot going on because since the election happened, now we have to work on the structure of the union. And with that being said, it’s a lot of work, because not only do we have to now get the workers involved, but we also have to get a lot of information out, we have to speak to a lot of people. So the thing with us is that, whatever goes on inside of the building is according to Amazon policies, because again, we’re still employed by Amazon. So even though we’re trying to get the structure of a union started, we have to also abide by Amazon policies, we still have to abide by the rules of being employed, and things of that nature. So what happened since the election is that Amazon changed a lot of their policies. And because they did, that affected a lot of our organizing within the building.
So one of the main things that they did was literally, I think it was a month after our election, they changed the off-duty policy for employees. So the off-duty policy right now is you can’t stay within the building 15 minutes after your shift ends or 15 minutes before your shift starts. So that affected our organizing, because those of us that are still working there and we have access to the building, a lot of us were coming in early or leaving late or organizing during our lunch breaks. And the organizing is just simply a lot of conversations, handing out literature, getting contact information, people’s email addresses, people’s cell phone numbers. So that policy affected our organizing so much. So we were trying to get around that.
And the thing is that because, visually, we’re just there, because we have our ALU T-shirts, so we have ALU T-shirts, some of us wear vests. So they would watch us in the cameras, in the break rooms, wherever we were, to see where we were at any given time. If I was in the break room with Derek speaking to employees, because me and Derek, it’s very easy for us to work together because we’re in the same department. And that’s how Derek ended up recruiting me, is because we were in the same department, so we were around each other for hours at a time, because at that time, I was doing 10-hour shifts.
So speaking to our coworkers inside of the break room, it would usually be me and Derek and then we would have an HR person or one of the area managers come and say, hey, we have this off-duty policy and we see that you’re not scheduled right now, or you’re not on the clock right now, or you’re not scheduled to be here today. We need you guys to leave. So it wasn’t just the managers and HR asking us to leave the building, it was the interruption of these conversations, which are very, very important conversations that we’re having with the workers, because these are organizing conversations.
So let’s say, me and you, Max, we’re in the break room and we’re talking about, we’re going to have a meeting on Thursday and we’re going to do it at Make the Road, they supplied a space for us to have a meeting. And then you would have an HR rep or an area manager come and completely interrupt your conversation inside of the break room, which they’re not supposed to be able to do, because that’s protected by federal law. But because they implemented this off-duty policy… So there’s just little things like that. So we have to work our way around that. So now we have offsite meetings, we have more organizing happening at the bus stop, we have meetings that are happening in the union hall.
The organizing is very up and down. Sometimes we have a bunch of people that are showing up, and then sometimes we have not a lot of people showing up. And that has a lot to do with peak season, because again, the organizing goes according to what’s happening inside of the facility and what’s happening with Amazon. So in peak season, full-time employees, they’re mandated to work up to 60 hours a week. So some of them are doing five hours straight and they’re doing 12-hour shifts, five days straight. So a lot of the workers are exhausted, they’re tired, they’re in pain, they’re stressed out, they’re aggravated, and it’s extremely difficult to get people to come to offsite meetings in the middle of peak when they’re tired and they’re stressed out. Also, you have all of the new hires, and then you have the people that were there before.
We have a lot of workers that have stuck through us through thick and thin, and those are the long-term workers that have been there 2, 3, 4 years, that were there through COVID. People like myself, people like Derek, that we literally worked the entire COVID, before the vaccine, before all of that stuff was out. I would say it’s almost like a friendship type of a thing, we grew a friendship as coworkers because we went through that together. So that’s something that we bonded with, where there’s certain workers that come into meetings, and I’m very happy to see them because these are people that I’ve been working with for 2, 3, 4 years, and we’ve gone through a lot together.
The fact that it took nine months for us to be certified, that’s just another tactic that was going back and forth. I can’t get into details about it because it’s a legal thing, but let’s just say that it dragged on for a really long time. But the certification came through, and we’re super happy about it. And it’s really impacting our organizing in a very positive way. Because now that we’re certified, it’s like, now we’re certified, the government is recognizing us.
And so now Amazon has to come to the table, Amazon has to negotiate with us, Amazon has to speak to us. And again, within the facility it changes. Because for a lot of people and a lot of the corporate people in Amazon, they feel like, well, they’re certified, but we’re just going to put an appeal for it. So they’re already starting in. Even with the message that they sent from A to Z, I know I got one, I’m pretty sure Jordan got one because he still has access to the A to Z. But even in the message of A to Z that’s sent out to all the Amazon workers, Amazon is talking about, they disagree with the decision, and they’re going to appeal it. So they said that on A to Z, and they sent that message out to all of their workers. So again, they’re just refusing to recognize that this is what the workers want.
And then they’re making it a personal thing where it’s like Amazon against Chris Smalls and all of this stuff. Which yes, it has a lot to do with Chris Smalls, but it also has a lot to do with those workers. You can’t forget that it was won by 523 votes. That’s 523 workers that voted for this union. Whether Chris Smalls and Amazon and what’s going on, even besides that going on, there’s still 523 workers that voted to unionize, regardless of the fact. So again, we’re just going with this back and forth game of chess, where now the workers are getting to the point where, you know what? We won the election, we’re certified, now we’re going to start to get involved.
And I can’t speak a lot about what’s happening with the worker meetings, but there’s a lot more people getting involved with the worker meetings. There’s a lot of people that I have never seen before that are getting involved, and it’s a wonderful thing to have that and to have workers come to you, and you don’t even have to recruit them at this point. That whole conversation in the break room, at this point since we’re certified, we can almost bypass that conversation, and they’re just showing up to the meeting. And that’s something that’s beautiful to see, because they get the email or text message and boom, they’re showing up to the meeting. And that’s a wonderful thing, because they’re taking it upon themselves to actually participate and get involved with the union, to speak to us and to see what’s happening and to realize that they are the union.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah. And of course, I want to stress for viewers and listeners, there’s a lot going on inside the union, inside the warehouse that we’re not going to ask about because, like Michelle said, it’s not just about what people can see from the outside, there are a lot of organizing discussions that are better kept within the union. There are legal issues that we have to tiptoe around because we’ve seen how much Amazon loves to weaponize the legal system. So I just wanted to emphasize for folks that I’m not going to ask our great guests here to comment on anything that would put them or the unionization effort at risk. And to also follow up on something that Michelle said, which is a lesson that all of us, I think, need to learn as we continue to invest in this struggle, report on, and read on and listen to the folks involved in this struggle is, we’re talking about a warehouse with over 8,000 people.
It’s not just Jeff Bezos versus Chris Smalls. Like Michelle said, there’s a lot of dynamics there. But this is a massive warehouse that I saw. Last time I was talking to Jay and Michelle, I was standing out in front of that massive thing. It’s like multiple football fields stacked on top of each other. There’s a lot of people who made this union effort what it was, and over 500 people more voted in favor of the union than didn’t. And so it’s a really big effort we’re talking about here. And Jay and Gerald, I just wanted to ask if you all had anything to add in terms of what it’s been like for you or your current and former coworkers in the 10 months since that union election victory?
Jordan Flowers: All right. So I know we’re in the same room so he pointed at me to go first. In my experience in the last 10 months, I was terminated last year, Sept. 26 or the 27. They said I voluntarily resigned, which again, they saying that I signed the document saying that I resigned when I didn’t. I was fighting to get disability and accommodations, which again, another tactic of union busting to state that I left. With the certification, it’s definitely a great thing. We bypassed. Like Michelle said, they have to come bargaining with us. And I would also like to take it a step back to even when Michelle said when they do their off-duty policies and they make their own rules, I could state that Jeff Bezos personally said that in the congressional hearing, that Amazon doesn’t know their own policies, that they make rules to abide by their favor.
So Amazon always has a trick to make sure that, in any circumstances, it could go their way. So like I said, with the certification, the 8,000 workers, a big facility. Again, JFK, it’s 14 fields side by side. It took a lot of effort, it took a lot of organizing, a lot of events, a lot of food, a lot of free shirts, and actively engaging, even bringing them to the office now. You’re starting to see more workers starting to come up and come to the office and utilize the resources that they have right now. Even us announcing that we have, what do you call it? Workers’ compensation. More workers are starting to come out with worker injury. So definitely with the certification, it’s definitely going to boost our impact inside the facility and the coworkers inside.
Gerald Bryson: Basically, these guys covered mostly what’s going on. It’s an honor to be part of it. When they announced to us that we’re legally a union and everything else, it’s such an honor. We fought for years for this, for the whole thing. All in all, it’s all for the whole thing, for the better treatment of people. And for me, it’s an honor to be part of it. I can’t tell you what it really means. I’m still going through my own personal battles. I would like to clarify for the audience that that’s all Amazon and other big corporations are worried about is wins. We’ll just appeal this, we’ll just appeal this. When does it stop and it’s not an appeal anymore? We have to take a look at our own systems, our platforms that are supposed to help us. Like the National Labor Relation Board, they’re short on funds right now. This is a department of the government, short on funds. How’s this possible? How’s it possible that they are short on funds where they can’t give due process to what’s going on with everybody?
Because that’s what they were there for, everybody. And this is what we’re facing. Whether we want to realize it or not, we’re facing big corporations that have hammered down and taken funds away from us. This is all a political game. This is our own people we’re fighting against. This is our own government we’re fighting against. And that’s what we have to realize, man, everything we’re doing, we’re going to win or we’re going to get what we want. It’s just that simple. Amazon Labor Union is here to stay. Whether they want a deal and walk around, they’re going to have to sit down sooner or later. Like Michelle said, we got some things rolling around in our minds to get this moving properly. But they’ll probably appeal. And what everybody’s not realizing is when they appeal during that year, they’re prolonging their own fate, too.
Because they wanted to appeal, so that just gives more time. They’re still dealing with my personal case, you understand what I’m saying? And that’s what I’ve been going through. Appeal, after appeal, after appeal, after appeal. And they’re losing, losing, losing. For some reason, corporations believe in Ws. And right now, Amazon has no Ws against us. None. They’re 0-2 against me, getting ready to be 0-3, maybe 0-4, who knows? Against the ALU to 0-3. It’s crazy. What are you fighting for? And these are the things that have to be exposed to the public. What is Amazon doing at this point? Because Bezos will come out and tell you he’s trying to be a great person, a great humanitarian. I want people out there to understand what we’re dealing with. He gave $100 million apiece to three people when he got off his penis airplane.
He gave them all $100 million, yet he’s fighting Gerald Bryson for $39,000 a year. Now this year he turned around and gave somebody who was… I love her to death. I’ve known of this beautiful woman, nice person, but you are going to give Dolly Parton $100 million, but you want to fight Gerald Bryson in court for the little $39,000 salary again? You spent millions to fight Gerald Bryson in court. You spent millions to keep ALU from becoming a union, from becoming a fact. Millions. But you get off your plane, you do this, and you hand these people all this money, and that’s what makes you great. And people got to look at this. That’s what you really have to look at. These are the people that we’re dealing with. It’s crazy. You want to fight me for that little bit of money, so you’re willing to pay $50 million or better to lawyers to make sure that I don’t get a three-year salary of $39,000.
So that’s just something to think about, because it’s about Ws, as far as corporations are concerned. And right now, Amazon is way behind in Ws with us. And that’s where we’re standing. We’re going to move forward for the people and do the right thing. I didn’t get in this for myself. If I had got into this for myself, I probably could have sold out a long time ago. I’m in this for everybody. What we do now affects everybody, because you know what? This is one point of life. We all want our kids to be president of the United States and better, but some of them aren’t going to be there, they’re going to end up in labor jobs. So let’s make it comfortable for when they get there, that they have a sound union at least, and then maybe they can move on from there. Sometimes places like this are stepping stones. But you gotta make it comfortable enough that we can work, take care of our families, and do what we need to do to move on.
Jeff don’t want you to stay in Amazon no longer than three years. He wants you out. You have a cap off when you’re just a laborer. And those are the things that ALU is fighting for. I’ve been here five years, but I’m still making $22 an hour because I capped out three years ago. You understand what I’m saying? It doesn’t make any sense.
And it’s all modern day slavery. We have to look at it for what it is. The slavers didn’t leave us, they just made it better and made it more convenient. You have a place like Amazon that says, come on, we got a job for you. No matter if you was messed up two weeks ago or whatever, you can go to Amazon and get a job. As long as you have two arms, two legs and a torso, you’re good. Leave the head at home. You start thinking, you’re dangerous. That’s the way it is.
Maximillian Alvarez: Well, and I think that’s a real important message for everyone watching and listening to sit with. Regardless of what happens with this or any union election, the reasons that drove workers to band together to fight for a union in the first place are still there. People’s bodies are still being broken down, Amazon is still churning through flesh and blood human beings and then spitting them out when they have nothing left to give. They’re still screwing people out of their disability accommodations and unemployment checks. All of these issues are still plaguing workers, and so we cannot give up on them.
We have to keep showing up and keep holding companies like Amazon, like Starbucks, like Chipotle, accountable for what they are doing. We need to keep demanding that they actually respect workers’ rights and respect people’s democratic rights. Like Michelle was saying, it’s already an indictment on our system that workers could win an election fair and square, against all odds. And yet a corporation like Amazon, the second largest private employer in the United States, can use all of its money and all of its resources and weaponize the legal system to refuse to acknowledge the results of a democratically sanctioned election, and drag this process out.
So we have to keep showing up, is what I’m saying. And as we’ve all acknowledged here, the ALU is not going to stop fighting. We know that Amazon is going to probably try to appeal the latest ruling from the National Labor Relations Board. We don’t want to ask Michelle, Jay, and Gerald to give away what they’re planning to do next so that Amazon can know what they’re going to do next.
So I wanted to just round out by asking you all if you had any final words for folks watching and listening out there, other workers at other Amazon facilities, and ultimately, what can people watching and listening do to support you all, support the ALU, and make sure that they do what they can until you guys get that first contract?
Gerald Bryson: The ALU is going to move forward. It don’t matter what Amazon’s doing, we’re ready for them. We’ve been doing this. Nothing they do surprises us. They can appeal but so much. They’re running out of appeals, they’re running out of anything, because basically when you’re appealing, you have new evidence and stuff, they don’t have no new evidence for anything. They’re just running with the same old stuff. If any one of them is listening, holler.
Anyway, with that being said, I just want to say this, we as the people, everybody, if you’re working for Amazon, UPS, wherever you are working, I just need you to know that we are the power, bro. We are the people. We make this thing spin, not these one percenters. We make this globe move, we move the stuff, we make the stuff. And that’s what we got to remember. And we have to stand up for ourselves.
Yo, listen, when I went to Amazon and after walking home, feet swollen every day and all that shit, I had had enough. I was a problem child to them from the get because they were doing wrong from the get. And that’s what is going on all over. We have to remember who we are as a people and what we want to leave for our children, as I said, too. Not everybody’s going to be president or congressmen so let’s get it right, no matter if you’re rich or poor. Because I see plenty of rich people’s kids working certain places they shouldn’t be too. Maybe they’re the black sheep, I don’t know. But the point is that, like I said, not everybody’s going to be in a high position, and we end up in jobs like this, like Amazon and UPS and other places like that. And so what we’re here to do and what we all need to do is make sure that we’re taken care of right, that our families can survive on what we’re doing there. That our families can prosper, that we can prosper and move on to maybe a better job, schooling, whatever.
But we have to have a union to afford these opportunities, because these guys, they’re not going to give it to us. They don’t give a crap about us. They’re the 1%. So it doesn’t matter whether they’re white and powerful, because it’s not a matter of color with them, because they look down at their own people who do this, that are in these places. So we’re dealing with people that have one goal and one goal only, and that’s to fill their pockets and to take care of their family dreams or whatever it is. Whether it’s to fly the space or whatever the fuck, go to the next dimension, I don’t know. But basically, we have to stand up for ourselves. And so I’m saying that to everybody. If you’re working in a place like Amazon, it’s time to stand up. Bottom line. Generation you, baby.
Michelle Valentin: So I wanted to agree with everything that Gerald said, and I wanted to say that unions can be formed anywhere in any workplace by anyone. It just simply is your coworkers, yourself, having conversations, getting together to make things better at work, to create a better environment, to get better pay, to get better benefits. It’s possible for anyone to do this. It’s also very important that if you’re already in employment where you have an established union, that you get involved with your union. We have a lot of established unions out here that people are not involved with, people are not participating. They only come around when they have a grievance of some sort. And it’s an issue, because it looks bad across the board for all unions. So I’m speaking to everyone, because a lot of people feel that if they’re already in an established union or in this really big powerful union, that this doesn’t apply to them, but it actually does.
Let’s just say with the nurses strike right now, that’s an amazing thing that they were striking right there in Mount Sinai. My daughter was actually born there in 2003. So it’s like wow, to have my daughter born in Mount Sinai in 2003, and now 2023, to see all of those nurses out there striking, and it’s a really big deal. It’s a really big deal that you get involved with your unions, that you participate. If you see things going on with your union that you’re not happy about, then get involved with your union. Run for office, volunteer, show up to meetings, do things like that. To not just start up your own union and to create a new union and have an independent union such as ours, but also get involved with your current or present union as well. And anyone can do it. There’s a lot of issues involved here when it comes to Amazon.
There’s definitely, race does come into play, class does come into play. I feel like that’s a conversation for another day. But the race and the class does make a big impact with what we are dealing with here, where Amazon really feels that they can just do or say whatever they want. They feel like they don’t have to answer to anyone. They don’t have to answer to their workers, they don’t have to answer to the president of the United States, they don’t have to answer to the federal government. They feel that they have everyone in their pocket, they feel that everyone has a price tag. And when you are working with people, you have to put your coworkers first, and you have to put your coworkers needs first. Even sometimes if you don’t get along with your coworkers, there’s going to be times where you disagree. Plenty of times where I have run into disagreements with coworkers, but you can just agree to disagree, move on, and try to find solidarity and collective power.
Jordan Flowers: I’ll just keep it short and simple because they both hit it on the spot. But definitely support your local business. I still say this in my interviews to this day, that COVID is still around, not as high. But during COVID, COVID was high in Amazon, so we still worry about workers who are still catching COVID inside these facilities, and these are the same customers that are ordering from these facilities. So just be careful how you order, and again, definitely shop at your local business because what you can get at Amazon, you can get right at your local business up the street.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah. So that is the great Michelle Valentin Nievez, Gerald Bryson, and Jordan Flowers from the Amazon Labor Union. Please do not forget about them. Follow them on social media, donate to their organizing funds, keep raising awareness about their organizing efforts whenever you can. Just do what you can to stay vigilant and stay supportive, because it’s going to be a long fight, and we need to be there for them. So Michelle, Jay, Gerald, thank you all so much for joining us today on The Real News. I really, really appreciate it
Jordan Flowers: Thank you for having us.
Gerald Bryson: Thank you.
Michelle Valentin: Thank you.
Maximillian Alvarez: For everyone watching, this is Maximillian Alvarez. Before you go, please head on over to therealnews.com/support. Become a monthly sustainer of our work so we can keep bringing you important coverage and conversations just like this. Thank you so much for watching.