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Amazon Labor Union Elections and the Fight for Rank-and-File Unionism

This is the first article in a series with Vice President Michelle Valentin Nieves who is running for ALU President on the Workers First Slate. You can donate to the slate’s campaign here.

Amazon Labor Union (ALU) was started back in 2021 amidst a deepening fight at Amazon for workers’ right to unionize. The epicenter of that organizing started at Amazon warehouse JFK8, where ALU would begin with Chris Smalls as President, Derrick Palmer as Vice President (VP), and Michelle Valentin Nieves as Recording Secretary. Fast forward to 2024 and Smalls is not running for re-election, Palmer resigned following an assault charge last year, and Nieves has been acting VP for over a year. Now, Michelle is running for President of ALU and has outlined a plan to embolden workers and strengthen the rank-and-file members.

Join us in our mission to empower Amazon workers. I, along with my team of experienced Amazon veterans, am committed to serving the rank-and-file membership of the ALU. We are strong advocates for on-site job retainment, Union representation, and upholding the FMLA and WWPA acts. Our vision is to return the Union back into the collective power of the rank-and-file membership, ensuring every worker has a seat at the table.”

The Workers First Slate GoFundMe page
  • Michelle documents an uphill battle for herself ever since she became a member of national leadership at ALU. Between the hostilities she’s experienced from other Executive Board members to Amazon management refusing to give workers Weingarten rights, the fight for the rank-and-file ALU members has not been easy. Nieves says that most of the rank and file don’t know Chris Smalls because he doesn’t spend time out on the shop floor and has spent more time traveling around speaking at panels than working to build the union. Meanwhile, Michelle has a relationship with the rank and file and is working every day to better understand the needs of the members. As President, she’s advocating for an expansion of the Executive Board to two members from each department, every member of ALU will be eligible to become a shop steward, and a bottom to top approach involving more of the rank and file.

Michelle and her slate is not running uncontested however as the “Democratic Reform Caucus” is also running a slate against Nieves. The DRC is headed by founding treasurer of ALU Connor Spence who resigned, left the union and then proceeded to sue ALU leadership on the basis of forcing elections (more on the subject can be read about here). LUEL continues to support ALU and the workers of JFK8 to build a fighting union on the basis of class-oriented trade unionism.

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