Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Teamsters consider a new emphasis on organizing Amazon workers.

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The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents over one million workers in North America in industries including parcel delivery and freight, will vote on whether to make it a priority to organize Amazon workers and help them win a union contract.

“Amazon is changing the nature of work in our country and touches many core Teamster industries and employers,” states the resolution, which will be voted on at the Teamsters convention on Thursday. The company “presents an existential threat to the standards we have set in these industries,” it says.

The resolution states that the union will “supply all resources necessary” and will eventually create an Amazon division to help organize workers at the company.

It does not elaborate on the timing for such a division or how much money or manpower the union will devote to the effort, and a union spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on those particulars. Last year the union had revenue of more than $200 million, according to Labor Department filings.

Amazon did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Tuesday.

In an opinion column this month for Salon, Randy Korgan, a Teamsters official from Southern California who has been the national director for Amazon since the position was created last year, wrote that the union would bypass traditional workplace elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

Instead, Mr. Korgan wrote, the union will focus on building support from both Amazon workers and from other warehouse and delivery workers and community members, and it aims to bring the company to the bargaining table by orchestrating strikes, boycotts, protests and other actions.

Amazon defeated a conventional campaign organized by a retail workers union at a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., this year, after which a number of union leaders suggested that a shift to the strategies highlighted by Mr. Korgan might be more fruitful. Those union leaders pointed out that federal labor law gives employers large advantages during election campaigns — allowing companies to hold mandatory anti-union meetings, for example — and that the government cannot fine employers who violate the law. (The retail workers union is challenging the results of the election at the Bessemer warehouse, accusing Amazon of intimidating workers.)

Support for the approach is far unanimous within the labor movement, however.

In an interview after the election in Alabama, Stuart Appelbaum, the head of the retail workers union that oversaw the campaign, said seeking to win union elections at Amazon warehouses should remain a focus. “If you want to build real power, you have to do it with a majority of workers,” Mr. Appelbaum said at the time.

The Teamsters union holds its convention every five years and uses it to set the priorities that the union will pursue until the next convention. The resolution states that momentum for the Amazon campaign has been building since the union’s last convention in 2016.

During that time, it says, various Teamster departments “have been tracking Amazon’s growth, presence and impact on Teamster industries and speaking with thousands of workers to develop different operating theories on the best way to engage and support Amazon workers.”

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