The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of America’s most prominent labor organizations, is expected to launch a nationwide effort to organize Amazon workers.
The Teamsters, which have 500 chapters scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada and represent some 1.4 million workers, said in a statement Tuesday that they hope to make unionization at the company their “highest priority.”
An internal resolution related to the proposed effort, first reported by Motherboard, was distributed internally this week to union chapters throughout the country. The document was subsequently shared with Gizmodo by an IBT representative.
Dubbed the “Amazon Project,” the campaign would focus specifically on organizing the company’s logistics workers who toil in its many warehouses (or “fulfillment centers,” as Amazon calls them).
Motherboard reports that the Teamsters are planning “a series of pressure campaigns involving work stoppages, petitions, and other collective action” to compel the tech giant to improve its working conditions.
We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment on the Teamsters’ potential union push and will update once we receive a response.
Union chapter leaders will vote on the resolution Thursday to determine whether to pursue the Amazon campaign. The resolution is expected to pass, Kara Deniz, the Teamsters’ senior communications coordinator, said via phone.
If enacted, it will create a special division within the Teamsters, dedicated to “specifically aid Amazon workers and defend industry standards that the Teamsters have set in the logistics industry over the past 100 years,” the organization said.
The campaign is the latest example of efforts by organized labor to combat Amazon’s hellish working conditions. It follows a failed effort to unionize a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, earlier this year.
The tech giant has been widely condemned for its labor practices, which reportedly include a grueling hourly pace, relentless surveillance, and a general, callous attitude towards the well-being of its workers amidst the pandemic.
“The IBT Convention recognizes the existential threat of Amazon to our members and commits all levels of the union to unite with core platforms of member engagement, worker and community engagement, antitrust enforcement and policy reform, and global solidarity,” reads the IBT resolution.
Update: June 24, 2021 at 2:10 p.m. ET: In a near-unanimous vote on Thursday, the Teamsters officially approved a resolution saying that unionizing Amazon was their top priority moving forward.
Motherboard reporter Lauren Kaori Gurley tweeted that the vote on the resolution was 1,562 votes for (99%) and just 9 votes against (less than 1%). The resolution additionally creates a Division structure within the Teamsters that will “fully fund and apply necessary resources” to organizing workers at Amazon, according to a press release.
“For Teamsters, and the labor movement as a whole, Amazon poses an existential threat to the rights and standards our members have fought for and won,” Randy Korgan, the Teamsters National Director for Amazon, said in the release. “But it also poses a tremendous opportunity for us to engage our members, build large volunteer organizing committees, build even stronger community labor alliances, more deeply integrate racial and other social justice struggles into our work and more.”
“Standing on the shoulders of proud working people, who built our union for more than 100 years, the Teamsters will build the types of worker and community power necessary to take on one of the most powerful corporations in the world and win,” Korgan added.
“They’re not satisfied with just dominating logistics,” Teamsters Local 683 member Ralph Sistos said in the release. “What will our communities look like if they continue their monopoly tactics? I’m proud that my union will do everything it takes to keep Amazon from succeeding in swallowing up just about everything. Everything we love about our country and our neighborhoods is at stake.”
Tom McKay contributed this update to our coverage.