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Teamsters aim to step up efforts to organize Amazon workers

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NEW YORK (AP) – The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union representing 1.4 million delivery people, is establishing its…

NEW YORK (AP) – The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union representing 1.4 million delivery people, is setting its sights on Amazon.

On Thursday, he will vote on whether to make organizing Amazon workers his top priority. The Teamsters accuse the nation’s second-largest private employer of exploiting employees by paying them low wages, pushing them to work at high speed and offering no job security.

“There is no clearer example of how America is failing the working class than Amazon,” says the resolution that will be voted on by representatives of the 500 local Teamsters unions on Thursday.

The resolution is expected to be approved and would allow the Teamsters to “fully fund and support” efforts to organize Amazon workers and create a division to help them and “protect the standards of our industries from the existential threat that Amazon is. “. He declined to say how much money he will spend on the efforts.

Any attempt to unionize Amazon will likely be an uphill battle. None have succeeded in the company’s 26-year history, including the most recent in an Alabama warehouse where workers overwhelmingly voted against union membership.

But the Teamsters have said they will try a different strategy. Randy Korgan, National Teamsters Director for Amazon, wrote to Salon earlier this month that unionizing one facility at a time doesn’t work because companies like Amazon have the money and the legal resources to crush. these efforts from within. Instead, Korgan wrote that organizing the Amazon workers will require “workshop activism,” like strikes in warehouses and on city streets.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The online shopping giant had strongly opposed organizing efforts at the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse. Amazon has argued that it pays workers at least $ 15 an hour and already offers the benefits unions want. He hung anti-union signs throughout the warehouse, including inside washrooms, and held mandatory meetings to convince workers why the union is a bad idea, according to a worker who testified at a hearing in the Senate.

During the vote count in April, nearly 71% of the more than 2,500 valid votes counted rejected a union.

The organization in Bessemer was led by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union of New York, which represents 100,000 workers in poultry factories; cereal and soda bottling installations; and retailers such as Macy’s and H&M.

The Teamsters are much bigger. The union has been around since the early 1900s, when goods were delivered by horse-drawn wagons. It now represents 1.4 million truckers, UPS employees and other types of workers, including nurses and warehouse mechanics.

“This is a strong and successful union,” said Alex Colvin, dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, who added that Amazon workers reflect the type of membership that it already represents. “He is a formidable adversary for Amazon to face.”

The Teamsters are targeting workers in Amazon’s rapidly growing delivery network, such as drivers and warehouse workers who pack and ship orders. Over the past two years, Seattle-based Amazon has focused on delivering most of its packages on its own and being less reliant on UPS, the U.S. Postal Service, and other carriers.

He has built several parcel sorting centers at airports, opened warehouses closer to where buyers live, and launched a program that allows entrepreneurs to start businesses delivering packages in vans stamped with the Amazon logo. In January, he purchased 11 jets that he plans to use to deliver orders to buyers faster.

The Teamsters said in their resolution that Amazon’s delivery network has become a dominant force in the logistics industry in a short period of time, and the way it treats workers could threaten the labor standards it has established. at UPS and other parcel, freight and delivery companies. .

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Follow Joseph Pisani on Twitter: @ josephpisani

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