Amazon’s new union battle: Teamsters move locally to rumble on expansion

By on September 2, 2021 0

SAN FRANCISCO, September 1 (Reuters) – In June, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the largest and most influential unions in the country, pledged to organize the workforce. Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) artwork a top priority.

Two months later, details of the Teamsters’ ground game are starting to take shape, Reuters learned in interviews with local union leaders. While the organization of workers is the ultimate goal, the short-term strategy is that of disruption.

Over the past year, the Teamsters have raised concerns about Amazon at local government meetings in at least 10 communities, resulting in projects being abandoned and a tax break rejected, as well as resolutions calling on the company to adhere to local labor standards, according to a Reuters tally.

From Fort Wayne, Indiana to Oceanside, Calif., The Teamsters are popping up in city halls across the country, joining forces with community groups as they seek to persuade local officials to demand more from the nation. tech giant or outright reject its expansion plans. They train members of logistics companies on how to talk to Amazon drivers about the benefits of organizing. In New York, the Teamsters weighed in on an antitrust bill passed by the State Senate that would make it easier for regulators to prosecute companies for anti-competitive behavior, and they also supported antitrust bills in the State Senate. American representatives.

Taken together, these early moves show the Teamsters are tapping into their network of over a million members to take on Amazon on a local level. The growing push suggests that while Amazon pushed back earlier this year an attempt by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union (RWDSU) to organize workers in Bessemer, Alabama, the struggle against unions has only just begun, and it is being carried out across the country.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

The Teamsters are playing the game long, showing that if Amazon’s workers’ organization is a long-term endeavor, they can keep the company on their toes by questioning expansion plans in the meantime.

Most Amazon facilities “have to be built in a particular area for operational purposes,” Randy Korgan, national director of Teamsters for Amazon, said in an interview. “Why would a community give anything? “

Rather than hold votes overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, as the RWDSU did in Bessemer, the Teamsters have indicated they will seek to increase pressure on Amazon through tactics such as community protests. , strikes and boycotts until the e-commerce giant was forced to deal with them.

EARTH GAME

With its large, high-turnover workforce, Amazon is considered one of the toughest targets for organized labor, and removing a proposed warehouse is a long way from organizing a workforce. The International Union of United Food and Commercial Workers, for example, has fought the expansion of Walmart Inc (WMT.N) for years using similar tactics, but has yet to bring in workers. Americans in the fold.

Still, local forums such as town halls and planning committee meetings are a good place to start, said Pat Garofalo, director of national and local policy at the American Economic Liberties Project, a non-profit organization.

“You have to reduce (Amazon’s) ability to do the right thing at the same time as you strengthen the ability of workers to make demands,” he said.

As one of America’s largest unions, the Teamsters are well funded, although their finances are decentralized, with the money often concentrated in the hands of powerful local branches, said John Logan, a labor professor at the San Francisco State University. This makes local membership essential, although Logan doesn’t think the Teamsters will have a hard time uniting around Amazon’s cause.

Southern California, which is both a logistics hub for Amazon and a place where unions have strong support, has become a key battleground. To talk about a plan to install Amazon in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, the Teamsters knocked on the doors of some 700 neighboring homes and attended county meetings.

The union followed a similar playbook in Oceanside, Calif., Urging community members to sign “pledge cards” to stay engaged in Amazon’s development. In August, the city council rejected the project.

The Teamsters are also closing ranks around Amazon in Massachusetts. In Boston and 11 surrounding municipalities, local leaders have passed non-binding resolutions drafted by Local 25 of the Teamsters that urge Amazon to uphold local labor standards and meet with unions and community groups as they arise. its expansion, according to Local 25.

Pushing the resolutions, the Teamsters have targeted municipalities close to highways and airports, seeking to hit Amazon where it hurts, said Sean O’Brien, president of Local 25.

“Amazon is not happy with it,” said O’Brien.

Boston City Councilor Liz Breadon, who co-sponsored the resolution, said it “sends a very clear message to Amazon that we take working conditions, wages and benefits very seriously.”

It’s unclear whether the Teamsters can slow down Amazon’s pace of growth in the long run, but one thing’s for sure – combat will require stamina. In June, the Arvada, Colorado city council rejected an Amazon delivery hub project after Teamsters sales agent Dan Murphy and other community members spoke out against the project, citing concerns such as traffic, safety and working conditions.

Weeks after the vote, Murphy heard rumors of another Amazon project that could be underway an hour north.

Reporting by Julia Love in San Francisco; Editing by Kenneth Li, Peter Henderson, Matthew Lewis and Sandra Maler

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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