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Teamsters vote to make helping Amazon workers unionize a priority

Building worker power at Amazon and helping those workers achieve a union contract is a top priority for the Teamsters Union, states a resolution that Teamsters delegates will vote on Thursday. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
"Building worker power at Amazon and helping those workers achieve a union contract is a top priority for the Teamsters Union," states a resolution that Teamsters delegates will vote on Thursday. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

June 24 (UPI) -- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters voted Thursday in favor of a plan to support unionization efforts for Amazon warehouse workers and drivers in the United States.

The Teamsters, one of America's largest labor unions, gathered for its annual convention where delegates voted on an initiative known as "The Amazon Project," which will create a special division to fund and assist workers with organizing, according to a resolution.

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"Amazon presents a massive threat to working-class communities and good jobs in the logistics industry," said Randy Korgan, Teamsters national director for Amazon.

"Amazon workers face dehumanizing, unsafe and low-pay jobs, with high turnover and no voice at work. Amazon workers are calling for safer and better working conditions and with today's resolution we are activating the full force of our union to support them."

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In the document, Teamsters called for "shop floor strikes, citywide strikes and actions in the streets" among Amazon workers to call attention to ongoing labor issues.

"Building worker power at Amazon and helping those workers achieve a union contract is a top priority for the Teamsters Union," the document states, according to NPR.

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Complaints from drivers and warehouse workers around the world have dogged Amazon for years, including too few breaks, excessive productivity goals and unsafe working conditions.

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New York filed suit against Amazon in February, accusing the company of failing to provide adequate coronavirus health and safety protocols at its distribution centers in the state. California is also investigating Amazon practices. And warehouse workers in Germany have gone on strike over the same issues.

Previous efforts to unionize Amazon workers have failed.

In April, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., rejected a proposal to unionize. In that effort, more than half of workers opposed the proposal to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

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Members of the union later lodged a series of 23 objections with the National Labor Relations Board and accused Amazon of interfering in the "free and fair" vote and "gaslighting" its employees.

Thursday's vote comes a couple of weeks before Jeff Bezos is set to step down as Amazon's chief executive. He will be succeeded on July 5 by Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services.

The Teamsters Union, which represents more than 1.4 million U.S. workers, sent a letter to members of Congress this week to urge them to pass a series of bills aimed at reforming federal antitrust laws.

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In the letter, Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa noted Amazon's dominance in the digital marketplace.

"In just a short time, Amazon has been able to use profits generated from its dominant position in AWS and retail e-commerce, coupled with anti-competitive practices enabled by market power, to become a dominant firm in the last-mile delivery portion of the logistics industry," Hoffa, the son of legendary Teamsters leader James R. Hoffa, said in a statement.

"Amazon also abuses its market power in e-commerce to restrict third-party sellers' options of last-mile delivery and logistics firms -- and in the process it is destroying middle-class jobs. These companies should not be able to choose winners and losers in the economy. We need a level playing field for the health of our economy and its small businesses, consumers and workers."

The company rolled out a plan in May to reduce worker injuries.

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