Exclusive-Teamsters organizing workers’ unions at 9 Amazon.com facilities in Canada By Reuters
By Julia Love and Moira Warburton
(Reuters) – The Teamsters workers’ union has launched campaigns to organize employees in at least nine Canadian facilities of U.S. e-commerce company Amazon.com (NASDAQ:), according to Reuters interviews with union officials.
This week, the influential union made the first steps to organize workers at Amazon.com’s Canadian facility. Interviews with union officials reveal that it has expanded such efforts throughout the country. The e-commerce giant employs approximately 25,000 people and is planning to hire 15,000 more.
Teamsters could view the campaigns as an attempt to bet that the Teamsters’ early successes in unionizing workers in Canada, a labor-friendly country like Canada, will lead to similar success south of the border where Amazon has not yet attempted unionization.
Teamters Local Union 362 in Edmonton, Alberta, filed late Monday to vote for union representation at the company’s Nisku fulfillment center. This was in response to Amazon’s recent anti-unionization position.
Interviews conducted with Teamsters units across Canada and other cities have shown that these unions’ efforts reach from British Columbia’s Pacific Coast province to southern Ontario, the Canadian economic hub.
According to the Teamsters Edmonton unit, there are enough cards signed calling for a union that meets the threshold of 40% to be eligible to vote. The union has two units in Ontario, and one in Alberta that have signed cards with Amazon workers.
Two units from five that confirmed they were organizing also said that they have campaigns running at different sites. That brings the total number of Amazon workers who are involved in any level of organization to nine.
“Any locals that have an Amazon facility in their area are doing an organizing campaign,” Jim Killey, an organizer with Teamsters Local 879 near Hamilton, Ontario, told Reuters.
Amazon Canada did not respond immediately to our request for comment. Amazon Canada spokesperson Dave Bauer stated earlier in the week that unions were not the right solution for employees.
He said that unions could prevent Amazon Canada from adapting quickly to employees’ demands and would also represent the “voices of a few”.
Teamsters believe they have the ability to improve wages and provide benefits for workers, including leave of absence.
SLEEPING IN THEIR CARS
Unionization votes in Canada do not have any direct bearing on the United States, but they could raise enthusiasm, said John Logan, a labor professor at San Francisco State University.
“Organizing at a place like Amazon requires workers to take a certain amount of risk,” Logan said. “If they can look to other places and see that that risk has paid off for other workers, then they are far more inclined to do it themselves.”
Union members are going to great lengths to connect with Amazon workers, sleeping in their cars to catch the employees after graveyard shifts and forging ties at local churches.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has more than a million members in the United States and Canada, has made organizing Amazon a top priority, describing it as an “existential threat.”
Amazon doesn’t have unionized plants in North America. Teamsters is just one union that has attempted to organise its high-churn workforce.
The vote for organizing workers in Bessemer, Alabama by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, (RWDSU), was defeated earlier this year by more than two-to-1. The result of the vote to organize workers in Bessemer, Alabama by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) is currently being challenged. Amazon was a strong opponent to unionization.
Teamsters say they are not planning to seek these votes in the United States anytime soon. The Teamsters argue that the American system is biased towards employers.
The Teamsters, however, see a chance to vote in Canada because of the favorable labor laws.
The Teamsters’ Killey said his chapter is campaigning at Amazon facilities in Milton, Cambridge and Kitchener, all traditionally working-class towns just west of Toronto, Canada’s most populous city.
Christopher Monette of Teamsters Canada, spokeswoman, said that “where we see there’s a lot support, we will go full throttle ahead.”
Jason Sweet, president of Teamsters Local 419 in Ontario, said his unit has begun signing cards with workers in the greater Toronto area and has formed WhatsApp groups with Amazon workers to keep them abreast of the union’s efforts, delivering updates every 48 hours or so. He stated that they are working to develop relationships internally.
Stan Hennessy of Teamsters Local 31 in British Columbia said that many potential members were open to the idea.
“It’s our hope that we can help these workers,” he said. “They certainly can use some help.”