According to Reuters interviews with union officials, the Teamsters union has launched a campaign to organize employees in at least nine Canadian factories of the American e-commerce company Amazon.
Earlier this week, this influential union took the first step and organized employees of Amazon’s Canadian factory. Interviews revealed that it is expanding this type of work nationwide. The e-commerce company has approximately 25,000 nationwide. Employees and plans to add another 15,000 employees.
Truck drivers can view these activities as a bet that, in more labor-friendly markets such as Canada, the early success of employee unions will inspire similar results in areas south of the border, where Amazon has so far resisted union attempts.
In the latest challenge to Amazon’s anti-union stance, Teamsters Local Union 362 of Edmonton, Alberta voted on union representation at a company fulfillment center near Nisku on Monday night.
Interviews with truck driver units in other cities and provinces indicate that the union’s efforts extend from British Columbia on the Pacific coast to the Canadian economic center of southern Ontario.
The Edmonton department of Teamsters said it has enough signature cards to call on unions to reach the 40% threshold for voting. Two units of the union in Ontario and one unit in Alberta have confirmed that they are signing membership cards with Amazon employees.
It was confirmed to Reuters that two of the five organizations they were organizing indicated that they were carrying out activities in multiple locations, bringing the total number of Amazon facilities involved in some degree of organization to at least nine.
Jim Killey, the organizer of Teamsters Local 879 near Hamilton, Ontario, told Reuters: “Any local people who have Amazon facilities in their area are organizing activities.”
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Earlier this week, Amazon Canada spokesperson Dave Bauer said in an email statement: “As a company, we believe that unions are not the best choice for our employees.”
He added that the union will prevent the company from changing quickly to meet the needs of employees and represent the “voice of the minority.”
Teamsters says they can help workers get better wages and benefits, such as taking time off.
Sleeping in their car
John Logan, a professor of labor at San Francisco State University, said Canadian union votes have no direct impact on the United States, but they can increase enthusiasm.
“Organizing work in places like Amazon requires employees to take a certain amount of risk,” Logan said. “If they can look elsewhere and see that this risk has paid off for other workers, then they are more inclined to do it themselves.”
Union members spare no effort to establish contact with Amazon employees, sleep in their cars after shifts at the cemetery to catch employees, and establish contact at the local church.
The International Brotherhood of Truck Drivers, which has more than 1 million members in the United States and Canada, has made the organization of Amazon a top priority, describing it as an “existential threat.”
Amazon does not have any union facilities in North America. Teamsters is one of the few unions trying to take on the arduous task of organizing its large, high turnover labor force.
Earlier this year, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) failed by more than two to one in a vote of the workers organized by Bessemer, Alabama. Amazon vigorously opposes unionization, and the result is controversial.
Teamsters stated that they will not seek to hold such a vote in the United States in the short term, arguing that the process unfairly favors employers.
But in Canada, where labor laws are more favorable, Teamsters saw an opportunity to enter the ballot box directly.
Keely of the Truckers said his chapter is running campaigns at Amazon factories in Milton, Cambridge and Kitchener, which are traditionally working-class towns located west of Toronto, Canada’s most populous city.
Jason Sweet, the president of Teamsters Local 419 in Ontario, said that his department has begun to sign cards with workers in the Greater Toronto Area and formed a WhatsApp group with Amazon workers to let them know about the union’s efforts and update it every 48 hours or so. “We are trying to build relationships from within,” he said.
In British Columbia, Stan Hennessy, chairman of Teamsters Local 31, said that potential members have accepted it.
“We hope to help these workers,” he said. “Of course they can use some help.”
© Thomson Reuters 2021