The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, backed by 1.4 million members, is launching an unprecedented nationwide effort to unionize workers at Amazon.
“We will organize Amazon,” Teamsters general president James Phillip Hoffa told members at this year’s convention, which is taking place virtually. Hoffa called the ecommerce giant “an existential threat” to unions and said Amazon workers want the support of Teamsters.
Delegates at the 30th International Convention, with representatives from all 500 Teamsters local unions, will vote Thursday on a new resolution to build worker power at Amazon. According to the text of the special resolution obtained by CBS News, Teamsters is aiming to create a new division to work directly with Amazon employees.
News of Amazon’s decision was first reported by Vice.
Members will vote on the resolution which reads that “building worker power at Amazon and helping those workers achieve a union contract is a top priority for the Teamsters Union and the Union commits to fully fund and support the Amazon Project.”
The resolution also calls for a “unified approach” between regional partners, local unions, joint councils, and international representatives in the fight against Amazon.
“The next American labor upsurge is on the horizon, but we must do the hard work necessary to make it a reality,” Randy Korgan, Teamsters National Director for Amazon, wrote in an op-ed last week. “Amazon will keep fighting workers who demand a safe workplace and a fair return on their labor, but our union and our broader movement is resilient,” Korgan continued.
The Teamsters, which claims on its website to be known “as the champion of freight drivers and warehouse workers” has nearly 1,900 local affiliates throughout the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
Tuesday’s announcement from Teamsters comes in the middle of Amazon’s two-day Prime Day event, one of the busiest times for the company. Amazon did not immediately respond to an inquiry from CBS News about this story.
Earlier this year, Amazon easily defeated a historic effort by its workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The effort by workers in Bessemer gained the attention of national leaders, including President Joe Biden, who signaled his support for the unionization drive.
The final count in that election showed that 55% of the 5,867 eligible workers cast a ballot but only 738 workers voted in favor, according to the National Labor Relations Board which conducted the election.
Following that election, the RWDSU accused Amazon of intimidating workers to vote against the union while the company said its employees were the ones who made the choice to vote against joining a union.
Union organizers who watched the bitter battle in Bessemer playout felt energized despite the tough loss and predicted that the efforts from workers in Bessemer would motivate workers in other parts of the country to stand up for their rights.
“We have been building power in the logistics industry since before meaningful labor law was enacted in this country,” Korgan wrote. “But genuine worker power at Amazon will take shop-floor militancy by Amazon workers and solidarity from warehousing and delivery Teamsters.”