Head of the ‘Amazon Project’ explains why Teamsters are optimistic about unionizing the corporate giant

Business

BESSEMER, AL – MARCH 29: The Amazon fulfillment warehouse at the center of a unionization drive is seen on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama. Employees at the fulfillment center are currently voting on whether to form a union, a decision that could have national repercussions. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) —The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the nation’s largest and most powerful unions, passed a resolution this week to help unionize Amazon’s 1 million workers.

As part of the resolution passed on Thursday, the Teamsters have committed to fully funding organizing efforts at Amazon.

“It’s obvious that Amazon as they have aggressively moved into the transportation industry, that… their business model is somewhat of an assault on that industry, as well as the workers in that industry,” said International Brotherhood of Teamsters National Director, Randy Korgan.

During the group’s 30th international convention last week, about 99% of members voted to make unionization efforts at Amazon its top priority for the next five years.

Korgan, the national director for the “Amazon Project,” thinks it is a natural next-step for the union.

“Our members are out there. Hundreds of thousands of our members work side by side with these workers delivering packages to doors, delivering products working in warehouses and operations and distribution centers very much like Amazon workers,” explained Korgan.

Supporters of Amazon workers protest in front of Fidelity Investments, one of the company’s largest shareholders on May 24, 2021 in Santa Monica, California. – The nationwide protests are asking shareholders to demand that Amazon change its practices to be more accountable to workers, communities and stakeholders, while also calling on Amazon to cut ties with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and end its anti-competitive monopoly practices. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon reported it had nearly $110 billion in sales and $8 billion in profits during the first three months of 2021.

Shopping experts say the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the massive increase in profits.

It also lead to major backlash when many Amazon workers complained about the company’s labor practices during the pandemic.

Although the vote is new, Korgan stated Amazon employees have reached out to the Teamsters over the last several years, looking for help empowering workers at the retail giant.

“This isn’t the Teamsters going and, and pushing ourselves onto these workers…these workers are reaching out going, ‘Hey, what’s going on here? Like, this is really tough work? Why am I only making $16 an hour?,’ Or ‘Why are these productivity levels so high? Is there any help,” described Korgan.

So far, no effort to unionize Amazon has been successful in the company’s 26-year history, including a recent one at an Alabama warehouse where workers overwhelmingly voted against joining a union.

Amazon fought hard against the union push at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. At the time, Amazon said that it paid workers at least $15 an hour and offers them benefits, both things unions want. It hung anti-union signs throughout the warehouse and held mandatory meetings to convince workers why the union is a bad idea, according to one worker who testified at a Senate hearing.

When the votes were counted in April, the majority rejected the union. The organizing there was led by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents 100,000 workers at poultry plants and retailers, such as Macy’s and H&M.

Amazon has not responded to NewsNation’s recent requests for comment.

The company released a statement following the failed unionization attempt in Alabama earlier this year. It said, “Amazon works hard to listen to its employees and always puts their wellbeing and safety first.”

The Associated Press Contributed to this Report

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