Union Representing Over 1.4M Delivery Drivers Sets Sights on Unionizing Amazon

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents over 1.4 million delivery drivers, will vote Thursday on a resolution to make unionizing Amazon its top priority.

The union has accused Amazon of paying low wages, pushing employees to work at extremely fast speeds and not offering job security. The resolution would give the Teamsters the ability to "fully fund and support" unionization efforts by Amazon employees.

"There is no clearer example of how America is failing the working class than Amazon," the resolution says. It also aims to create a division to aid Amazon workers and "protect the standards in our industries from the existential threat that is Amazon."

The resolution will be voted on by representatives from 500 local Teamsters unions and is expected to be approved.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Amazon logo
Amazon's regional headquarters in the Silicon Valley town of Sunnyvale, California. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Any attempt to unionize Amazon is likely to be an uphill battle. None has been successful in the company's 26-year history, including the most recent one at an Alabama warehouse where workers overwhelmingly voted against joining a union.

But the Teamsters said it will try a different strategy. Randy Korgan, the Teamsters' national director for Amazon, wrote on Salon earlier this month that unionizing one facility at a time doesn't work because companies like Amazon have the money and legal resources to squash those efforts from the inside. Instead, Korgan wrote that organizing Amazon workers will take "shop-floor militancy," such as strikes in warehouses and in city streets.

Amazon didn't respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The online shopping behemoth had pushed hard against unionizing efforts at the warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. Amazon argued that it paid workers at least $15 an hour and already offered the benefits unions want. It hung anti-union signs throughout the warehouse, including inside bathroom stalls, 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, nearly 71 percent of the more than 2,500 valid votes counted rejected a union.

The organizing in Bessemer was led by the New York-based Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents 100,000 workers at poultry plants, cereal and soda bottling facilities, and retailers such as Macy's and H&M.

The Teamsters is much larger. The union has been around since the early 1900s when goods were delivered by horse-drawn wagons. It now represents 1.4 million truckers, UPS employees and other types of workers, including nurses and warehouse mechanics.

"They're a strong, successful union," said Alex Colvin, the dean of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He added that Amazon workers reflect the type of members it already represents. "They're a formidable adversary for Amazon to face."

The Teamsters is targeting workers in Amazon's fast-growing delivery network, such as drivers and warehouse workers who pack and ship orders. In the past couple of years, Seattle-based Amazon has been working to deliver most of its packages itself and rely less on UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and other carriers.

It has built several package-sorting hubs at airports, opened warehouses closer to where shoppers live, and launched a program that lets contractors start businesses delivering packages in vans stamped with the Amazon logo. In January, it bought 11 jets that it plans to use to deliver orders to shoppers faster.

The Teamsters said in its resolution that Amazon's delivery network has become a dominant force in the logistics industry in a short amount of time and the way it treats workers could threaten the working standards it has set at UPS and at other parcel, freight and delivery companies.

Amazon delivery van
An Amazon delivery van departs from a warehouse in Dedham, Massachusetts, on October 1, 2020. Steven Senne, File/AP Photo