Amazon Faces Wider Fight Over Labor Practices

Perhaps the most prominent voice in this discussion is the more than one million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which passed a resolution at its June Congress obliging the union to “provide all the resources necessary” to help workers in the company organize and help them win a union contract.

The Teamsters argue that in a company like Amazon there is usually no point in holding union votes at individual workplaces because labor law allows employers to campaign aggressively, and because high turnover means that union supporters often leave the company before they do have the opportunity to vote.

Instead, the Teamsters prefer a combination of tactics such as strikes, protests and boycotts that put pressure on the company to come to the negotiating table and negotiate a contract on wages, benefits and working conditions. Although the union has not detailed its tactics, it recently organized strikes with drivers and dock workers in a southern California port to protest the treatment of drivers there.

They hope to enlist the help of workers from other companies, personable consumers, and even local businesses threatened by a giant like Amazon to alleviate the challenges of high employee turnover.

“Building our relationships within the community itself is the way to deal with it,” Randy Korgan, a Teamters official from Southern California and national union director for Amazon, said in a recent interview. “We could have moved and entered the process in a number of places in the past more than a year, but we recognize that the electoral process has its flaws.”

The union believes it can pull a variety of political levers to put the company on the defensive. Mr Korgan cited a recent Fort Wayne, Indiana city council vote denying Amazon a tax break after a local Teamters official opposed it and a vote by the Arvada, Colorado city council to deny anything more than 100,000 square feet Amazon delivery station. While the Arvada vote focused on traffic concerns, Teamsters played a role in raising the opposition.

In California, the Teamsters partnered with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, an advocacy group, to support a bill requiring certain employers to disclose the often opaque worker productivity rates that they can for failure disciplined or fired. The legal language makes it clear that Amazon is the main target.

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