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The Teamsters Want To Unionize Amazon Workers. Here's What That Means

The Teamsters want to go after Amazon.

That was the message on opening day of the three-day, virtual convention of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Members from 500 Teamsters local unions are meeting to lay out priorities for the next five years. Delegates will vote Thursday on a resolution vowing support for Amazon workers across the country.

"Be it resolved, that building worker power at Amazon and helping those workers achieve a union contract is a top priority for the Teamsters Union," the document says.

Today, Teamsters general president James P. Hoffa called Amazon "an existential threat to every Teamster out there."

The Teamsters, which represents 1.4 million workers in trucking, warehousing and other logistics industries, has had its eye on the e-commerce giant since long before a failed attempt to unionize Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala., earlier this year. In 2020, the Teamsters appointed a national director for Amazon, Randy Korgan, who called the company "enemy No. 1" in a recent op-ed.

"There is perhaps no clearer manifestation of how America is failing the working class than Amazon," wrote Korgan in Salon. "Building genuine worker power at Amazon will take shop-floor militancy by Amazon workers and solidarity from warehousing and delivery Teamsters."

So far, efforts to organize Amazon warehouse workers have failed. In Bessemer, Ala., workers voted more than two-to-one against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Korgan noted that focusing on one facility at a time was insufficient when going up against a "monopoly corporation" such as Amazon.

The Teamsters resolution calls for "shop floor strikes, city-wide strikes and actions in the streets" and the creation of a special "Amazon Division" that would oversee the effort. It does not contain specifics about when the campaign would start or how much the Teamsters would spend in the fight against Amazon.

NPR has reached out to Amazon for a comment on the proposed resolution and is awaiting a response.

Over the past year, Amazon has been on a hiring spree, adding 400,000 jobs in 2020 as online shopping soared in the pandemic. The company is just wrapping up two days of Prime Day sales, with two million deals for customers in 20 countries.

Amazon is one of NPR's financial supporters.

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