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Teamsters Coming for Amazon Logistics Workers

The Teamsters Union has launched a new effort aimed at organizing Amazon warehouse and logistics workers as the e-commerce behemoth faced a recent setback in its effort to challenge unionization in its Staten Island warehouse

The Teamsters, which represents 1.2 million workers, said its newly launched Amazon Division is aimed at “uniting Amazon employees, securing more workplace protections in the warehouse and logistics industry and defending workers” from what it dubbed “the world’s most dangerous” employer. 

The Teamsters already represent 340,000 UPS drivers, some of whom are contracted to provide delivery services for Amazon. 

“For 120 years, the Teamsters have proudly and ferociously protected transportation, logistics and delivery workers, and we refuse to allow Amazon to continue to abuse and disrespect the more than one million Americans it employs,” Teamsters general president Sean M. O’Brien said in a statement. “The Teamsters are best positioned to coordinate and secure guaranteed protections for these workers, and Amazon knows it.” 

The Teamsters’ Amazon Division, O’Brien said, will offer union-related resources to Amazon workers. 

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The union said in its announcement Amazon employs one-third of the country’s warehouse workers and also accounts for half of all workplace injuries. 

“The new Amazon Division is ready to create and support direct action by workers across the country to beat back this corporate threat to working people,” Randy Korgan, the newly appointed director of the Amazon Division, said in a statement Tuesday. 

Korgan is also the secretary-treasurer and principal officer of Teamsters Local 1932, which counts 14,000 members in Southern California. The union said Korgan’s local unit’s coverage area is seen as key considering the Inland Empire, a major industrial real estate market for warehousing and distribution, is part of the region. 

The Teamsters efforts to help unionize Amazon logistics workers comes as effort to form a union among Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center workers notched a win against the e-commerce company. 

A hearing officer with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last week suggested Amazon’s objections to the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) be “overruled in their entirety,” citing lack of proof in supporting its challenge to the workers’ vote. 

An NLRB regional director must still consider the report’s conclusions and both sides will have a chance to file objections, with Amazon confirming last week it will file an appeal. 

Christian Smalls, a former Staten Island Amazon fulfillment center worker and ALU president, called the NLRB officer’s report “a great day for labor.” 

If the fulfillment center employees’ push to unionize goes through, it would mark the first union for Amazon employees domestically.

Amazon is already facing unionization efforts in Japan with 15 drivers in Nagasaki announcing their bid to unionize this week, criticizing the company for long hours and inadequate tech-assistance on delivery routes. The group follows other delivery drivers in the country who formed a union, demanding Amazon improve working conditions. 

The unionization efforts of Amazon employees here and abroad come as the Teamsters launched a major campaign in August aimed at making sure its UPS members secure a contract next year that includes higher pay and addresses “excessive” overtime among other factors.

The year-long campaign is expected to include rallies and site visits from local union representatives. 

The UPS contract is set to expire Aug. 1, 2023, with the union saying it will not “extend negotiations by a single day,” raising the possibility of a major strike if an agreement is not signed by the expiration date. 

Unrest and upset has marked the last mile recently. 

Competitor FedEx Ground has been facing off with a former contractor, Spencer Patton, who has been openly critical of FedEx’s business model. Patton raised the possibility of being forced to shut off service of his 225 routes beginning Black Friday if FedEx was unwilling to renegotiate his contracts. 

FedEx in turn sued Patton late last month for making “false and misleading statements” about the company, alleging the accusations were motivated by a desire to grow his own consulting business. FedEx also cut Patton’s route contracts the same day it filed its lawsuit. 

The case is currently open in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.