Amazon Labor Union Workers Vote Overwhelmingly in Favor of Affiliation with Teamsters

The move gives the union access to additional resources as it works toward a contract with the e-commerce giant.

Jason Anthony, an Amazon worker and union organizer, outside the National Labor Relations Board office in New York, May 2, 2022.
Jason Anthony, an Amazon worker and union organizer, outside the National Labor Relations Board office in New York, May 2, 2022.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

New York City warehouse workers who are part of the Amazon Labor Union overwhelmingly voted to align themselves with the Teamsters as they try to get a contract from the online retailer.

The ALU members voted 98.3% in favor of the affiliation, which will give them access to additional resources in their effort to bring Amazon to the bargaining table, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said Tuesday.

"Together, with hard work, courage, and conviction, the Teamsters and ALU will fight fearlessly to ensure Amazon workers secure the good jobs and safe working conditions they deserve in a union contract," Teamsters General President Sean M. O'Brien said in a statement.

Amazon, which has disputed the 2022 election in which the ALU won the right to represent workers at a Staten Island warehouse, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Now that the labor group's members have approved the affiliation deal, the ALU will essentially join the Teamsters as an "autonomous" local union with the same rights and duties as a standard chapter, according to a copy of the agreement that was seen by The Associated Press.

The approximately 5,500 Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island will be represented by a newly chartered ALU-International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1. It will have jurisdiction for Amazon warehouse workers across New York's five boroughs, and is also expected to help with the Teamsters' broader organizing efforts at other Amazon facilities outside its jurisdiction.

The agreement says at least three representatives of the local union will participate in "executive planning and strategy discussions" with the Teamsters division that focuses on organizing Amazon workers.

ALU President Chris Smalls said he was proud of members for "choosing a path to victory."

"We're now stronger than ever before," Smalls said.

John Logan, a labor history professor at San Francisco State University, said teaming up with an established union was like a "lifeline" for the independent ALU because the group is "going nowhere at the moment."

"Doing it independently is just so difficult when you're up against a company like (Amazon), which is big, wealthy and is determined to defeat the union," Logan said.

The Amazon Labor Union's 2022 victory in Staten Island remains its only election win to date. Yet the group is the only labor organization to pull off the feat at an Amazon warehouse in the U.S., in part due to opposition from the company and the sheer size of many of its facilities.

But despite the ALU's initial success, it hasn't been able to secure a contract for more than two years as Amazon continues to appeal the vote the National Labor Relation Board.

At the same time, the group has encountered other setbacks, including two election losses at other Amazon warehouses and internal strife about its organizing strategy.

Some organizers left to form the ALU Democratic Reform Caucus, a dissident group that sued the ALU last year to force an election for new leadership. That election is expected to be held in July outside of the warehouse that voted to unionize, Arthur Schwartz, an attorney who represents the dissident group, said earlier this month.

Connor Spence, the Caucus' candidate for president, indicated he was supportive of the affiliation with the Teamsters, saying in a statement that it "sends a powerful reminder to Amazon that we're not giving up in our yearslong campaign for respect, better wages, and safe jobs."

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, created in 1903, has 1.3 million members in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

O'Brien, a fiery leader, was elected in 2021 on a platform that emphasized greater organizing at Amazon. He has also indicated that the union's wins elsewhere, like the collective bargaining agreement it secured at UPS last year, would help its fight to organize Amazon workers.

The Teamsters have been pushing to organize Amazon's driving workforce, though that effort hasn't led to any major wins recognized by the company. In April, Amazon workers at a large company Air Hub in Kentucky decided to affiliate with the union amid their own organizing effort.

San Francisco State's Logan said the affiliation with the ALU also was a smart move by the Teamsters, which needs to think of new ways to organize at Amazon. He thinks winning union elections at the company will require grassroots campaigns akin to the one that led to the ALU's victory instead of the top-down, traditional campaigns many unions employ.

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