photo above: Members of Teamsters Locals 987 and 362 protest outside an Amazon fulfillment center in Alberta, Canada, on July 14, 2021, after meeting with Amazon workers across the country to discuss working conditions and union organizing.COURTESY: TEAMSTERS CANADA
WN: One wonders what the expense of Mr. Bezos’ 10-minute flirt with outer space might have done for North American workers wanting a fair living wage, unencumbered by racism, favouritism, and other unjust impediments. Go for it, Canada!
The struggle to unionize Amazon is shifting to Canada, where workers in Alberta could soon be the first to unionize an Amazon warehouse in North America. Workers at the “YEG1” facility in Nisku, Alberta, just outside Edmonton, filed for a union election on Monday, September 13. The election could be held in mere weeks, once the Alberta Labour Relations Board approves the application.
Workers at the relatively new facility in Nisku, which employs between 600 to 800 Amazon “associates,” have described rampant favoritism and discrimination against marginalized workers of color and immigrants. Job security, the pace of work and wages are also among Nisku workers’ top concerns, according to Christopher Monette, director of public affairs at Teamsters Canada.
“A lot workers were telling us stories about how they have been given less favorable job assignments or postings within the warehouse. For example, having to lift heavier boxes without access to the right equipment, things like that,” Monette tells Truthout. “They feel it’s because they didn’t have the correct relationship with their manager or because of their race or ethnic background.”
While many Amazon warehouse workers in Europe have unionized, the company has waged severe union-busting campaigns to fend off union drives across North America. The U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found the company violated U.S. labor law in beating back its first North American union election at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, earlier this year, and has recommended Bessemer workers hold a new election to determine whether to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
Now, one of the most powerful unions in North America, International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, are stepping up to the plate, hoping that Canada’s union-friendly labor laws will give its local, Teamsters 362, an edge in its union drive at Nisku, and build momentum at warehouses across the country — and the continent.
A collective agreement with seniority rights, he says, would provide a permanent solution to the problem of both favoritism and discrimination that workers have alleged are systemic at the Nisku facility, since workers with seniority would be able to bid on job assignments, preventing shop floor managers from making decisions potentially based on preference or prejudice.
“For both Americans and Canadians, this sends a powerful message. Nisku Amazon workers … are saying, ‘No, we’re not going to be afraid, we’re not going to be intimidated. As Canadian workers, we have the legal right to unionization as a way to improve our lives, and we’re going to do it,’ and the Teamsters are supporting them through that process,” [Christopher Monette, director of public affairs at Teamsters Canada] says. “We’re hoping it’s going to be snowball effect. We’re going to start at Nisku, but this can snowball into even more sites as things go on.”
Just as the failed union election in Bessemer, Alabama, sparked a wave of organizing at Amazon warehouses across the U.S., the new union drive at Nisku could inspire similar unionization efforts at even larger Canadian warehouses and provide important new lessons for union organizers in the U.S, where Amazon is set to become the largest employer in the next year or two.
Please click on: Canadian Amazon Warehouse First to Unionize?