An Amazon researcher broke down the company’s growing threat to Teamster jobs and members talked about what a strategy for organizing Amazon could look like in the TDU online workshop The Amazon Threat: Meeting the Challenge.
The Amazon training and strategy session was part of a series of zoom workshops leading up to this year’s online TDU Convention on Sunday November 8. Find out more and register here.
The Growing Amazon Business Model & Threat
Until 2012, Amazon’s business model focused on warehousing and selling goods and used UPS and other companies to ship to their customers.
Since then, Amazon has rapidly expanded into sorting and delivering its own packages, directly competing with UPS.
Amazon sortation center workers, equivalent to a UPS hub, are part-timers and make $15 an hour with no benefits.
In 2018, Amazon had only 80 delivery stations. Today, Amazon has 300 delivery stations. More than 200 million customers live within 45 minutes of a delivery station.
In September, Amazon announced that it will build 1,000 more delivery stations.
Delivery drivers don’t work for Amazon. They work for small subcontractors (called Amazon service providers) for $15 an hour or are “Amazon Flex Drivers”—the name that Amazon uses for its fleet of self-employed personal vehicle drivers.
What Could IBT Strategy Look Like?
With one million employees, Amazon is now the second biggest employer in the U.S. after Walmart.
Organizing Amazon is not something that is going to happen shop-by-shop or through the typical NLRB election process.
One way to approach the question is this: What would it take to have the capacity to disrupt Amazon’s ability to deliver to customers at peak season in targeted, strategic metro areas.
IBT Vice President John Palmer, a seasoned union organizer and TDU leader, led a discussion of some of the steps that could strengthen our union’s ability and power to do that.
1. A Massive Salting Program
Salts are organizers who get jobs at an employer to organize with other workers from and build shopfloor power from the inside.
Right now, there are dozens of grassroots organizers who have gotten jobs at Amazon to promote workplace organizing.
Some Amazon workers have organized job actions and even work stoppages to fight for paid time off, sick leave, COVID-19 health and safety, and other issues.
The IBT can support the organizing that workers are doing now and recruit, support and coordinate the activities of hundreds of salts nationwide and in targeted Amazon facilities.
2. Connect Amazon Organizing with Our Work at UPS
Right now, there is no coordination between the IBT Package Division and our union’s organizing work at Amazon. That makes no sense.
A militant contract campaign and successful strike at UPS could inspire Amazon workers to want to join the Teamsters.
Non-union workers want to join a union that is fighting back. It’s hard to recruit new members if you’re selling out the ones you have.
3. Build and train serious Volunteer organizing committees in Local Unions.
The IBT has 300,000 members at UPS. If 1% of them were volunteer organizers that would be 3,000 volunteer organizers.
We need a program that coordinates with unions and supports them if they commit to build and train serious Volunteer Organizing Committees, including rank-and-file contract campaign committees, something that has not happened since the preparation for the 1997 strike.
Volunteer organizers could back up salts and workplace organizers, do worker-to-worker organizing, and support actions at Amazon, including strikes and job actions.
4. Target Amazon for Actions at Peak
Target Amazon for actions at peak when the company’s capacity is stretched the thinnest and the company is vulnerable to public actions.
In partnership with workplace-based organizing committees and community groups, our union needs to build the capacity to disrupt Amazon’s operations across a metro area and ideally multiple metro areas.
5. Dig in for the Long-Term
There is not going to be any one-off win at Amazon. We need to commit real resources, take on fights, build partnerships and capacity.
That’s how we’ll build power to beat Amazon over time.
Some Next Steps
So how do we get started? Some next steps discussed on the workshop included:
- Holding educational workshops about Amazon for members
- Making the Amazon threat and how to meet it an issue in the upcoming election
- Build volunteer organizing committees in local unions
- Supporting current IBT organizing efforts at Amazon and Amazon subcontractors
Supporting rallies, job actions, and organizing by Amazon workers
- Using the 2023 UPS contract fight, not only to win at UPS, but to position our union to organize Amazon.
The Amazon training and strategy session was part of a series of zoom workshops leading up to this year’s online TDU Convention on Sunday November 8.