Members of the Teamsters will vote on whether to make the organization of Amazon employees a top priority.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which will gather virtually this week for its 30th annual convention, will introduce a resolution that, if approved Thursday, will make supporting Amazon workers and helping them attain a union contract a key goal.
"Amazon claims to be innovative, but its strategies of market dominance and labor exploitation are as old as capitalism itself,'' Randy Korgan, the Teamsters' national director for Amazon, wrote in a June 14 editorial for Salon. "Unions are one of the few large civic organizations left where everyday people get to practice democracy ... At this year's Convention, Teamsters will use these democratic means to fully mobilize our union against Amazon's threat to working class communities."
The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on labor practices, and Amazon was one of the companies frequently criticized by some workers, activists and legislators who said Amazon employees were overworked and denied adequate wages and protections to safeguard their health.
President Joe Biden has emphasized the importance of unions and supports federal legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize as well as penalize businesses that disregard orders from the National Labor Relations Board.
He even taped a message of support for the unionizing efforts at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. But in April, workers there overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
While Amazon and some business groups praised the vote's outcome, labor advocates said the Bessemer vote highlighted how difficult it is to organize as well as the pressures put on workers to reject union membership.
► Giveaway for COVID-19 vaccine: Walgreens announces $25 giveaway for new COVID-19 vaccine recipients
"As we saw in the closely-watched National Labor Relations Board election at Amazon's Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, the company is willing to violate the law and spare no expense to keep its workers from forming a union,'' Korgan wrote in his editorial.
The Teamsters represent 1.4 million workers. If the resolution passes, a special division would be set up and dedicated to Amazon employees, the union said.
Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter @charissejones
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amazon: Teamsters to vote to on making workers a top priority