Historic Union Vote For New York Amazon Workers Is Just The Beginning

Sean O’Brien, the Teamsters’ new president, is vowing to continue efforts to unionize Amazon after workers in New York voted to form the company’s first US union in a historic vote.

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Sean O’Brien is the president of the Teamsters, Amazon’s first US union located in New York. In a recent interview he said that organizing Amazon is “vital,” as the company has “total disrespect” for its workers and their efforts to unionize to better protect their rights as employees. 

O’Brien was inaugurated as Teamsters president on March 22nd.“You have an employer like Jeff Bezos taking a joyride into space, and he bangs on his workers to be able to fund his trip. Amazon workers would benefit greatly from joining the Teamsters, drivers and warehouse workers are treated and paid considerably worse than their unionized counterparts at other companies.”

“They’re awful, they’re disrespectful the way they treat their employees,” O’Brien said of Amazon.

“The Teamsters needed to organize Amazon as an obligation to our members and our largest employers.”

This past Friday a final vote showed that Amazon workers voted to unionize in Staten Island; 2,654 for a union, 2,131 against. Currently another vote to organize Amazon workers in Alabama is hanging in the balance of a court vote. 

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is currently aiming to unionize a warehouse in Alabama. The Amazon Labor Union is the new independent union that was behind the organization of the union on Staten Island. O’Brien said he “commends anybody who tries to take on a schoolyard bully like Amazon.” 

O’Brien said that “no union is better positioned than the Teamsters to organize Amazon because the 1.3-million-member union has decades of experience in unionizing and winning good contracts for warehouse workers and truck drivers. This is the only union that has the proven track record of organizing workers in these industries.”

“We have to organize Amazon. We have to have a plan in place. We have to execute that plan and not be scared to change that plan if it doesn’t work at times. Even a world champion team doesn’t win all the time. Hopefully we will have a favorable win-to-loss ratio,” O’Brien explained. 

Before he won a five-year term as Teamsters’ president, O’Brien was the head of a large Teamsters local in Boston for 15 years.

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“We the Teamsters have the best resources out there, not just financially, to unionize Amazon. We have the ability to utilize our members who work in the industry, who know the benefits of working under a collective bargaining agreement and having dignity and respect in the workplace.”

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“We have a lot of work to do. We have a plan to focus on the big metro cities, where the likelihood of winning unionization elections would be greatest. The Teamsters would mount non-traditional campaigns that include up lining politicians’ support and extensive community support behind unionization. We need to utilize our best organizers: our worker members who work in these industries.”

The news of Staten Island’s union victory also is occurring during a time where union activity is seeing a major resurgence in the US. In fact, Joe Biden has positioned himself as one of the most pro-union president’s in decades. 

“The Biden administration has done a great job for unions right out of the gate. An administration that’s not afraid to endorse unions is great. A 2021 law that Biden backed helped secure the pensions of millions of union members and retirees, including many Teamsters whose pension plans were seriously underfunded,” O’Brien said.

“The Teamsters and other unions need to do a far better job explaining to Americans how unions lift workers and the nation as a whole. Many Americans view the Teamsters favorably despite the movie The Irishman about scandals inside the Teamsters a half-century ago.”

“During the worst pandemic we’ll ever face, people saw that we delivered packages, did trash pick-ups, did food and grocery deliveries. We’ve proven our worth providing goods and services to keep this country moving,” he continued. 

“We must also understand the importance of holding politicians accountable, especially when they fail to back workers and unions. I can’t remember people’s birthdays. But I can remember the last person that screwed me. That’s how we’re going to deal with those politicians who vote against us. We’ll run people against you. We’ll campaign against you,” O’Brien exclaimed.