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politicsUSA

Amazon’s first American union joins the Teamsters

Amazon workers arrive with documents to unionize at the National Labor Relations Board office in Brooklyn, New York, October 25, 2021.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The Amazon Labor Union, the first group of company workers to organize in a U.S. warehouse, said Tuesday it had taken steps to affiliate with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Formed in 2021 as a grassroots group of current and former workers, the ALU gained national attention two years ago by winning a historic union election on Staten Island, New York, at a facility known as JFK8 .

The ALU initially eschewed large unions, instead establishing itself as an independent organization. But the group had difficulty negotiating a contract with Amazon, which sought to reject the results of the 2022 election, and divisions formed between leader Chris Smalls and ALU members. A group of former members sued the union last year, accusing him of violating the ALU constitution and asking a Brooklyn court to force him to hold elections for union leaders.

Aligning with the Teamsters, one of the largest unions in the United States, could give the ALU additional leverage to restart negotiations with Amazon. The Teamsters, formed in 1903, have long sought to organize Amazon’s warehouse and delivery workers and created an Amazon division in 2021 to support and fund the company’s workers in their unionizing efforts.

In an article on X, the Teamsters said the affiliation was unanimously approved by the union’s board of directors on Tuesday. The affiliation agreement is tentative until ALU members and the Teamsters vote to ratify it, Smalls said in a text message.

The decision has already drawn backlash from the ALU Democratic Reform Caucus, the group that sued ALU last year. Arthur Schwartz, a lawyer for the caucus, said it was unclear how the ALU would hold a membership vote to ratify Teamsters affiliation when it “does not have a roster of employees, and yet less list of members”.

In March, ALU members voted to elect new union leaders. Smalls said he has no plans to run for re-election as ALU president. That election is expected to take place in July in person outside JFK8, Schwartz said.

The Teamsters declined to comment further. An Amazon spokesperson also declined to comment.

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