Amazon Faces Union Drive in Canada Months After Alabama Win
(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is facing a unionization effort at a fulfillment center in Canada, just months after defeating a similar drive in the U.S.
The Teamsters, through a local chapter, filed an application with the Alberta Labour Relations Board to hold a vote on unionizing workers at the company’s facility in Nisku, a suburb of the province’s capital, Edmonton.
If the board verifies the application, all of the center’s staff employed as of Sept. 13 will have a chance to vote on being represented by Teamsters Local Union 362.
“Amazon won’t change without a union,” Teamsters National President François Laporte said in a statement. “Be it on job security, pace of work, discrimination, favoritism, or wages, the company has proven itself to be profoundly anti-worker.”
Amazon said this week it’s raising wages for front-line employees in Canada to C$17 to C$21.65 an hour ($13.40 to $17.05) and plans to hire 15,000 more staff in the country.
“Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have. As a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Dave Bauer, the company’s head of communications for Canada operations, said in an emailed statement.
“Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes -- quickly. That type of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle,” Bauer said.
A representative for the Alberta labor board confirmed it has received the Teamsters application but could not provide a timeline on when workers might be asked to vote, if the application is accepted.
In April, Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama voted by more than a 2-to-1 margin against being represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The union challenged the election results alleging Amazon interfered in the process and the National Labor Relations Board could invalidate the results and order a second election.
Amazon will have less time and less discretion to carry out an anti-union campaign in Alberta than it did in Alabama, said David Doorey, an associate professor at York University in Toronto.
Authorities in Alberta are more likely to deem an onslaught of mandatory anti-union meetings illegally coercive, he said in an email. “Canadian labor law has less tolerance for aggressive anti-union campaigning by employers than the U.S. model,” said Doorey, who is also a research associate at Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program and former attorney for the United Steelworkers.
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