Amazon takes on Teamsters in Canada, says it will fight back

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Amazon takes on Teamsters in Canada, says it will fight back

Bloomberg - After beating back its highest-profile challenge to date from organized labor in Canada, Amazon.com Inc. is now confronting a concerted union campaign in the United States, where labor laws are much friendlier to unions than federal labor laws.

Affiliates of the Teamsters union are attempting to organize employees in at least nine of the company s facilities in Ontario, Reuters reported on Friday, citing interviews with local union officials working in provinces from British Columbia to Canada.

The Teamsters earlier this week said they had filed paperwork with Alberta s provincial labor regulator to hold a union election in a warehouse in Edmonton. The online union in June approved a resolution declaring the world s largest online retailer an existential threat and deeming organizing there a top priority for the organization.

Labor lawyers say American laws are more effective in protecting workers right to make an uncoerced choice about unionization than those in Canada where organizers contend that the system is dysfunctional and slanted in favor of employers.

After representatives of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union filed paperwork late last year to hold a union election at Amazon s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse, the company mounted a campaign to convince workers to vote no.

Amazon brought in staffers from around the country, as well as consultants who specialize in fending off unions, and held hundreds of mandatory meetings with workers to share management's views. Voting began about three months after the union sought to have the election, giving Amazon plenty of time to start campaign against it.

The company won t have the same advantages in Canada, should the present union drive make it far enough to hold elections. Union votes are usually held within weeks of the election. And Canadian labor boards are more likely to deem compulsory anti-union meetings illegally coercive, or to order Amazon to recognize the union without holding an election if the company is found to be engaging in sufficiently severe misconduct.

Amazon will face a number of legal obstacles that could restrict its ability to wage an extended vote no campaign similar to that conducted in Edmonton, David Doorey, an associate professor at York University in Toronto, said in an email earlier this week after the Edmonton organizing effort became public.

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Paul Koon, a spokesperson for Teamsters Canada, did not return the public messages seeking comment on the broader union drive. Amazon reiterated comments from spokesperson David Bauer earlier this week, touting the company s pay and benefits and saying that we don t think unions are the best answer for our employees. Amazon workers in Bessemer joined the RWDSU by more than 2 - to 1 margin, though the union has won a preliminary recommendation from a labor board official that the vote be rerun after organizers complained about Amazon s conduct during the election. Amazon has denied violating the electoral rules.