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After beating back its highest-profile challenge to date from organized labor in the U.S., Amazon.com Inc. is now confronting a concerted union campaign in Canada, where labor laws are much friendlier to unions.
Affiliates of the Teamsters union are attempting to organize employees in at least nine of the company’s facilities in Canada, Reuters reported on Friday, citing interviews with local union officials working in provinces from British Columbia to Ontario.
The Teamsters earlier this week said they’d filed paperwork with Alberta’s provincial labor regulator to hold a union election at a warehouse in a suburb of Edmonton. The international 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 Canadian laws are more effective at protecting workers’ right to make an uncoerced choice about unionization than those in the U.S., where organizers contend 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 roughly three months after the union sought to have the election, giving Amazon plenty of time to campaign against it.
The company won’t have the same advantages in Canada, should the current union drives make it far enough to hold elections. Union votes are typically held within weeks. And Canadian labor boards are more likely to deem mandatory anti-union meetings illegally coercive, or to order Amazon to recognize the union without holding an election if the company is found to have engaged in sufficiently severe misconduct.
“Amazon will confront a number of legal obstacles that will restrict its ability to wage an extended ‘vote no’ campaign similar to that which it conducted in Alabama,” David Doorey, an associate professor at York University in Toronto, said in an email earlier this week after the Edmonton organizing effort became public.
Christopher Monette, a spokesperson for Teamsters Canada, didn’t return 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 “we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees.”
Amazon workers in Bessemer rejected joining the RWDSU by a 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 election rules.)