Workers at the Amazon fulfillment centre in Nisku took a step toward unionizing on Wednesday.
Teamsters Canada started an organizing drive last week by handing out pamphlets to employees about the benefits of joining the union, and Teamsters Local 362 vice-president and business agent Chance Hrycun said positive feedback led to handing out petition cards.
“We just started handing them out this morning and we already have cards coming back,” said Hrycun. “There is positive interest, people are already filling them up and handing them back to us and we’re going to be collecting a bunch at the end of shift today from the ones we handed out this morning.”
To unionize, Hrycyn said at least 40 per cent of the company’s workers in Alberta need to show interest by filling out a petition card or application for membership. If that goal is met, the Alberta Labour Board will open a secret ballot for employees to make the final decision, said Hrycun.
Hrycun believes Teamsters Local 362 could help workers in a number of areas.
“You’ve got an owner, Jeff Bezos, who has a $400 million yacht that looks like a cruise ship and you have employees here who make $16-$17 an hour,” he said. “There are health and safety concerns, pension, health and welfare issues that could be addressed … there are a number of things we could do.”
Amazon’s Nisku warehouse had a COVID-19 outbreak for more than five months beginning Nov. 14 and lasting until March 20, followed by another one in April. The two workplace outbreaks resulted in more than 100 cases.
The province does not shutter every workplace that declares an outbreak, and warehouses are exempt from the province’s COVID-19 closure rules because they are deemed critical. The outbreak at the Amazon Nisku fulfillment centre was active when those new rules were announced in May.
Teamsters Union represents 1.4 million workers in Canada and the U.S., and is aiming to unionize Amazon workers in both countries. Hrycun said the union also has a team handing out petition cards at a Calgary location.
To date, no effort to unionize Amazon has been successful in the company’s 26-year history.
With files from Lauren Boothby and The Associated Press