A union organizing drive is underway at an Amazon warehouse in Montreal as one of North America’s largest employers eyes down more labor campaigns – with only one hit so far here.
the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) says workers contacted the union federation earlier this year and launched an on-site organizing campaign last month over health and safety issues as well as pay, which hovers around $17 or $18 $ per hour. Union workers in comparable roles typically earn between $25 and $30 an hour, he said.
If more than 50% of the warehouse’s 250 to 300 employees sign a membership card, the Commission des relations du travail du Québec can certify the union.
CSN vice-president David Bergeron-Cyr says occupational health and safety is one of the main reasons for the push.
“It’s like a jungle in there, a lot of people get injured,” he said in a phone interview.
“Most of them are first generation immigrants and they don’t know their rights and don’t speak French. They don’t go to the CNESST — our health and safety commission — to get paid.
Some employees are expected to lift up to 400 boxes an hour, resulting in unreported injuries and no compensation for recovery time, Bergeron-Cyr said.
Amazon Canada spokeswoman Ryma Boussoufa said the Seattle-based e-commerce giant doesn’t “believe unions are the best answer” for employees, but the choice is theirs.
“Our goal remains to work directly with our team to continue to make Amazon a great place to work,” she said in an email.
The organizing effort comes as organizers seek to hold a certification vote at a 7,000-employee Amazon packaging plant in Nisku, Alta.
Teamsters Local 362 said last week it had filed a second request for a unionization vote at the south Edmonton facility.
The application must be certified by the Alberta Labor Relations Board before a vote can take place.
Teamsters Canada attempted to form a union at the Nisku Amazon site last fall, but was unable to have the proposed vote certified after the labor relations board found it did not meet the threshold required signed union cards.
The parallel Canadian campaigns also come as organizers struggle south of the border to capitalize on their only successful union bid at a New York warehouse last month.
Amazon workers at a second Staten Island site overwhelmingly rejected a union offer on Monday, dealing a blow to organizers who last month pulled off the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the history of the technology company.
For the fledgling Amazon Labor Union, Monday’s defeat will surely sting. A second labor victory was expected to further fuel union organizing at the United States’ second largest private employer – after Walmart – and cement the power and influence of the ALU.