Jay Reeves / Associated Press

The incoming Teamsters president says he is ready to take on the challenge of unionizing Amazon despite tough odds. 

Sean O’Brien, who led a Boston union, will take over Tuesday for longtime President James Hoffa, who led the union that boasts nearly 1.4 million members for nearly 23 years.

O’Brien aims to use that force to be the first union to organize workers at Amazon’s fulfillment centers and sorting hubs, as well as drivers, according to a report by Bloomberg.

“From a union perspective, we’re going to negotiate the strongest contracts in similar industries like UPS and DHL, and that’s going to be our marketing tool to bring to these workers and say, ‘Look, this is what you get when you work under a union contract,’ ” O’Brien said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Amazon, the nation’s second-largest private employer behind Walmart, has faced efforts by workers to unionize over the past year. The Amazon Labor Union, a group of Amazon workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, garnered enough support for the National Labor Relations Board to approve an election that will take place at the end of March.  

This comes after pro-union organizers lost an election to unionize a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., in April 2021. However, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union filed charges that Amazon interfered in that vote and won an appeal to have another election in Bessemer, which is currently underway.

O’Brien said he wants Teamsters to lead on unionizing Amazon because it has the most resources to take on the tech giant.  

“It’s not going to be a traditional organizing drive, because Amazon went from being a book club to a global economy,” O’Brien told Boston Magazine last month.  

“The traditional tactics of standing outside the gates and handing out cards aren’t going to work, but we’re going to pursue organizing the warehouses because that’s where the majority of their employees are.”

Taking on Amazon was among O’Brien’s pledges while campaigning for the election to replace Hoffa, which he won by a landslide in November 2021.

The Teamsters’ contract with UPS is set to end in 2023, when O’Brien is planning to demand better working conditions and pay — setting the stage for the even larger fight with Amazon. 

Amazon has been criticized for its anti-union actions. In February, a union organizer and two workers were arrested outside of a Staten Island warehouse.

Tags Amazon James Hoffa Sean O’Brien Teamsters

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