Glenn Spencer Glenn Spencer
Senior Vice President, Employment Policy Division, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


June 06, 2024


On June 5, the Teamsters union announced that it was taking over the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) as an affiliate, which if it stands would be called ALU-International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 1.  This is the latest twist in the saga of the troubled ALU, which has struggled organizationally and financially after the National Labor Relations Board declared it had won an election at an Amazon fulfillment center in 2022.  Those election results are still being contested.

It’s unclear how the take over came about, or who authorized it.  That’s because the leadership of the ALU is in turmoil.  In 2023, former leaders of the organization sued the union, arguing that it illegally changed its constitution and had refused to hold officer elections.  In January 2024, a court-brokered plan did result in a vote to decide whether new elections for ALU officers should take place over the summer.  Sixty percent of the 350 union members who voted chose to have new officer elections, which Chris Smalls, the founder of the union, opposed.

However, even that result is now being disputed, with an ALU attorney arguing that the court-brokered plan violated the union’s constitution.  Suffice to say, it’s not at all clear who has authority to make such a dramatic change as affiliating with the Teamsters. 

For its part, the Teamsters simply state that:  “Amazon Labor Union members will vote to ratify the affiliation in the coming weeks.”  Perhaps, but with the court wrangling going on behind the scenes, how legitimate would such a vote be if it even takes place?  Of course, that may not matter much to the Teamsters leadership, which is desperate to show progress in organizing Amazon workers.  This desperation reached new lows in 2023 when the Teamsters falsely claimed to have organized Amazon employees, when, in fact, the workers in question didn’t actually work for the company.

But the Teamsters may be taking on an albatross.  The ALU is essentially broke, there are obviously major leadership problems, and Chris Smalls, the face of the union, has some rather unorthodox views on matters such as Cuba, groups designated as terrorists by the U.S. Government, and student protests.

Where this ends is open to question.  But one imagines that the workers who voted for the ALU probably had a very different vision of how things would turn out.

About the authors

Glenn Spencer

Glenn Spencer

Spencer oversees the Chamber’s work on immigration, retirement security, traditional labor relations, human trafficking, wage hour and worker safety issues, EEOC matters, and state labor and employment law.

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