Workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee have started to collect signatures as they look to form a union.
Organizers for a recently formed group called Amazon Labor Union Minnesota have started to circulate union authorization cards at the Amazon warehouse. Support from at least 30% of workers is needed to call for a union election.
Advocates say a union is necessary to improve working conditions, pay and other grievances they argue have been left unaddressed for years by the online retailer.
"This is the exact type of job that cannot and will not be going anywhere. That gives us leverage to try to improve things," said Tyler Hamilton, an organizer with Amazon Labor Union Minnesota who has worked at the Shakopee location for about five years.
About 2,600 employees could be eligible to be part of the union, Hamilton said.
An Amazon representative said the company continues to believe unions aren't the right answer for its workers.
"Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union," Amazon spokeswoman Mary Kate Paradis said in a statement. "As a company, we don't think unions are the best answer for our employees. Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work."
Full-time employees at the Shakopee facility have a minimum starting wage of $19 an hour and can earn up to $27 an hour. They also have access to other benefits like health insurance and prepaid college tuition assistance.
However, there have been a number of protests and walkouts over the last few years as some have decried worker treatment at the warehouse.
In early December, about 70 protesters demonstrated in front of the Shakopee fulfillment center in the bitter cold. They called out the company over pay caps for long-term employees and what they said are unfair productivity metrics.
"We need to make sure that [Amazon] treats its workers properly and it's good to all of its communities," Hamilton said.
Hamilton said he would like to see Amazon offer more leniency for taking time off; increase pay; and improve workplace amenities like adding foot-washing stations for those who use prayer rooms at work.
Workers can feel rushed and overwhelmed at the Shakopee warehouse, which can cause them to make mistakes and potentially get hurt, said Hamilton, who works as a process assistant. Hamilton said a union would be able to negotiate staff contracts so that Amazon would be forced to be more transparent and consistent with how it handles worker issues.
Following a historic union win at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, N.Y., last spring, local union advocates decided to start their own unionization push. Union cards at the Shakopee fulfillment center began to be distributed in the fall.
Hamilton said organizers do not want to share yet how many workers have signed cards, but their hope is to have an election by the end of this year.
Amazon opened the large Shakopee fulfillment center, the online giant's first such facility in Minnesota, in 2016. Amazon's footprint in the state has grown over the last few years. One of its latest additions was a Woodbury sorting center that opened last summer.
In Minnesota, union membership was at its highest level in 14 years in 2022, as the pandemic pushed worker safety and wage issues to the forefront. However, outside of the New York win, unionizing efforts at Amazon locations have been generally unsuccessful.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.