NEWARK, Calif. — Southern California workers, who successfully unionized their workplace only to find themselves entangled in a labor dispute with Amazon, took their cause to Newark last week, aiming to shed light on the company’s alleged unfair labor practices.
Last Monday, striking Amazon delivery drivers and dispatchers from Palmdale extended their picket line to the Amazon warehouse in Newark for the second time this summer. Since June 24, these workers have picketed almost a dozen times outside of Amazon warehouses nationwide. Cecilia Porter, one of the 20 striking workers who journeyed to Newark, told the East Bay Echo there was a supportive response from passersby, with over 40 big rigs honoring their picket line by refusing to cross it.
“It’s nice to see all the support and unity,” Porter said.
The labor dispute ignited when 84 workers, tasked with delivering goods in non-air-conditioned vans in the blistering heat — upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit — for just under $20 an hour, joined the Teamsters Local 396 union. The workers successfully negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with their employer, Battle-Tested Strategies, a third-party contractor, also known as a delivery service partner in Amazon lingo, that voluntarily agreed to recognize the union. Amazon, on the other hand, refused to acknowledge the union or address working conditions.
“Amazon has yet to come to the negotiating table,” said Porter, a mother of four who said Amazon’s wages force her to live paycheck to paycheck. “But we want better — better vans, better routes, safer routes … better pay.”
This sparked a complaint against Amazon Logistics Inc. filed with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. Allegations emerged that, as unionizing efforts progressed, Amazon responded with increasingly retaliatory tactics: axing routes, shifting work to non-unionized contractors and ultimately terminating all of the unionized workforce by June 24.
Amazon contests these accusations. The e-commerce giant filed a complaint with the NLRB against the Teamsters, asserting that, since April 24, the workers “have threatened violence and have engaged in mass picketing” at its warehouse entrances, threatening worker safety. The company is requesting the NLRB get a federal court to legally block the strikers from picketing.
“These protests, which have been initiated and attended by outside organizers, have had no impact on our operations or ability to deliver for our customers,” Eileen Hards, Amazon spokesperson, wrote in a statement to the Echo. “Instead, the Teamsters continue to fuel the spread of misinformation regarding a company that no longer delivers for Amazon.”
Battle-Tested Strategies has not responded to request for comment. Hard told the news outlet Motherboard that Battle-Tested Strategies “had a track record of failing to perform and had been notified of its termination for poor performance.”
“This situation is more about an outside company trying to distract from their history of failing to meet their obligations,” Hard told Motherboard.
The Teamsters’ complaint alleges that Amazon uses third-party contractors to skirt labor regulations while maintaining complete control over working conditions.
The complaint states, “Although these drivers wear Amazon uniforms, drive Amazon trucks, identify themselves as Amazon employees, are continuously monitored and surveilled by Amazon managers, and receive their work assignments from Amazon, Amazon has attempted to legally separate itself from these employees through a sham ‘Delivery Service Partner’ (‘DSP’) structure.”
The drivers’ and dispatchers’ strike comes at a time of heightened labor activity throughout the country, with a growing number of workers unionizing every year. An analysis released by the Economic Policy Institute earlier this year found there were 200,000 more unionized workers in 2022 than 2021, driven entirely by workers of color.