According to reports, the 84 employees currently on strike have held picket lines before. The drivers who work for the Palmdale, California-based Amazon delivery service partner (DSP) Battle-Tested Strategies LLC unionized with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in late April. They have negotiated and ratified a contract with Battle-Tested Strategies, which voluntarily recognized their union.
The drivers, joined by delivery dispatchers, walked out of their delivery facility on June 15. They demanded that the company founded by Jeff Bezos sit down with them to negotiate a contract. The June 15 walkout was the first time Amazon drivers in the U.S. have done so, a press release from the Teamsters said.
The drivers' contract with Battle-Tested Strategies guarantees a higher wage, protections against the extreme heat of the the Golden State's summers and the right to refuse unsafe deliveries. But the Teamsters claimed Amazon refused to honor the contract's guarantees.
An unfair labor practice lawsuit the union filed to the National Labor Relations Board in May accused Amazon of violating labor law. It alleged that the e-commerce giant refused to bargain, surveilled union members and even terminated the DSP's contract due to the unionizing efforts.
Randy Korgan, director of the Teamsters Amazon Division, blasted Amazon for having "no respect for the rule of law, the health of its workers or the livelihood of their families." He continued: "Workers are on strike today because the only thing this corporate criminal cares about is profits. We are sending a message to Amazon that violating worker rights will no longer be business as usual." (Related: Truck drivers supplying Whole Foods groceries threaten to strike over COVID-19 safety concerns.)
"We are on the picket line today to demand the pay and safety standards that we deserve," said Raj Singh, a unionized driver who joined the strike. "We work hard for a multibillion-dollar corporation. We should be able to provide food and clothes for our kids."
Heat is an industry-wide hazard for delivery drivers, and the contract negotiated by the Teamsters and the DSP provides protections against this occupational danger. In a prior interview, Singh recounted his experiences with driving in sweltering heat."
"The vans we have [are like] a big metal container. In the extreme heat, it can get upwards of 130 F [to] 135 F inside the van. You walk in, and it's sweltering," he said. "The wave of heat that hits you – the only comparison I can give you is like walking into an oven, because it's that nasty, dry heat. You feel like you're just getting cooked back there. I go through 10 to 12 bottles of water a day, and I urinate once."
Cecilia Porter, another driver on strike, also mentioned that "the back of an Amazon van feels like an oven in the summer." She continued: "I've felt dizzy and dehydrated – but if I take a break, I'll get a call asking why I'm behind on deliveries. We are protecting ourselves and saying our safety comes first."
Amazon defended itself from the union's accusations. It previously stated that because the drivers work for Battle-Tested Strategies – the DSP contracted by the company – Amazon is not obligated to bargain with them. But according to the union, Amazon is in "complete control" of the DSP's operations.
The tech giant also said in a statement that it had actually terminated Battle-Tested Strategies for "poor performance" – something the DSP owner contests.
"While we respect everyone's right to express their opinions, the facts here are being intentionally misrepresented by the Teamsters and [Battle-Tested Strategies]," said Amazon spokeswoman Eileen Hards.
She stressed that Battle-Tested Strategies "has a history of under-performance and not providing a safe environment." Hards added that the DSP was notified of Amazon's termination of its contract, prior to the Teamsters' involvement.
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