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Contractors Picket Amazon Over ‘Total Disregard for Worker Safety’

Two weeks after unionizing with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 84 contract workers for Amazon picketed the e-commerce giant’s Palmdale, Calif. warehouse delivery station on Thursday.

The delivery drivers and dispatchers were protesting Amazon’s wages and what the union called a “total disregard for worker safety.”

While the delivery drivers drive Amazon vans and exclusively deliver Amazon packages, they are not directly employed by the Seattle company. They are employed by third-party delivery contractor and former Amazon partner Battle-Tested Strategies. The last-mile delivery company agreed to voluntarily recognize the union, with the workers in Palmdale joining Teamsters Local 396.

“It’s been two weeks since we notified Amazon that we organized a union to address the unacceptable conditions facing Amazon delivery drivers, but Amazon has refused to come to the table to fix these problems,” said Jessie Moreno, an Amazon driver taking part in the informational picket. “We know that workers are the backbone of Amazon and the packages won’t be delivered without us. Today we are sending a message to Amazon to take our union and our safety seriously.”

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Amazon terminated its partnership with Battle-Tested Strategies on April 14 claiming breach of contract, though their deal officially ends on June 24.

When the contract company voted to unionize, Amazon spokesperson Eileen Hards said that Battle-Tested Strategies “had a track record of failing to perform and had been notified of its termination for poor performance well before [the] announcement.” She continued, “this situation is more about an outside company trying to distract from their history of failing to meet their obligations.”

Hards echoed these remarks in a statement to Sourcing Journal after the union demonstration, but pointed out that Battle-Tested Strategies was cited for breach of contract five times, most notably for failing to follow proper safety procedures, maintain its fleet, and pay insurance providers.

Battle-Tested Strategies did not immediately return Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.

Last year, the 1.2-million-member union launched an Amazon division focused on organizing the tech giant’s warehouse and logistics employees.

The union already represents approximately 340,000 UPS workers, with both parties beginning national contract negotiations ahead of the current agreement’s July 31 expiration date. And more than 1,100 DHL Express ramp and tug workers at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) also voted to unionize.

According to the Teamsters, Amazon drivers organized with the union over concerns for their safety in extreme temperatures, which regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during Palmdale summers.

In 2023 alone, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited seven Amazon facilities for ignoring safety hazards. In April, the government agency said Amazon failed to provide adequate medical treatment for traumatic and chronic injuries at a fulfillment center in Castleton, N.Y.

Currently, OSHA has 20 open inspections at U.S. Amazon facilities.

“We are putting our health on the line to deliver Amazon’s packages,” said a second driver, Michael Lieb. “It feels like an oven in the back of those vans and Amazon won’t fix the air conditioning even though we’ve been asking for years. I’ve gotten woozy from the heat, but don’t have time to take a break because we are under so much pressure to deliver all the packages. We are holding Amazon responsible.”

The union contract will bring driver wages to $30 per hour by September, and will also, in theory, guarantee the rights of workers to drive safe equipment and refuse unsafe deliveries. But the union argues that making the contract’s protections a reality will require an overhaul of Amazon’s “exploitative” labor practices.

“No one can live on $19.75 an hour in California. It’s half of what other workers doing the same job at other companies are paid,” said another Amazon driver, Cecilia Porter. “This is one of the richest companies in the world and the workers who make it profitable shouldn’t have to choose between paying our bills and feeding our families.”

Although there is now a larger unionization push gaining traction against Amazon, both in the U.S. and in the U.K., only one warehouse so far has successfully organized. That would be the “JFK8” warehouse in Staten Island, N.Y., whose workers voted last April to be represented by the Amazon Labor Union (ALU). Amazon appealed and delayed the acceptance the election results at JFK8, and has yet to begin bargaining with the ALU.

Workers at two separate warehouses in New York, including a second, smaller Staten Island facility, voted against unionizing. And in Bessemer, Ala., multiple unionization votes failed, even after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Amazon illegally interfered in the first vote attempt.

Over in England, workers at a warehouse in Coventry went on strike for 14 days between January and April. The facility’s employees are also demanding formal union recognition, after membership more than doubled during strike action.

The GMB, which is the trade union representing U.K.-based Amazon workers seeking organization, said its members at fulfillment centers in the English towns of Rugeley and Mansfield, will vote in the next few weeks on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action.