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Amazon San Bernardino Worker Unrest Mounts

Discontent over pay and working conditions among a group of employees at Amazon’s San Bernardino, Calif. air hub is raising questions of whether the facility may be in for another disruption to operations next week.   

Inland Empire Amazon Workers United (IEAWU) said the e-commerce behemoth has until Oct. 10, the day before its new two-day Prime sale is set to begin, to meet its demands for a $5 an hour increase in wages and improved working conditions. IEAWU also called on the company to end what it said were retaliatory actions against its demands. 

The independent workers group, which has not sought formal unionization with the National Labor Relations Board, said it’s advocating on behalf of employees at the company’s San Bernardino air hub. The facility, internally known as KSBD, is one of three air hubs operated by Amazon. 

The hubs, an important spoke in Amazon’s ever-growing logistics network, are crucial to fulfilling customer orders and delivering products faster to consumers.  

An advisory sent to media on Thursday from the Warehouse Workers Resource Center, a nonprofit that said it supports IEAWU, said the group was “likely to escalate their action next week if the demands are not met.” 

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A spokesperson for the group declined to elaborate on if that meant a work stoppage is being considered and said Amazon has not directly addressed employee demands. Instead, the group alleged the company has sent union busters to the facility, which is located nearly 70 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in the Inland Empire region. 

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. 

The company late last month said it would spend nearly $1 billion on benefits, including increasing the average starting pay for its fulfillment and transportation employees, which amounted to a boost from $18 an hour to $19. The average is based on pay ranging from $16 to $26 per hour. 

IEAWU criticized the announced wage hike.

“We walked out to demand better working conditions at KSBD. Amazon responded with more retaliation. We’re giving Amazon until Oct. 10 to meet our demands,” IEAWU tweeted Thursday. 

About 150 of the air hub’s workers, according to the group, had walked out on the job in August to protest wages and safety concerns. The facility employs about 1,400, according to the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. 

The walkout followed a petition that counted roughly 900 employee signatures in support of a base rate increase to $22 an hour, safer working conditions and a stop to what the group said was retaliatory behavior by the company.  

The Warehouse Workers Resource Center alleged workers at the air hub were forced to work in extreme temperatures during the state’s recent heat wave, based on a sampling of temperatures workers recorded between late August and early September. 

The KSBD demands come as Amazon faces criticism about worker safety after three fires broke out in its warehouses in Alabama, Staten Island and Albany, N.Y. this week, while a broader effort to organize labor takes hold. 

The Teamsters last month established the Amazon Division, focused exclusively on bringing together Amazon logistics and warehouse workers. Meanwhile, the independent Amazon Labor Union led an effort to unionize workers in Staten Island, which employees approved in April. The vote marked the first Amazon workers in the U.S. to unionize after efforts in a Southern facility failed twice. 

The company has challenged the Staten Island election and, more recently, said last month it intended to appeal a National Labor Relations Board hearing officer’s report recommending Amazon’s objections be overruled due to insufficient proof of election tampering.

Employees at the company’s Albany facility are set to vote on unionization beginning Oct. 12.