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Amazon Cries Foul After Contract Drivers Join Teamsters: ‘Track Record of Failing to Perform’

Amazon delivery drivers and dispatchers in Southern California have joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the labor union revealed on Monday.

A group of 84 contract workers operating out of an Amazon warehouse known as “DAX8” in Palmdale, Calif. won union recognition to be represented by the Teamsters. The labor union already represents approximately 340,000 UPS workers, with both parties recently entering contract talks ahead of July 31 when the current contract expires.

Though the delivery drivers wear Amazon-branded vests, drive Amazon-branded vans and exclusively deliver Amazon packages, they are not directly employed by Amazon. They are employed by Battle-Tested Strategies, a third-party delivery contractor and a now-former Amazon partner.

Amazon told Sourcing Journal it previously terminated its partnership with Battle-Tested Strategies ahead of the agreement.

“Whether the Teamsters are being intentionally misleading or they just don’t understand our business, the narrative they’re spreading is false. This group does not work for Amazon,” said Amazon spokesperson Eileen Hards.

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Hards referenced Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner (DSP) network of “thousands of independently owned and operated small businesses,” which was created in 2018 to recruit small businesses to help grow its in-house logistics operations and further its goal of speeding up deliveries. Battle-Tested Strategies was part of this network before Amazon cut ties with the delivery firm.

“This particular third-party company had a track record of failing to perform and had been notified of its termination for poor performance well before [Monday’s] announcement,” Hards said. “This situation is more about an outside company trying to distract from their history of failing to meet their obligations.”

Battle-Tested Strategies did not immediately respond to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment about the circumstances of the termination.

Despite Amazon’s frustrations with the process, the workers in Palmdale are joining Teamsters Local 396, the union announced. Last year, the 1.2-million-member union launched an Amazon division focused on organizing the company’s employees in the warehouse and logistics space. 

“Amazon delivery drivers at DAX8 have made history by organizing their union with Teamsters Local 396 to demand dignity and respect at work,” said Victor Mineros, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 396, in a statement. “I commend these workers for their courage to take on this greedy multibillion-dollar corporation. We are confident this will lead other Amazon workers nationwide to organize with the Teamsters.”

The agreement, which will be voted on by the members in the coming weeks, includes immediate pay increases, substantial hourly raises in the fall, provisions that hold Amazon accountable on health and safety standards, a grievance procedure and other benefits.

“Amazon workers are joining the Teamsters to demand more from this company, including good wages, safe working conditions, and respect,” said Randy Korgan, director of the Teamsters’ Amazon division, in a statement. “The Teamsters are coordinating nationwide with Amazon workers, allies committed to holding this corporation accountable, and our union’s 1.2 million members to make sure Amazon provides the benefits and protections that working people deserve.”

Full details of the agreement will be available upon ratification by the members, according to a Teamsters statement.

Because Battle-Tested Strategies recognized the union voluntarily after a majority of its drivers indicated they supported the union, the union can legally sidestep the election process typically required for a bargaining unit to receive federal recognition.

Battle-Tested Strategies is one of the many third-party delivery firms contracted by Amazon to pick up and transfer packages from warehouses to shoppers’ doorsteps.

On Monday, Amazon workers marched at the Palmdale warehouse to call on the company to respect their right to unionize and work with their DSP to honor the conditions of the agreement.

“We want fair pay and safe jobs, to be able to provide food for our families. We want to know we will make it home to our families at night after delivering Amazon packages in the extreme heat,” said Rajpal Singh, an Amazon driver in Palmdale, in a statement. “We organized with the Teamsters to change our working conditions for the better.”

Amazon workers marched on Amazon in Palmdale on April 24 to call on the company to respect their right to unionize and work with their DSP to honor the conditions of the agreement.

“We deliver in an Amazon van, wearing an Amazon uniform, but when we petition Amazon, they ignore us. We have a mass of support, we are a union, and now they need to listen,” Singh said.

Currently, only one Amazon warehouse in the U.S. has voted to join a union. Workers at the “JFK8” warehouse in Staten Island voted last April to be represented by the Amazon Labor Union, a grassroots group of current and former employees led by terminated employee-turned-labor organizer Christian Smalls. The ALU was roundly defeated in two subsequent unionization elections at other facilities.

The union still has yet to reach an official contract with Amazon, as the e-commerce giant continues to challenge the election results in court. Amazon has refused to bargain with the union.and the company’s lengthy appeals process means contract negotiations are likely a long way off.

Amazon labor battles also continue to endure in the U.K., where employees at a warehouse in Coventry, England went on strike across 14 days between January and April. Workers at the Coventry fulfillment center are also demanding formal union recognition, after membership more than doubled during strike action.