“We want fair pay and safe jobs, to be able to provide food for our families,” said one driver. “We organized with the Teamsters to change our working conditions for the better.”
In what the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on Monday called a “historic victory,” 84 drivers and dispatchers in Palmdale, California have joined the union and reached a tentative deal with an Amazon “delivery service partner” that may be losing its contract with the online retail giant.
The contractor, Battle-Tested Strategies (BTS), voluntarily recognized the union, meaning workers can skip an election. However, the employees still need to vote on the agreement negotiated by Teamsters Local 396 and Joint Council 42, which includes pay increases, health and safety provisions, and a grievance procedure.
“Amazon workers are joining the Teamsters to demand more from this company, including good wages, safe working conditions, and respect,” explained Randy Korgan, Teamsters Amazon division director and Joint Council 42 director of organizing.
“The Teamsters,” Korgan continued, “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.”
Rajpal Singh, a driver in Palmdale, similarly stressed that “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.”
“We organized with the Teamsters to change our working conditions for the better,” Singh added. “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.”
Teamsters Local 396 secretary-treasurer Victor Mineros said that “I commend these workers for their courage to take on this greedy multibillion-dollar corporation,” and “we are confident this will lead other Amazon workers nationwide to organize with the Teamsters.”
Mineros also noted the historic nature of the development in California—which comes amid a unionization wave hitting other major corporations including Apple and Starbucks. While some Michigan-based drivers who worked for Silverstar Delivery voted to join the Teamsters in 2017, some union supporters were fired and the Amazon contractor ultimately shut down that location.
According toThe Washington Post:
Johnathon Ervin, a veteran and the owner of Battle-Tested Strategies, said he decided to recognize the union after repeatedly asking Amazon to address his drivers’ concerns about heat and vehicle safety. He currently receives $19.75 an hour to pay each driver, which he said prevents him from raising wages.
Over the past two summers, Battle-Tested Strategies drivers have had to deliver as temperatures have soared far above 100°F for multiple days in a row. One BTS driver was hospitalized for heat exhaustion last year, Ervin said.
Delivery routes, where drivers are expected to drop off between 250 to 400 packages, typically run 10 hours.
But when Ervin allowed drivers to end their shifts without completing their Amazon’s delivery routes last year over what he said were health concerns, Amazon threatened to put Ervin on official notice that he could lose his contract, he said.
In a statement provided to multiple media outlets on Monday, Amazon spokesperson Eileen Hards said that “whether the Teamsters are being intentionally misleading or they just don’t understand our business, the narrative they’re spreading is false.”
“This group of individuals do not work for Amazon,” Hards said of the BTS employees. “Our delivery network is made up of thousands of independently owned and operated small businesses who provide delivery services for our company.”
“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 today’s announcement,” the spokesperson added. “This situation is more about an outside company trying to distract from their history of failing to meet their obligations.”
Gizmodoreported Monday that Hards declined to offer specifics about the BTS contract—while Ervin told the outlet that “as far as I’m aware, my contract is legal until October 3, 2023,” and denied having been given any notice about performance or termination.
“It’s despicable” and an example of Amazon’s “retaliation techniques” against unionizing workers, the BTS owner also told Gizmodo, referencing how the company has responded to union drives in places like Alabama and New York.
While his “lawyers are looking at all the information,” BTS workers will “continue delivering packages,” Ervin added. “That’s the mission.”
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