Southern California Teamsters in solidarity with Amazon walkout
San Bernardino, CA – Dozens of Amazon workers out of an air hub in San Bernardino walked off the job on Friday, October 14 in an unfair labor practice strike demanding a $5 pay raise, safer working conditions and no retaliation for organizing. Amazon workers start around $17 per hour with limited benefits and work under high production quotas.
Hundreds of Teamsters from the surrounding locals including 1932, 63 and 396 showed up on two separate picket lines to help block the entrances to the air hub. The Teamsters represent 350,000 UPS workers under one of the strongest national union contracts. For part-time and full-time workers, the union agreement includes full healthcare and pension benefits, job security, protection from harassment and retaliation, and up to $42 per hour pay for drivers.
It's important for UPS Teamsters to push the union into one that fights and takes on the industry as a whole. This means strengthening the UPS contract in 2023 while also acting in solidarity with other workers in the logistics industry to organize Amazon.
“I used to work at Amazon, and it was really bad, there is no worker protections. We work hard at UPS too but we have great benefits and if management messes with us we’re able to fight back because we’re union,” said Jenny Bekenstein, a UPS part-timer from Local 396.
Amazon poses a threat to that deal because it is both UPS’s competitor and its largest customer – a quarter of UPS volume comes from Amazon. But over the last few years, Amazon has been building the infrastructure to deliver all of their own packages, which could mean layoffs at UPS. And despite a 15% increase in revenue in 2021 at UPS, the company has used competition with Amazon as an excuse to try to cut Teamster workers’ wages and benefits during contract negotiations.
In early September, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) formed a new division to organize Amazon. IBT General President Sean O’Brien led a 1000-person march on Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle on September 20, after the annual Teamsters Women’s Conference. Over the past few years, locals around the country have been participating in campaigns to organize Amazon workers in their respective jurisdictions.
Rather than accept concessions, Teamsters are ready to fight the company and show Amazon workers a contract worth fighting for. The UPS contract expires July 31, 2023, and Teamsters kicked off their fight with a week of action in August 2022, demanding higher pay for part-time workers, an end to two-tier positions, no forced overtime, and air conditioning in trucks. Negotiations will begin in January and workers are gearing up to go on strike if the company doesn’t deliver on their demands.
Both Amazon and UPS workers around the country are demanding more from the companies that – especially throughout the pandemic – make billions off of their work. Because of the way that capital is able to move and adjust its operation to find the cheapest labor costs, history tells us that a unionized company will not stand alone in any given industry. All logistics workers have an interest in organizing for the best union contract across companies like UPS and Amazon in order to establish a high industry-wide standard that will make it harder for the billionaires that exploit them.