Amazon workers and the Teamsters are organizing and taking on the company’s sweatshop model.
Amazon is a fundamental threat to the wages and working conditions won by Teamsters, from UPS to grocery and the warehouse industry.
Amazon workers and the Teamsters are organizing and taking on sweatshop conditions and the Amazon threat. Amazon directly employs over a million people in the U.S., making it the second largest private-sector employer and the largest warehouse employer in the country.
Amazon’s U.S. market share by parcel volume ranks it third behind the U.S. Postal Service and UPS—and it is growing. In just the first nine months of 2023, Amazon delivered 1.8 billion packages to its U.S. Prime members, nearly four times the volume delivered in 2019.
Amazon increased its direct competition with UPS by relaunching “Amazon Shipping” this year. This ground delivery service will help the company wring additional profit out of its existing network with last-mile services outside of Amazon.com orders. A recent report from the National Employment Law Project revealed that not only does Amazon pay lower wages, but Amazon’s presence in a community drives warehouse earnings even lower.
“Amazon’s business model is low pay and exploitation. We’ve got to respond by helping Amazon employees build worker power,” said Antonio Rosario, Local 804 member and New York Amazon organizer.
Amazon Workers Fight Back
The good news is that Amazon workers are increasingly speaking out, taking action, and even going on strike.
Amazon workers have signed petitions, marched on their bosses, and even organized walkouts to protest unsafe conditions and demand higher pay.
In Palmdale, California, 84 Amazon delivery drivers took it one step further when they joined Teamsters Local 396 and won a union contract.
The drivers worked at Battle-Tested Strategies (BTS), one of 2,500 Delivery Service Providers created by Amazon to deliver its packages.
But after the Palmdale drivers won their union contract, Amazon retaliated by dropping BTS, putting the Palmdale Teamsters in the street. The Teamsters filed unfair labor practice charges against Amazon, as a joint employer, over its failure to recognize the union and abide by the contract.
Palmdale drivers have extended their picket lines to other Amazon warehouses across the country. The extended strike lines have allowed local Amazon workers, Teamster members, and the public to picket with them.
“I’m fighting for my kids. I’m fighting for my coworkers’ kids. We are tired of being paid peanuts to make Amazon its billions. Our unfair labor practice strike will continue until we win the fair wages and safe jobs that our families deserve,” said Brandi Diaz, an Amazon driver from Palmdale.
The innovative strike extensions and the unfair labor practice charge are an important legal challenge to Amazon’s subcontracting model, where the company falsely claims that the drivers who wear Amazon uniforms, drive Amazon vehicles, and deliver Amazon packages are not actually their employees.
Teamsters Amazon Organizing Program
The International Union is building an organizing program to support Amazon worker organizing.
The IBT is asking local unions to build Volunteer Organizing Committees of working Teamsters. After volunteer organizers receive training, they are encouraged to reach out to family and friends to get contact information for potentially supportive Amazon workers.
Once a supportive contact at Amazon has been identified, a Teamster organizer (usually accompanied by a member) meets with the worker to assess their level of interest.
Amazon workers who show a strong interest then become members of an organizing committee.
UPS Contract Inspirers Amazon Workers
Amazon workers have also been inspired by the UPS contract campaign. In Philadelphia, they are using the sizable wage gains at UPS to demand pay parity.
Paul Blundell is an Amazon warehouse worker who’s been organizing his co-workers in the Philadelphia area. “When Amazon workers heard that night shift workers at the Philly UPS air hub were getting a raise to $24.75, everybody’s jaw dropped,” Blundell said.
Amazon workers are making similar comparisons at many other facilities to inspire and agitate their coworkers about what can be achieved through collective bargaining by a fighting union.