A second crack in Amazon’s anti-union wall…or is it?
Courtesy Teamsters Local 396.

PALMDALE, Calif.—Is there a second crack in Amazon’s high anti-union wall, among truckers in Palmdale, Calif.? The Teamsters say “yes,” but the full answer is more complicated.

The international union announced on April 24 that not only had 84 drivers for Battle-Tested Strategies, a local Amazon contract delivery firm, won card-check recognition to join Local 396, but they’ve agreed on a tentative first contract, too.

The first crack, of course, was by the independent Amazon Labor Union, based in Staten Island, N.Y., where it won a National Labor Relations Board-run recognition election in the 5,000-plus worker JFK8 warehouse by a substantial margin.

The key issue there was Amazon’s refusal to protect its workers, much less inform them of hazards, during the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the Big Apple. When worker Chris Smalls spoke up and organized a lunchtime walkout on the issue, Amazon fired him on trumped-up charges. Smalls and colleagues formed ALU. Their victory inspired other independent unions to form.

Between card check recognition and a tentative contract in Palmdale, so far, so good.

The drivers pilot creaky vans on local “last mile” deliveries for the monster warehouse and retail firm, and they deliver packages Amazon provides to their company, even if they don’t necessarily wear Amazon uniforms. So if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck, right?

Not quite. Amazon doesn’t directly employ the drivers. Battle-Tested Strategies, like other such small trucking firms from coast to coast, is an Amazon subcontractor.

The second rub, the Los Angeles Daily News reported, is that Amazon is about to dump Battle-Tested Strategies. It accuses the firm of providing lousy service, a charge the owner denies. He says Amazon offered him a $75,000 buyout of the contract, but he hasn’t responded. And he retorts he passed on the drivers’ complaints that Amazon-provided vans are creaky—and got no response.

Still, the fact remains the 84 drivers not only organized with Teamsters Local 396 and Southern California Joint Council 42 but reached a deal. It includes immediate pay increases, substantial hourly raises in the fall, provisions that hold Amazon accountable for health and safety standards, a grievance procedure, and other benefits. And the second fact is their pact shows the Teamsters can get a foot in the door in the union’s high-profile initiative to organize Amazon.

“Amazon workers are joining the Teamsters to demand more from this company, including good wages, safe working conditions, and respect,” Randy Korgan, Teamsters Amazon Division Director and Teamsters Joint Council 42 Organizing Director, said. “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 benefits and protections” for workers.

“Amazon delivery drivers at DAX8 have made history by organizing their union with Teamsters Local 396 to demand dignity and respect at work,” added local Secretary-Treasurer Victor Mineros. “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.”

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.