San Bernardino Amazon workers fight for a raise

By Laura Garza
November 7, 2022

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. —“We want safety, no retaliation,” several hundred community members and unionists chanted, joining over 100 workers from Amazon’s largest air freight facility on the West Coast, called KSBD Oct. 14. They carried signs saying, “Prime shoppers beware, Amazon is unfair.”

“We’re tired of unfair labor practices,” said Larry Thronson, who loads gaylords at the facility. More than 150 workers walked off the job in August because of extreme heat and also demanded a raise. Workers took temperatures at the facility during a heat wave in early September and recorded temperatures of up to 96 inside cargo planes and tractor trailers and 121 on the tarmac. “We have to fight to get normal heat breaks, people have been taken out of here in an ambulance,” Thronson said. “We need extra heat breaks for 10 minutes when it gets hot, but the company doesn’t tell you you’re entitled to that.”

Workers walked out of the facility during their lunch break and joined picketing outside  two entrances. They said most workers on the shift sported stickers demanding a $5 an hour raise.

Ramp worker Antonio Yanes started at $17 an hour. “You can’t pay rents in this area on what they pay you,” he said at the protest. “I can’t afford a place to live.”

Yanes and his family moved in with his in-laws several years ago because they couldn’t afford a large rent hike. Quarters are cramped. While his son has a room, his wife sleeps on the couch and he sleeps in a van outside.

In the wake of organizing and protests demanding higher pay at the facility, which has been open since March 2021, Amazon raised pay $1 an hour.  But workers say it isn’t enough and are demanding a $5 an hour raise, to $22.

Sara Fee told protesters, “We want a living wage. We have to make hard choices, gas or food. They gave us a $1 an hour raise and we didn’t even see the difference in our checks, they took out more for benefits.” The workers are organized in the Inland Empire Amazon Workers United, and the Warehouse Workers Resource Center helped organized the event.

Members of Teamster Locals 1932 and 63, of United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 1167 and 1428, Local 105 of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail Transportation (SMART), and others joined the protest.