TORRANCE, Calif. — “Amazon hides behind its subcontractors, tries to duck responsibility for providing safe working conditions and decent pay,” Jessie Moreno told the Militant. He was part of a picket of 40 organized by Teamsters Local 396 outside Amazon’s delivery facility DCX7 here Sept. 29. The spirited pickets stopped departing Amazon delivery vans at three exits for up to five minutes each, talking to the drivers and providing them with information about their struggle. They got a friendly response from a number of the Amazon van drivers.
Moreno was one of 84 Amazon drivers and dispatchers who voted to join Teamsters Local 396 last April while working for Battle-Tested Strategies, an Amazon delivery subcontractor, in a fight for higher pay and safer working conditions.
“The vehicles weren’t maintained and it was 130 degrees in the back on the vans during the summer,” he said. Moreno told the press Amazon expected drivers to deliver up to 300 packages in eight hours.
This was the first union organization of Amazon drivers in the country. Battle-Tested Strategies soon agreed to recognize the union, which demanded a pay raise from $19.75 to $30 an hour.
Amazon retaliated by terminating its agreement with the company. The day the contract would have ended, June 24, the Teamsters went on strike and filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.
Amazon tries to deny responsibility, alleging that the drivers and dispatchers were employees of another company.
“Over the past few months, we’ve often picketed six days a week and have gone to over 20 different Amazon facilities, not just in California but also in other states,” Moreno explained.
“They expect us to make 20 to 30 stops in an hour,” said Geime Guzman, a striking driver on the picket line. “Most of the packages in the vans are out of sequence and you have to hunt around for them. And you are not given the same route every day, sometimes there are no street signs, and no street lights after darkness, And, parking is a nightmare.” She said they usually worked up to 10 hours a day.
Several other members of Local 396, including Cesar Castro, a shop steward at the UPS facility in Compton, joined the action. “We’re here to show strength. Safety for these drivers is a real issue,” he said. “They get vans with bad tires and lack of reflective lights. We’re accomplishing something here today, with solidarity for the striking drivers. And the drivers of the vans we stopped learned what we are fighting for. The company felt our presence.”