July 14, 2023: Amazon delivery drivers are taking a stand and demanding fair treatment through a series of rolling pickets nationwide. The strikes, organized by the Teamsters union, aim to address the disparities between Amazon drivers and their counterparts at companies like UPS. This movement highlights the need for better working conditions, fair wages, and union representation.
Brandi Diaz, a former Amazon delivery driver in Palmdale, California, shared her experience during the picket lines. She recounted a customer asking her about the difference between Amazon drivers and those from UPS. Diaz explained that UPS drivers have the advantage of being part of a union, while Amazon drivers do not. This distinction led to UPS drivers referring to Amazon drivers as “Jeff’s Bozos.”
However, Diaz and her colleagues are determined to change that perception. In April, they voted to join Teamsters Local 396. Despite being officially employed by an Amazon contractor called Battle-Tested Strategies, they identify as Amazon delivery drivers. This move aims to ensure they have a voice and can negotiate for better working conditions.
One of the critical issues that Amazon drivers face is the need for more control over their work. Amazon dictates their hours, wage floors, routes, and the number of packages they must deliver daily. The company’s influence extends to various aspects, including the choice of vendors for leased vans and the drivers’ uniforms. Amazon also monitors the number of stops drivers make per day and limits the amount of water they can carry with them.
The complexity of the situation arises from the unique employment structure Amazon employs. While Battle-Tested Strategies recognized the union voluntarily and agreed to a contract with higher wages, Amazon has the ultimate authority in setting the pay for delivery service partners (DSPs) like Battle-Tested Strategies. This means that any raise for drivers must have Amazon’s approval. Unfortunately, after BTS recognized the union, Amazon decided to terminate its contract with them.
The Teamsters argue that Amazon is a joint employer with BTS, holding operational control and influencing essential aspects of the contractor’s operations. However, Amazon has refused to recognize the union or negotiate, prompting the Teamsters to file unfair labor practice charges. The Teamsters have also brought the critical question to the National Labor Relations Board: Can Amazon enjoy the benefits of a contractor that operates as an extension of its business without being held responsible for its employment practices?
Despite the risks of facing Amazon’s retaliation, Diaz and her colleagues have persisted in their fight for fair treatment. They have gone on strike, marching from one picket line to another at seven warehouses across California, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. They aim to create a national campaign supporting workers’ rights by extending their primary pickets to related Amazon facilities.
The Teamsters have also taken a proactive approach on the picket lines by contacting non-union Amazon workers and sharing their stories. They hope to inspire others to join the cause and stand for better wages and working conditions. The solidarity from the labor movement and various supporters has given Diaz and her colleagues a sense of empowerment and reassurance.
These nationwide strikes are not only about Amazon but also have broader implications for the labor movement. The success of UPS Teamsters in negotiating their contract serves as an inspiration. A firm Teamster contract at UPS can demonstrate the power of unions and encourage Amazon drivers to fight for their rights. The ongoing negotiations between UPS and the Teamsters highlight essential issues such as fair wages, safe working conditions, and eliminating two-tier wages.
While Amazon has tried to downplay the impact of these strikes, the participation of different groups, including striking Amazon drivers, UPS part-timers, and labor allies, has shown the strength of this movement. The picket lines have disrupted Amazon’s operations, creating leverage for the workers. The unity among workers from different warehouses and the community’s support drive this fight for justice and fair treatment.
In conclusion, the nationwide strikes by Amazon delivery drivers, organized by the Teamsters Union, demand fair treatment, better wages, and improved working conditions. The Teamsters aim to address the disparities between Amazon drivers and their counterparts at companies like UPS. They hope to create positive change by standing together and inspiring other workers to fight for their rights.