An Amazon.com delivery driver carries boxes into a van outside of a distribution facility on February 2, 2021 in Hawthorne, California.
Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images
Amazon delivery drivers at one of the company’s California facilities joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union said Monday, in a win for labor organizers that have long sought to gain a foothold at the e-retailer.
A group of 84 workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Palmdale, California, won voluntary recognition by Battle-Tested Strategies, a third-party delivery contractor, to be represented by the Teamsters. That allows the workers and the Teamsters to sidestep the union election process, which can be challenging and last for many months.
Battle-Tested Strategies is one of the legions of third-party delivery firms contracted by Amazon to shuttle packages to shoppers’ doorsteps. Amazon launched the Delivery Service Partner program in 2018, recruiting small businesses to help grow its in-house logistics operations and further its goal of speeding up deliveries.
Last week, the Teamsters and Battle-Tested reached a tentative agreement that will be voted on by members in the coming weeks, a Teamsters spokesperson said. The agreement includes immediate wage increases and substantial hourly raises, along with provisions that address concerns around health and safety standards.
The contract came after employees for the past several years expressed concerns around conditions at the site, specifically related to excessive heat, the spokesperson said. The Palmdale site, known as DAX8, is in southern California’s High Desert region, north of Los Angeles.
“We want fair pay and safe jobs, to be able to provide food for our families,” said Rajpal Singh, an Amazon delivery driver at the Palmdale facility, in a statement. “We want to know we will make it home to our families at night after delivering Amazon packages in the extreme heat. We organized with the Teamsters to change our working conditions for the better.”
Amazon said in a statement that it had terminated Battle-Tested before Monday’s union announcement, though it didn’t say when the contract ended.
“This particular third party company had a track record of failing to perform,” Amazon spokesperson Eileen Hards said in a statement.
Battle-Tested owner Johnathon Ervin disputed Amazon’s statement and said the company has a “current contract” with Amazon. Ervin claims Amazon ended his company’s contract in retaliation for him voicing concerns about safety and working conditions.
The Teamsters and other big labor unions have long had their sights set on organizing warehouse and delivery workers at Amazon, the second-largest private employer in the U.S. The Teamsters last year launched a division aimed at funding and directing organizing resources to Amazon employees.
Randy Korgan, director of the Teamsters’ Amazon division, said the union is “coordinating nationwide” with Amazon workers.
So far, only one Amazon warehouse in the U.S. has voted to join a union. Workers at the JFK8 site on New York’s Staten Island voted last April to be represented by the Amazon Labor Union, a grassroots group of current and former employees. But the union has yet to reach a contract with Amazon, as the company continues to challenge the election results in court.
The Covid pandemic led to an upswing of organizing activity at Amazon, including among some contracted delivery drivers, who staged walkouts or created petitions to express health and safety concerns. In addition to pandemic-related issues, drivers have also routinely described a frantic pace of work, infrequent bathroom breaks and damaged vans.