By ERNIE GOTTA
Teamsters on strike at the Amazon facility in Palmdale, Calif., have extended their picket lines to the East Coast with a series of rolling pickets that had the bosses scrambling for logistical answers ahead of the company’s coveted “Prime Day.”
Ceila Porter and Brandi Diaz, two of the 84 members of Teamsters Local 396 on strike at Amazon, traveled to Carteret, N.J., North Haven, Conn., and Norwood, Mass., where mass picketing attempted to shut down truck deliveries in and out of the facilities. At the North Haven picket line, the labor movement turned out to support Local 396. Several Connecticut Teamsters locals, Unite Here, union teachers, an IBEW member, and a local student drum line turned the picketing into an enjoyable show of force that put Amazon on notice.
During the four-hour picket in North Haven, Conn., two of the three entrances were completely shut down. Drivers had to slowly back their 18-wheelers down a long and winding side entrance road once they realized they were not getting past the picket lines. At the main gate, trucks slowly trickled in as the mass of picketers chanted, “Shut it down!”
Each inside worker and truck driver that approached the entrances were greeted with an organizing discussion from a member of the Teamsters. Many Amazon workers took the union flyers and beeped their horns in support of the picket line. This small act of solidarity by non-union workers shows the potential for a broad organizing drive to unionize the more than 1.5 million Amazon workers in the U.S.
“Amazon is a wealthy corporation, but the workers who make it possible are all living paycheck-to-paycheck,” said Brandi Diaz, a striking Amazon driver from California who traveled to the East Coast for the series of picket lines. “I’m a single mother and am barely making ends meet for my three kids on Amazon’s low wages. We deserve better from Amazon. Our unfair labor practice strike will continue until Amazon stops violating the law and starts taking responsibility for the workers who deliver its packages.”
Demands of the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike include reinstating two workers who were terminated by Amazon and relief from the extreme heat. Grist pointed out in a recent article, “Heat exposure affects delivery drivers across companies. UPS has reported at least 143 heat-related injuries on the job in recent years, and a United States Postal Service driver recently died of heat exposure.”
Erwin Freed, a journalist for Workers’ Voice and a climate activist who attended the North Haven picket line in solidarity, said, “Heat is seriously impacting workers everywhere. The coming heat waves are clearly connected to climate change and are only going to intensify. Over one-third of the working class in the U.S. has been impacted by extreme weather in one form or another. We need to start organizing in our unions like these Amazon and UPS Teamsters, who are putting demands on the bosses for protection against extreme heat.”
In fact, The Guardian reports, “By 2050, nearly 60% of outdoor workers—such as construction workers, emergency responders, and farmworkers—could experience at least one week of workdays when extreme heat makes it too dangerous for them to work. This is in a scenario where little to no action is taken to reduce emissions. Currently, less than 10% of outdoor workers lose workdays to extreme temperatures.”
Another Amazon driver, one of the 84 Teamsters on strike who traveled to the East Coast, said, “I’ve been bitten by a dog and felt close to fainting in the back of Amazon’s sweltering vans, but Amazon only cares about whether the packages get delivered. Our safety is not Amazon’s priority, so we are protecting ourselves by organizing a union. We are going to continue our unfair labor practice strike until Amazon respects our rights.”
Amazon is refusing to legitimize the contract workers negotiated with Battle Tested Strategies (BTS). BTS is a third-party Delivery Service Partner (DSP) that voluntarily agreed to recognize the union and negotiated a contract that includes $30 an hour wages, the right to strike, paid holidays, and protections from Amazon’s brutal disciplinary measures.
Workers’ Voice* stands in solidarity with the struggle of Teamsters fighting the unfair labor practices at Amazon as they try to secure the gains made in Palmdale, Calif. We encourage all to join Local 396’s rolling pickets wherever they pop up next. Amazon workers who read this should contact the Teamsters and tell them that you want to join the union too!
Donate today to the Amazon Driver Worker Solidarity Fund! Donate here: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/driver_solidarity.
* NOTE: On Sunday, July 9, Workers’ Voice held a class in New Haven, Conn., on the lessons of the landmark 1934 Teamster strike in Minneapolis. Twenty people attended in person and via zoom. Young workers, labor movement leaders, and WV members participated in the two-hour discussion. Special guests included two British comrades from the Independent Socialist League in Liverpool, via zoom.”
Photo: Picket line in North Haven, Conn. (Erwin Freed / Workers’ Voice)