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The Teamsters Say They Unionized Drivers at an Amazon Facility in California – But It Might Be More Complex

Amazon has been fighting unionization efforts on all fronts, believing they provide a safe working environment with above industry benefits.

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Last year, the corporation went so far as to enhance the benefits for its delivery drivers in the United States, who work for independent delivery companies operating Amazon-branded vans throughout the country.

Still, labor unions worldwide persist in their efforts to organize warehouse workers, delivery drivers, and other workers.

Black Friday in 2022 emerged as one of the largest global platforms for union-led protests and demonstrations, aimed at raising awareness about worker safety and equitable compensation at the company.

And here in the U.S., one of the most powerful labor unions, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, launched an Amazon division “dedicated to uniting Amazon employees, securing more workplace protections in the warehouse and logistics industry, and defending workers from the unchecked exploitation of one of the world’s most dangerous employers.”

Last week, The Teamsters made an announcement that a group of 84 Amazon drivers and dispatchers stationed at Amazon’s DAX8 center in Palmdale, California have joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

“Amazon workers are joining the Teamsters to demand more from this company, including good wages, safe working conditions, and respect,” said Randy Korgan, Teamsters Amazon Division Director and Teamsters Joint Council 42 Director of Organizing.

“The Teamsters are coordinating nationwide with Amazon workers, allies committed to holding this corporation accountable, and our union’s 1.2 million members to make sure Amazon provides the benefits and protections that working people deserve.”

Amazon Delivery Workers Work for Former DSP

But is this a win as presented by The Teamsters? There are now doubts about this unionization effort.

In their press release, The Teamsters acknowledge the 84 workers are employed by Amazon’s Delivery Service Partner (DSP), Battle-Tested Strategies. They are not direct employees of Amazon, as Amazon’s fleet of delivery vans are all owned by third-party contractors.

These delivery drivers drive Amazon-branded delivery vehicles and wear Amazon-branded clothing, but the company does not employ them.

In addition, Amazon now claims that the third-party contractor targeted in this unionization effort is a former delivery contractor. In other words, these drivers no longer deliver packages for Amazon.

Amazon told Sourcing Journal (SJ) that it had terminated its partnership with Battle-Tested Strategies before the agreement was reached.

“This particular third-party company had a track record of failing to perform and had been notified of its termination for poor performance well before [The Teamster’s] announcement,” said Amazon spokesperson Eileen Hards to SJ.

“This situation is more about an outside company trying to distract from their history of failing to meet their obligations.

“Whether the Teamsters are being intentionally misleading or they just don’t understand our business, the narrative they’re spreading is false. This group does not work for Amazon.”

This all sounds like there might be a legal battle brewing here, but that would not be the first time Amazon has taken an aggressive stance against unionization.

Previous Amazon Union Battles

Currently, the JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, NY is the only facility in the United States where a majority of employees voted to join the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), and thus far, the workers have successfully overcome legal challenges mounted by Amazon.

In an interview, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said, “there were a lot of irregularities in that vote” and reaffirmed that “we [Amazon] infavor unions because they are more bureaucratic” and the “legal process is far from over it” discussing the JFK8 facility situation.

The ALU has also been unsuccessful in unionizing two other facilities, with workers at a nearby Staten Island facility rejecting the union in May, and the ALU losing an election at an Albany warehouse in October.

Though some other Amazon facilities have seen similar efforts aimed at unionization, these attempts have either been successfully challenged by Amazon or have failed.

Meanwhile, a unionization effort in the UK might be getting closer to reality. The GMB union, a general trade union in the UK, is claiming they have recruited 700 members at the Amazon Coventry facility, which could lead to becoming a recognized union at the facility. But here again, the battle is far from over as well.

Despite significant media attention, Amazon has effectively been able to quash unionization efforts in the U.S. and other countries, owing to an effective anti-union strategy.

Even if The Teamster’s “win” in California is mostly symbolic, it squares off the most powerful union in the U.S. against the second-largest retailer in the U.S., which could get interesting.

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