San Bernardino Amazon workers walk off the job, demanding higher pay and improved working conditions
On Monday, August 15, dozens of San Bernardino Amazon warehouse workers at the company’s largest air freight facility on the West Coast walked off the job, seeking higher pay and safer working conditions. The work stoppage is the product of months of organizing by an independent group of warehouse workers called Inland Empire Amazon Workers United. The group has received organizing assistance from the Warehouse Worker Resource Center (WWRC) and Teamsters Local 1932, two local labor organizations.
This past July, members of the independent warehouse workers group delivered a petition with more than 800 signatures to the air hub’s management. The petition outlined how average rent prices in San Bernardino would require a full-time Amazon air hub worker earning a starting wage of $17 an hour to pay roughly 75 percent of their monthly income post-taxes on rent.
Workers at the San Bernardino facility have also expressed concern about brutal working conditions caused by excessive heat, especially during the summer months when temperatures at the airport regularly reach 95 degrees.
The walkout is part of a broader wave of labor organizing campaigns across the country at Amazon warehouses. In April, employees at a massive Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union, the first successful unionization attempt by Amazon workers in the company’s history. Since then, at least two other Amazon facilities have either held a vote to form a union or are nearing a vote. San Bernardino workers who participated in the stoppage on Monday don’t have immediate plans to file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, but said they would consider filing for a formal election in the future.
Teukolsky Law stands in solidarity with the brave warehouse workers in San Bernardino who are willing to put their jobs on the line to improve working conditions and wages not only for themselves, but for all of their fellow workers. If you are an Amazon worker who has been treated unlawfully at work, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
America’s largest tech companies are some of the most profitable and powerful corporations in the world, with values in the hundreds of billions of dollars and in some cases, trillions. Given such size, America’s tech companies, and more specifically, their stances on labor and employment policies, have significant influence over a broad swath of American workers’ lives and wellbeing at the workplace. With 2022 halfway through, Teukolsky Law would like to take a moment to recap some of the most notable labor and employment developments across some of our country’s largest tech companies.
Amazon: 2022 has been a historic year for Amazon workers. In April, employees at a massive Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union, the first successful unionization attempt by Amazon workers in the company’s history. Some commentators viewed the vote as milestone event that might signal a turning point in workers’ organizing efforts against Amazon, a company many union leaders consider a massive threat to labor standards.
Google: In June, Google agreed to pay $118 million to resolve a California state class action brough on behalf of over 15,000 former employees who accused the company of underpaying women. The lawsuit, which was filed in 2017, accused Google of paying women less than men for equal or similar work. The former employees alleged that Google slotted female employees into lower “salary bands” than men, put them in lower-paying positions, and failed to promote them- practices which, according to the former employees, violated California’s equal pay act, Unfair Competition Law, and Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
After the settlement was reached, the women involved and their attorneys expressed optimism that the settlement’s provisions will ensure more equity for women at Google.
Microsoft: In January, Microsoft’s board announced that the company had selected a law firm to review its sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies. The announcement came after shareholders expressed concern over how Microsoft and one of its founders, Bill Gates, had treated women employees. The review will produce a report with results of any sexual harassment investigations in recent years against the company’s directors and senior executives.
On the labor front, a group of workers at Activision Blizzard, a large video game company currently being acquired by Microsoft, voted in May to unionize, a first for a major North American video game company. Weeks after the deal, in June, Microsoft reached an agreement with the Communications Workers of America Union to make it easier for Activision Blizzard’s employees to unionize.
Legislation: The first half of 2022 has seen the passage of landmark federal employment legislation. In March, President Biden signed H.R. 4445 into law, preventing employers from using forced arbitration clauses to protect themselves from lawsuits alleging sexual assault and harassment. The law does so by invalidating forced arbitration clauses in “any dispute or claim that arises or accrues” after the date it was signed into law. H.R. 4445 figures to be a significant development for the tech industry, in light of the male-dominant and sexist culture that pervades Silicon Valley.
Powerful state employment legislation was also passed during the first half of 2022. In Washington, Governor Inslee signed the “Silenced No More” act into law in March. The law bars employers from making nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) a condition of employment or settlements and affects some of the largest tech companies in the world, including Amazon and Microsoft. Washington’s law mirrors California’s own Silenced No More act, which already has prompted Salesforce and its subsidiary, Slack, to extend Silenced No More protections to all of their employees across the country.
If the first half of the year is any indication, 2022 will represent a significant victory for both the labor movement and workers in the tech sector.
Though we are only three months into 2022, thousands of workers across the country have already taken significant steps towards securing improved working conditions, higher wages, and greater corporate commitments to their general well-being. Below are some organizing achievements by workers this year that we would like to take a moment to highlight:
Amazon: On Friday, April 1, employees at a massive Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union. The vote marked the first successful unionization attempt by Amazon workers in the company’s history. Some commentators view the vote as milestone event that might signal a turning point in workers’ organizing efforts against Amazon, a company many union leaders regard as an existential threat to labor standards.
Starbucks. Since February of this year, seven Starbucks locations – two in Mesa, AZ, three in Buffalo, NY, one in Seattle, WA, and one in Knoxville, TN – have voted to unionize, bringing the total number locations that have voted to unionize to nine. Starbucks employees have cited low wages, lackluster benefits, staffing shortages, and unrealistic performance metrics as the main drivers for unionization. Since the first Starbucks locations voted to unionize in December 2021, approximately 160 Starbucks locations have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize.
Chevron Corporation: In March, employees at a Chevron Corporation oil refinery in Richmond, CA went on strike. The strike came after the company’s contract with the United Steelworkers Local 5 union expired the previous month. Workers in Richmond are demanding higher wages and staffing improvements, both of which have become increasingly urgent as inflation soars and some Chevron employees feel obligated to work 70 hour weeks to make ends meet.
Kellogg: After 1,400 Kellogg workers went on strike in 2021, workers at a Kellogg’s plant that makes Cheez-its won a new contract that included a 15 % wage increase. According to the workers’ union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, it is the largest wage increase employees at the location have ever seen.
Warrior Met Coal: Nearly 1,000 coal miners in Brookwood, AL, remain on strike in what has become one of the longest coal mine strikes in American history. The miners have been on strike since, April 1, 2021, and are demanding that their wages be restored to the levels they were at prior to Warrior Met Coal’s 2015 bankruptcy. They are also fighting for improved workplace protections, such as excused absences for family emergencies. Warrior Met Coal recently reported its most profitable quarter in three years and said it was hiring new workers during the strike.
We commend the work of Union Organizers and employees who continue to work tirelessly towards a brighter future for workers. Even though the union membership rate declined in 2021, three months into 2022, the prospects for the American labor movement looks very bright.
Bloomberg Law published an article on July 22, 2021 about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling that Amazon must pay workers for time they spend waiting in security lines. The article discusses some recent trends and litigation in California regarding employees’ right to be compensated for short time periods, known as “de minimis” time. This could include time that employees spend in pandemic-related health screening, and time employees spend texting or emailing on their smartphones while off the clock. Lauren Teukolsky is quoted in the article discussing the Troester ruling, which eliminated the de minimis exception.
The article states: “In California, the Troester ruling that eliminated the de minimis exception has sparked worker lawsuits based on allegations of doing short tasks after hours, such as responding to emails and texts, said Lauren Teukolsky, an attorney at Teukolsky Law PC who represents workers.”
If you believe you have not been compensated properly at work, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.