Amazon’s $26 billion delivery business runs on exhausted, sweat-soaked drivers running door to door. Now we’re on strike

 Imagine delivering hundreds of packages in a single shift. Exhausted from running back and forth from the van. Fielding calls from the company dispatcher asking why you are falling behind on your deliveries. This is a typical day for drivers like me at Amazon and it gets even worse after Prime Day and throughout the holiday season. The work is extreme, our bodies ache and the pressure from Amazon is unmatched, but this year, we’re not willing to put up with it any longer. We are on strike to stand up for what we deserve.

I started driving for Amazon in October 2022. My husband had recently lost his job and we have four kids to support. I needed a job fast and turned to the Amazon delivery station in Palmdale, California, but I got more than I bargained for. Two-day shipping is free for customers, but no one asks what it costs the workers who deliver the packages.

On an average day, Amazon wants me to deliver 350 packages in just eight hours. In the wake of Prime Day or Black Friday, that number jumps to as much as 400. This load is unmanageable. 
I am always sprinting door to door and worried that if I don’t deliver all the boxes, I’ll be fired. Amazon’s sensors and software monitor us in our trucks throughout the day and if we fall behind, they want to know why. I usually skip my 15-minute breaks to keep up with Amazon’s demanding quotas.

In Palmdale, we deliver in the High Desert, and many of the Amazon vans don’t have working air conditioning. It feels like walking into an oven when I climb into the back of the van. After a couple minutes of looking for a package, I’m drenched in sweat, and I sometimes feel lightheaded and nauseous from the extreme heat. Between 2010 and 2017, 20 California workers died from heat-related illness. I don’t want to be next.

The back of a delivery van stuffed full with Amazon boxes.

Working at Amazon, you’re treated as though you’re less than human. Even though Amazon holds me responsible for delivering its packages, regardless of the weather, the executives say my safety is not their problem. I wear an Amazon uniform, drive an Amazon-branded van, and I’m only allowed to deliver Amazon packages, but technically I work for an Amazon subcontractor. The same is true for all of the Amazon drivers you see around your neighborhoods. Amazon does it this way because they get all the benefits of having their own drivers and complete control over those drivers without any real responsibility for their safety. Amazon can hire and fire us and monitor us while we’re on the job, but can then pass the buck when people ask for a raise or complain about working conditions – working conditions that Amazon sets.

My co-workers and I took our safety into our own hands by organizing a union with Teamsters Local 396. The union contract that we negotiated with the Amazon subcontractor guarantees safe vans and protects our right to refuse deliveries in dangerous conditions, like a heat wave. But Amazon so far has refused to agree to these common-sense protections. We are now on strike to stop Amazon’s unfair labor practices and to force the company to respect our rights.

Workers are ready to fight back. I have traveled around the country to extend our picket line to other Amazon warehouses. The Amazon workers I talk to are also dealing with extreme heat, low pay, and disrespect. I tell them that we can stand up for ourselves and refuse to let Amazon put us in danger. Many Amazon workers have joined our picket lines and are demanding better at their facilities.

We know that when workers in this industry come together, we can secure and protect the good jobs we deserve. UPS Teamsters spent the last year organizing for a historic contract and Teamsters assembled a fierce, credible strike threat to achieve it. In the end, UPS blinked in the face of workers’ collective power and agreed to record wage increases for all job classifications, the installation of air conditioning in new package cars, worker protections from surveillance and management harassment, an end to overtime abuses, and equal pay for equal work. What UPS Teamsters won is an inspiration to Amazon workers everywhere.

Amazon customers can help the workers that Amazon is throwing aside. In Palmdale, residents walk with us on the picket line and support our struggle to hold Amazon accountable. It makes sense: Amazon is so big that it hurts the whole community when it underpays its workers.  

With Prime Day now behind us and peak season around the corner, it’s time Amazon puts the safety of its delivery drivers first.

Cecilia Porter is a member of Teamsters Local 396.

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