Hundreds of employees walked out of the Amazon Air Regional Air Hub in San Bernardino Monday, Aug. 15, demanding a $5-per-hour pay increase, safe working conditions and an end to retaliation.
In a news release, Inland Empire Amazon Workers United contends Amazon promised quality jobs when the $200 million warehouse at the former Norton Air Force Base opened last year, “but has failed to deliver.”
Workers there have since organized “in response to low pay, illness-inducing heat, and brutal working conditions,” according to the release.
Employees presently start at $17 an hour.
“Amazon could deliver a higher standard for workers, but they don’t,” Sara Fee, who has worked inside the facility since its opening, said in the release. “A warehouse is just a warehouse. A company is just a company. The people are what makes it all work and we are strong and united to fight for what we deserve.”
A petition signed by about 900 employees of the San Bernardino facility called for a bump in hourly pay, from $17 to $22.
The document was submitted to management during July’s Prime Week, according to the news release.
At the Amazon Air Regional Air Hub, which serves as the Southern California headquarters for the e-commerce giant’s expansive air freight network, temperatures reached 95 degrees or higher 24 days in July, the release states.
Workers confronted managers about the heat, and Amazon subsequently created an additional rest area.
However, unsafe heat conditions remain in many work areas, workers say.
“Working in the heat feels like you are suffocating,” employee Melissa Ojeda said in the release. “You need to take breaks and you can overheat really easily. They don’t make it easy to take breaks to allow your body to cool down.”
Amazon officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
“We as Amazon Associates work hard to ensure that the building hits the numbers it strives for and work together in order to provide satisfaction to all of our customers,” the petition reads, in part. “The average rent in California is $1,700 and the average rent in San Bernardino is $1,650. With our current starting pay of $17/hr in a 40 hour work week, we make approximately $2,200 take home pay – meaning that over 75% of our income is going into rent alone. …
“We can barely afford to live in today’s economy.”
We are organizing for:
✅ a $5 pay increase
✅ improved health & safety standards
✅ an end to retaliation
Here’s our story 🧵 pic.twitter.com/QOzSLcVTYw
— #IEAmazonWorkers (@ieamazonworkers) August 15, 2022
Monday’s walkout reflects the broad move of labor-organizing actions at Amazon warehouses throughout the U.S.
In April, warehouse workers in Staten Island, N.Y, voted to unionize, marking the first successful U.S. organizing effort in the retail giant’s history. About 57% of the more than 8,300 workers on the voter list cast their ballots.
Amazon employees in Alabama have likewise voted to unionize.
A recent study by the Stategic Organizing Center (SOC) said Amazon warehouse workers are twice as likely to be injured as other warehouse laborers.
“The Injury Machine: How Amazon’s Production System Hurts Workers” pointed to the online retailer’s emphasis on fast delivery for endangering workers at fulfillment centers like those dotting the Inland Empire’s landscape — part of a logistics boom that’s transformed the local economy and made the region a key cog in the national supply chain.
The SOC report says Amazon workers suffered almost 40,000 injuries in 2021.
“While Amazon employed 33% of all U.S. warehouse workers in 2021, the company was responsible for a staggering 49% of all injuries in the industry last year,” the center said.
Staff writer Jeff Horseman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.