Amazon workers quit their jobs at an air cargo facility to demand better wages and working conditions

The group of workers organizing the strike is called Inland Empire Amazon Workers United and claimed in online posts that more than 150 workers took part in their coordinated work stoppage on Monday. Amazon disputes that figure, however, and says 74 workers participated in the walkout. By any measure, the protesters made up less than 15% of the 1,500 total employees at Amazon’s overhead facility, known as KSBD, though walkout organizers told CNN Business they were the majority of the shift that was taking place at the time.

In a statement Posted online by the workers’ group, organizers said they had collected more than 800 signatures for a petition calling for the facility’s base pay rate to be increased to $22 an hour from $17 previously. The workers’ organization cited rising rents and the cost of living in the area in its statement demanding better pay.

In the statement, organizers also said “hazardous heat conditions” remain in many work areas and noted that temperatures had reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher at San Bernardino Cargo Airport for two dozen weeks. days last month.

“Working in the heat feels suffocating,” said a worker identified as Melissa Ojeda in the statement released by the group. “You have to take breaks and you can overheat very easily. They don’t make it easy to take breaks to allow your body to cool down.”

Paul Flaningan, a spokesperson for Amazon, said in a statement provided to CNN Business that the company is “proud to provide full-time employees at our San Bernardino airline hub and throughout the region with a minimum wage of departure of 17 dollars an hour”. Flaningan added that full-time employees can earn up to $19.25 an hour and also enjoy “top-tier benefits, including health care from day one, 401(k) with a match of 50% of the company and up to 20 weeks of paid parental leave”.

“While there are many established ways to ensure that we hear the opinions of our employees within our company, we also respect their right to make their opinions known externally,” the statement added. “While we are always listening and looking for ways to improve, we remain proud of the competitive salary, comprehensive benefits and engaging and safe work experience we provide to our teams in the region.”

The walkout follows organizing efforts at other Amazon facilities. Earlier this year, workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted to form the first U.S. union in Amazon history. (Amazon is currently trying to have the election results thrown out.) Amazon workers also lobbied to unionize at a facility in Bessemer, Alabama, and at an Amazon Fresh location in Seattle.

Ongoing organizing efforts within Amazon continue to enjoy support from labor rights advocates and progressive politicians across the country, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has long been a vocal critic of the company.

“I stand in solidarity with Amazon workers in San Bernardino, Calif. who walked off the job today protesting low wages and unsafe working conditions,” Sanders tweeted Monday night. He also referenced Amazon CEO Andy Jassy’s total compensation awarded in 2021, adding, “If Amazon can afford to pay $214 million to its CEO last year, it can afford to give its employees a $5 an hour raise and a safe place to work.”

Lynn A. Saleh