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Amazon freight workers

Amazon workers at the company's freight hub in San Bernardino, California celebrate their work stoppage on August 15, 2022. (Photo: Twitter/@ieamazonworkers)

Amazon Employees Hold First-Ever Work Stoppage in Air Freight Division

"If Amazon can afford to pay its CEO $214 million last year it can afford to give their workers a $5-an-hour raise and a safe workplace," said Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Julia Conley

After months of working in what they say are unsafe weather conditions for wages that leave them struggling to afford basic necessities, more than 150 workers at Amazon's air freight hub in Southern California walked out mid-shift on Monday to demand fair treatment by the trillion-dollar company.

"We are the people sustaining our nation's supply chain and we deserve safe working conditions, livable wages, and protection from retaliation."

As The Washington Post reported, the walkout at the San Bernardino facility, KSBD, was the first-ever work stoppage in Amazon's crucial air freight division, which keeps millions of packages moving throughout the U.S. each day. Managers at the warehouse were forced to slow down operations Monday in anticipation of the action.

The employees are demanding a $5-per-hour raise, which would bring their starting wage to $22 per hour and make it easier for them to pay for housing in an area where the average rent is $1,650 per month.

They also want the company to establish effective heat safety measures, as workers have complained of heat-induced nosebleeds while working and air conditioning that doesn't work throughout KSBD.

"We are the people sustaining our nation's supply chain and we deserve safe working conditions, livable wages, and protection from retaliation," said Inland Empire Amazon Workers United, an independent labor rights group established by workers at the hub earlier this year.

About 10% of KSBD workers took part in the action, and the Athena Coalition, a grassroots coalition that fights for workers' rights at Amazon, estimated that the "vast majority" of people working during the shift walked out.

The walkout came less than two weeks after a meeting that managers held in response to a petition signed by more than 800 employees, listing their demands. At the meeting, managers offered raises of up to $2 per hour for certain shifts and suggested workers take public transit and carpool to save money.

"Amazon refused" to meet the workers' demands, the independent labor group tweeted Monday, "so today we walked out."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) expressed solidarity with the workers, tweeting that Amazon CEO Andy Jassy earned nearly $214 million in compensation last year.

If the company can afford to pay its executives hundreds of millions of dollars, Sanders said, "it can afford to give their workers a $5 an hour raise and a safe workplace."

A work stoppage which slows down the company's ability to keep its daily profits up "is the only thing the bosses understand," said national labor rights group Fight for $15, expressing support for the walkout.

The walkout came four months after workers at a Staten Island Amazon warehouse stunned the company by winning a union election that was organized by a former employee who had been fired after organizing his colleagues in 2020.

Amazon fired managers at the Staten Island facility a month after the election in what critics said was a retaliatory measure.

Workers at Starbucks stores across the country, John Deere, healthcare facilities, and other workplaces have also gone on strike and voted to form unions over the past year.

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