California: Amazon Workers At San Bernardino Air Hub Refuse To Be Silenced

By S.E Williams\Black Voice News

Photos: Black Voice News\ YouTube Screenshots

Some Amazon workers at the  San Bernardino air hub are declaring the company owes them back pay for having required them to work more than ten hours without a break even though such breaks are mandated by state law. This is the latest sign Amazon workers at the San Bernardino air hub are not happy with working conditions on the job. 

Amazon has become such an integral part of the inland region’s economy it’s hard to imagine a time when the warehouse giant didn’t live here in the I.E. And yet, a little more than ten years ago there was not a single Amazon warehouse facility operating in the state of California, let alone in the inland region.

My, how things have changed. Now,  there are nearly 40 Amazon facilities in the Inland Empire alone and Amazon is the area’s largest employer. Having experienced labor challenges in recent years, an official Amazon memo, leaked last December, exposed the warehouse giant’s plans to fight against what it described as “labor agitation.”

When news of the leaked memo broke, Amazon Spokesperson Jennifer Flagg, called an online post of the leaked document “a blatant mischaracterization of Amazon’s work.” However, as the push for employment equity continues everywhere, Amazon workers at the San Bernardino hub, though not unionized, are raising their voices on a number of employment issues they find unsatisfactory with their giant warehouse employer, ranging from working conditions to compensation.

Amazon workers at the  San Bernardino air hub who have raised the latest complaints against the warehouse giant is just another example of employees fighting for fair employment practices and safe working conditions.

This is not the first time Amazon workers in the IE  have banded together demanding change. Last July employees filed a complaint with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). In the complaint, employees alleged their work area was too hot (after suffering through a three-digit heat wave) and they needed adequate protections from the heat which the company had not provided.These efforts resulted in Cal/OSHA citing Amazon at least three times in January.

In 2022, workers at the San Bernardino air hub walked out claiming they were subjected to unfair labor practices while also accusing Amazon of retaliating against them for raising what they believed were legitimate concerns.

Workers at Amazon are injured more frequently and more severely than workers at other warehouses(thesoc.org)

There was a time when the inland community, still struggling economically in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008-09, celebrated the anticipated influx of blue collar jobs promised by the warehouse industry. But, for many, the caliber of jobs that resulted are disappointing, the working conditions speculative and the industry is already poised to replace people with robotics technology in the not too distant future.

Perhaps most disappointing as warehouse employment promises became actual jobs is the stark reality that most of these jobs dead end to nowhere…no economic security…and, limited opportunities for career advancement. For people seeking careers in the warehouse industry, especially people of color, this has been great disappointment.

According to the National Employment Law Project, “Warehouse workers in California are overwhelmingly people of color. In addition, the report notes that the turnover rate for warehouse workers in counties across CA with Amazon fulfillment centers, was more than 100.9 percent in 2017, the latest year for which data are available. In essence, more workers left Amazon than the company hired. A 2023 study by the Strategic Organizing Center, seems to give a glimpse as to why. According to the report, “workers at Amazon are injured more frequently and more severely than workers at other warehouses.”

Workers at the Amazon San Bernardino air hub who are raising concerns about safe working conditions are only asking for what every worker in this country is entitled to. According to Yahoonews.com, Jeff Bezos Made Over $7.9 Million An Hour for every hour throughout 2023. One would think he could reinvest some of those profits to create a more comfortable and conducive work environment for Amazon employees here in the Inland Empire and beyond.

Of course this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

S.E Williams is the executive editor of IE Voice and Black Voice News.

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