UPS members learn about the threat from Amazon—and what they can do about it

“Ten years ago, there were zero Amazon warehouses in California,” said Shaun Martinez, IBT, Strategic Research & Campaigns Department “Today, they’re the state’s largest employer.”

Speaking at a training about Amazon for about 100 Local 853 UPS members at the San Jose Teamster office on November 13, Martinez reviewed Amazon’s growth, from bookseller to major customer of UPS to now being UPS’ biggest competitor—already surpassing FedEx’s market share.

With 300,000 people under the one contract, the contract with UPS is not only the Teamsters’ largest, but is the largest single union contract in the world. Today, UPS sets the bar for wages and benefits. “When we organize FedEx or Amazon, it will raise the standard for everyone. If we can lift the standards for everyone, that protects our benefits,” Martinez added.

Here are a few facts about Amazon today:

• Most workers don’t work for Amazon for more than a few months. They stay long enough to collect their welcome bonus and then they quit. Martinez says that’s by design. “Who wants workers who, with added seniority, get higher wages and more benefits?”

• Amazon went from 150 facilities to 740 in just two years. Their goal is 1,500.

• According to an Amazon worker who attended the event with her fiancé, “those of us who have been there for a while get screwed because the company keeps bringing in new people and moving us around. We constantly get write-ups. People don’t want to use the restrooms because they’re too far away. They gave us an additional five minutes for handwashing during COVID, but then then took it away again.”

“Everyone has to get activated to fight Amazon,” Martinez says. “We can do it, but it’ll be hard.”

The battle has already begun. Several Teamster locals, including Local 853, are working in coalition with environmental groups, other unions, land use attorneys, and local Labor Councils.

In just the last few months we’ve succeeded in stopping Amazon’s attempt to open local facilities:

In San Jose, the City Council unanimously voted down a proposed Amazon Distribution Center in the Coyote Valley the size of six football fields.

In Gilroy, the City Council pushed off a vote until December 6 for a proposed Delivery Station after Local 853 and Gilroy community members flooded the meeting with concerns.

In Hayward, Amazon withdrew their application for one of three sites they are considering.

There are still fights going on in San Francisco, Richmond, and Hayward. But we’ve already seen that winning is possible if we all get together to write letters, make phone calls, picket, and do whatever is necessary to stop the Amazon behemoth from taking over our cities and ruining our good union jobs.

President Dennis Hart told the group of UPSers that he had been a UPS Business Agent when the 1997 UPS strike took place. “We won that strike by sticking together, and we also got great support from our customers. We can win against Amazon too, but we need to stick together, get focused, and  get the community involved.”

When the union contacts you to get involved, please follow through. It’ll be in your best interest.