In today’s News and Commentary, Amazon delivery drivers strike after the company refuses to recognize their newly formed union, proposed Senate legislation would limit the power of port workers’ union, and dairy workers in Maine protested Saturday calling for fair pay and better working conditions.
Unionized employees at Battle Tested Strategies (BTS), a California-based Amazon delivery service partner, went on strike Saturday demanding that Amazon bargain with the workers’ newly formed union. As Attorney Andrew Strom reported, after BTS employees’ April vote to unionize, Amazon announced that it had already notified the contractor that its contract was terminated. The 84 BTS drivers and dispatchers were the first of Amazon’s US delivery service network to unionize. The workers organized with Teamsters Local 396 to push for higher wages and better working conditions, including heat protection. The union has filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB and is seeking expedited injunctive relief to suspend Amazon’s termination of the contract until the charges are resolved.
Senate Republicans introduced legislation to revise the NLRA and LMRA in order to limit port workers ability to withhold or slow labor. The bill comes in response to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union work slowdowns at West Coast ports earlier this month. The union was seeking a fair and equitable contract, along with a plan to address the increased automation of docks. If passed, the bill would redefine port slowdowns by maritime workers as unfair labor practices. Dockworkers could be fined up to double the damages of a slowdown – a figure the Chamber of Commerce estimates at approximately $1 billion per day. The bill’s sponsor, Idaho Senator Jim Risch has proposed several similar bills without success.
Dairy workers and supporters took to the streets of Portland, Maine on Saturday to protest worker abuse and exploitation on dairy farms. Organized in part by the Milk with Dignity campaign, the protest demanded that northeast supermarket chain, Hannaford, sign a commitment to a code of conduct for labor and housing conditions on dairy farms. The Milk with Dignity campaign is spearheaded by the Vermont-based farm worker organization, Migrant Justice, which successfully lobbied Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to sign a code of conduct. Hannaford is headquartered in Scarborough, Maine and operates 186 stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Maine’s normal minimum wage is $13.80 an hour, while the minimum wage for farmworkers sits at $7.25 an hour. Farmworkers are not eligible for overtime pay and they do not have the right to organize. So far, Hannaford has refused to sign the code of conduct pledge.