Amazon has changed its plans for at least five new warehouses in California’s Bay Area in recent months due to opposition from labor unions and environmental groups.
Since 2020, the firm and its affiliates have canceled, postponed, or changed plans for delivery stations in North Richmond, San Jose, San Francisco, Fremont, and Hayward, where goods are offloaded from trucks and prepped for distribution.
After local labor unions and environmentalists said the e-commerce giant would bring low-wage jobs and a polluting fleet of vans and trucks.
The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco unanimously authorized an 18-month moratorium on all Amazon and other last-mile delivery terminals in the city on Tuesday, March 22.
The five delivery stations are a minor component of Amazon’s larger footprint in California, which includes 170,000 full-time and part-time employees and 110 fulfillment centers and delivery stations.
An Amazon spokesperson, Glenn Kuper, would not provide Bay Area-specific figures, but rejected the idea that the changes were a result of pushback, saying in an email: “It is common for us to explore multiple locations simultaneously and adjust based on our operational needs.”
Nonetheless, the changes and the moratorium are the most recent developments in a battle between Amazon and groups like the Sierra Club and the Teamsters Union, which are attempting to thwart Amazon’s expansion across the Bay Area in order to negotiate labor and environmental practices with the company.
And they come as workers at a New York City Amazon warehouse voted successfully to form the first union for Amazon employees on Friday, April 1.
The Teamsters hope Bay Area cities making demands of Amazon will spark similar movements. When it comes to unionizing, they are likely to face serious challenges, including some Amazon employees.
Workers at a facility in Alabama appeared almost evenly divided in a recent unionization vote there, with the National Labor Relations Board expected to weigh in in the coming weeks on the status of challenged ballots that could affect the outcome.
Jason Rabinowitz, president of the Teamsters Joint Council 7 said: “We will keep on fighting them until they agree to talk to the community, talk to labor, and open up a good, positive union shop that creates jobs and is good for the environment,”
Amazon has been criticized by critics for allegedly forcing workers to fulfill quotas, resulting in high injury rates, and for vehemently fighting union organizing initiatives in their warehouses around the country.
According to Kuper, the company spokesperson, Amazon assesses “performance based on safe and achievable expectations, accounting for tenure, peer performance, and adherence to safe work practices.”
After the San Francisco moratorium passed, Amazon paused its development of a delivery center on six acres of land the company purchased in the city for $200 million in 2021.
“We will continue to evaluate our long-term use of the site, and in the short-term, we will work with our neighbors to look at ways to use the location to serve the community,” the company said in an email.
City officials and the San Francisco Southeast Community Coalition, a coalition of labor unions and community organizations, want Amazon and other package delivery companies to implement environmental practices to offset the pollution caused by fleets of delivery vans, similar to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ requirements.
In North Richmond, county supervisors passed a moratorium on delivery warehouse developments in December, allowing projects to go forward under the condition that one-third of the delivery vehicles be zero-emission on day one and that the whole fleet is zero-emission in five years.
Amazon, which has the goal of a fully electric fleet by 2030, initially agreed to the conditions, but then backed out, said John Gioia, Contra Costa County District 1 supervisor.
An Amazon spokesperson said the withdrawn application was not in response to the electric vehicle requirements.
John Dennis, chairmen of the San Francisco Republican Party, worries that the moratorium will keep blue-collar jobs out of the city, exacerbating existing inequalities. The site would have created several hundred jobs, according to the company.
Dennis said “We have had massive gentrification in San Francisco we’ve driven all those folks out of the city, and here’s an opportunity to give those that want to move in a decent job from a burgeoning company… And now we are shaking down Amazon. This is no way to run a city.”