Vice President, Labor Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
June 22, 2023
As this blog observed back in April, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters organized 84 drivers and dispatchers at a Southern California company called Battle Tested Strategies (BTS), which had voluntarily recognized the union and subsequently arrived at a collective bargaining agreement with it.
This news led to glaring headlines incorrectly proclaiming that the union had succeeded in organizing Amazon drivers, perhaps because BTS had at one point a contract to make deliveries for Amazon through its Delivery Service Partner program.
The only problem with those headlines, however, was the fact that the drivers in question work for BTS, not Amazon, and Amazon ended its contract with BTS based on the latter’s performance, as this blog also reported.
While the Teamsters’ strike ostensibly is about working conditions at the facility, the reality is that the union is angry that “Amazon has refused to recognize and honor the union contract” that BTS agreed to.
But there’s nothing for Amazon to honor. The contract covers individuals who don’t work for Amazon and are employed by a company with whom Amazon does no business. Labor law simply doesn’t work that way.
Likewise, the essence of a strike is that you deprive an employer of your labor. If you don’t actually work at the company in question, your absence is unlikely to be noticed.
This may all be an attempt to take advantage of the NLRB’s pending joint employer rule. Observers of labor policy expect that the final rule will make it easier for the Board to find that two or more businesses are acting as joint employers. In some cases, that would hold companies liable for workers they don’t actually employ and workplaces they don’t control.
Assuming that happens, the Teamsters may be banking on an eventual ruling in their favor, declaring that drivers for a contract company like BTS are magically Amazon employees even though they are not.
In the meantime, one can expect more “strikes” and ginned up street theater in this ongoing PR campaign.