Bracing for California’s Heat Wave, Workers Demanded and Won Extra safety Precautions to Protect their Coworkers from Extreme Heat
San Bernardino, Calif. — Warehouse workers at Amazon’s West Coast Air Freight Fulfillment Center, also known as KSBD, in partnership with the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, released a new report Thursday that documents extremely high temperatures at the warehouse and grave inconsistencies with Amazon’s own temperature monitors.
“People who I work with closely, who I call friends, have suffered from heat illness this summer,” said Rex Evans, who works at KSBD. “When we saw the forecast that it would be even hotter, we had to take action. We had to protect ourselves.”
Over the summer, at least half a dozen workers documented heat illness at KSBD and as temperatures soared into the 90s and 100s, the workers at KSBD formulated their demands and directly approached Amazon warehouse management on Aug. 31 and Sept. 2 to win protections from extreme heat.
Then workers representing every department at the facility took thermometers to work for seven days and recorded the temperatures throughout the day. At one point, on Sept. 4, workers recorded a temperature of 121 degrees in an outdoor work area.
“We understand how serious heat illness is. It can kill,” said Alfonso Rodriguez, who works at the facility. “We do physically demanding work, moving thousands of pounds of freight a day. Without regular breaks, access to water and a chance to cool your body down, even the healthiest person is in danger.”
The data the workers collected confirmed extreme temperatures at the facility and affirmed that their advocacy was merited, underlining the need for improved health and safety protections.
“Workers in California have a right to a safe work environment and that includes protections from heat,” said Tim Shaddix, legal director at the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. “But collective action is critical to actually hold a company, especially one as large as Amazon, accountable to the people essential to their business.”
Since workers approached facility management they have won:
- Increased, yet inconsistent, preventative cool down breaks
- Increased access to water, ice and electrolyte packets
- Increased fans inside the facility, permanent fans yet to be installed
- Outdoor employees have been moved indoors one time
- Increased rotation for outdoor employees
“It is an unfortunate fact that in our country, workers have to come together to hold their employees accountable to the rules and protect themselves and their co-workers in dangerous situations like this heat,” said Sheheryar Kaoosji, executive director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center. “We know that when workers are not in a position to protect themselves, we see increased violations and injuries.”
KSBD opened in March 2021 and is one of three major U.S. Amazon air hubs. Amazon currently operates approximately 14 flights a day in and out of the 24-hour facility. At the San Bernardino facility workers process prepackaged merchandise that is flown or trucked in from other Amazon facilities for outbound shipments in either planes or trucks. Freight from KSBD serves markets across the country.
Workers at KSBD work both inside a 658,500 square foot building with inconsistent ventilation and outside on the San Bernardino International Airports tarmac. Workers’ jobs require physical labor and shifts are generally ten hours a day. About 500 of the roughly 1,400 employees work outside for the duration of their shifts. Amazon also requires a high rate of work of its employees.
About the WWRC
The Warehouse Worker Resource Center is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), organization founded in 2011 dedicated to improving working conditions in the warehouse industry in Southern California. We focus on education, advocacy and action to change poor working conditions in the largest warehousing hub in the country.