Protestors demand Amazon protect air quality, provide good jobs

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Photo Manny B. Sandoval:   On December 2, Cyber Monday, Amazon's biggest sales day of the year, a protest was held by the San Bernardino community to demand air quality control and good paying jobs.
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San Bernardino Airport Communities Coalition hosted a rally at the Amazon fulfillment Center in San Bernardino on Monday, December 2 to “…condemn the company’s poor labor practices and negative effects on local air quality.”

“Today, Cyber Monday, is Amazon’s biggest sales day of the year… so for us, this was the perfect day to make a loud statement about a community benefits agreement,” said Anthony Victoria, spokesperson for the San Bernardino Airport Communities Coalition.

About 200 community members were present at the Amazon ‘ONT 2’ warehouse facility, located on Central Avenue, to demand good paying jobs and air quality control.

At the protest, it was stated that the city of San Bernardino experienced 102 bad-air days in 2019 alone.

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“We understand that Amazon is a big player in this region. But if they’re going to be a big employer in this region they need to provide good paying jobs with benefits, which will allow residents to live a good life. The only way the quality of life will improve in this area is if enterprises like Amazon provide that,” continued Victoria.

At the protest, in between speakers, community members held their signs high which read, “Community benefits agreement now,” “Residents need less air pollution,” and “We want living wage jobs.”

“I stand in solidarity with the San Bernardino Airports Community Coalition. Our fight is no secret, our fight is for community benefits and for serious accountability. Last year Amazon made $11 billion, they paid zero dollars in income taxes. Just last year, they received $149 million dollars from us,” said Benjamin Reynoso, economic organizer for ICUC.

In an emailed statement, Amazon said it has committed to a $15 minimum wage for all of its workers, following criticism about wages in its warehouses. It has also pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040 following demonstrations by activist employees who said the company wasn’t doing enough to address climate change.

It was evident, between honking vehicles, with upset drivers inside because they were blocked by traffic, that the theme of the night was that the consumers truly have the power in this battle for environmental and social justice.

“I’m here to acknowledge that we are standing on the lands of the first people and they were the first water protectors on these lands. These Amazon trucks are not protecting Mother Earth. Amazon does not care about our communities, the earth, or our lands. We must lift the voices of our ancestors…protect the earth, the sky and the land,” said Mary Valdemar, community advocate.

“Together, we can accomplish this by not giving them our dollars and by not buying their nonsense when they say that they care about our community,” said Vladimir. The protest ended with the participants chanting, “No justice, no peace.” 

Amazon’s rumored first regional air hub in the western United States is commonly known as the ‘Eastgate Air Cargo Logistic Center’ and will add at least 24 around-the-clock air cargo flights and 7,516 vehicle trips daily, including 500 daily truck trips, to an area already known for the worst smog pollution in the country. Local residents previously turned out in large numbers to a ​community town hall​ in April 2019 and to the Federal Aviation Administration’s ​hearing​ on the Eastgate project in August 2019, to urge Amazon to agree to a CBA at San Bernardino International Airport that meets community needs and minimizes community harm.

“Amazon’s practice of building facilities filled with thousands of low-wage jobs in already polluted and disinvested communities is the result of shortsighted developers and politicians ignoring the real harm that the company has done,” says Tom Dolan, executive director of the Inland Congregations United for Change, and a San Bernardino resident of 22 years. “With Eastgate, community members are demanding that the project actually benefit our community through the enforcement of well-defined standards for cleaner air and living-wage jobs.”

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