Driven to brink by deliveries
Frenzy of holiday deliveries takes toll on Amazon drivers.
There are few things more important to Amazon.com than delivery. A large part of the reason the retailer is valued at $360 billion is that it has managed to get customers the things they want, cheaper and faster than its competitors.
Some day, the company promises, drones will deposit boxes at people’s doorsteps. But for now, the job of handling the holiday delivery crunch is left to an army of people like Angel Echeverria.
Mr. Echeverria drives for LMS Transportation, a local courier in Inglewood, Calif., that delivers packages for Amazon. He starts each day with about 260 boxes, which he has to drop off at perhaps 200 addresses across up to 80 miles in Southern California.
Factoring in the time needed to load and gas up
his white van, Mr. Echeverria has to hit one home every two minutes, on average. Failing to deliver even one package is not an option, he says.
“If you bring anything back, they basically want to cut your throat off,” says Mr. Echeverria, who makes $15 an hour.
For all the control it exercises, Amazon doesn’t count Mr. Echeverria and many other people who speed around major cities in vans filled with Amazon boxes as
In an echo of complaints by Uber drivers and other contract workers, delivery drivers in interviews and in court documents say Amazon is working them past a reasonable point, and often avoids paying them overtime or giving legally required meal breaks.
An Amazon spokeswoman said the company’s code of conduct for contract delivery companies requires them to provide “appropriate work hours and overtime pay.”
But in the past two years, drivers in four states have sued the company for allegedly misclassifying them as independent contractors. Those drivers have said they don’t get overtime pay and can earn less than the minimum wage because they spend so much on gas every week.
In 2015, drivers for Pasadena-based courier Scoobeez who delivered packages for Amazon sued both companies for denying them overtime and effectively paying them less than the minimum wage after drivers subtracted gas, tolls and maintenance from their paychecks.
Drivers in Arizona settled in October with Amazon, which did not admit fault. Cases against the company in California, Illinois and Washington are in progress.