Driven to brink by de­liv­er­ies

Frenzy of hol­i­day de­liv­er­ies takes toll on Ama­zon driv­ers.

The Times-Tribune - - Front Page - BY NATALIE KITROEFF

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

its em­ploy­ees.

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.

THE NEW YORK TIMES FILE

An Ama­zon driver de­liv­ers parcels in New York. At this time of year, Ama­zon’s de­liv­ery crush is left up to a small army of peo­ple.

THE NEW YORK TIMES FILE

Ama­zon hopes to one day use drones to make its de­liv­er­ies.

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