Are Amazon's 'Last Mile' Drivers 'Utterly Expendable'?

Gizmodo says contracted workers aren't exactly living the dream that job ads push
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2017 4:18 PM CST
The 'Nearly Invisible' Workers Who Bring Your Amazon Boxes
In this Oct. 18, 2010, file photo, an package awaits delivery in Palo Alto, Calif.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Amazon has an open secret that few pay heed to: a "nearly invisible workforce" that works to get consumers their packages on demand, per Gizmodo. Bryan Menegus dives into the company's Flex program, responsible for the firm's "last-mile" service, which involves getting ordered goods to a customer from the last local shipment site on the delivery chain. But while the driving program is described online by Amazon as letting those interested "be your own boss, set your own schedule, and have more time to pursue your goals and dreams," Menegus—who chatted with 15 current or ex-drivers from nine states and two countries, as well as with three contractors from local courier companies tied to Amazon—instead paints it as an exploitive system that considers its drivers "utterly expendable" and offers them little recourse to address issues or unfair practices.

What he found is that getting into the Flex program can be simple: Entry criteria are "modest" (e.g., being over 21, having a smartphone with the Flex app), as is training. One UK driver says: "Honestly, it seems they take on anyone." But once on board, drivers say they face faulty data systems, altercations between drivers vying for prime routes (and high-tech cheating to claim those routes), and a lack of support from "hot-headed warehouse managers" who take a "customer is always right" attitude. And one labor attorney thinks not everything is on the up-and-up when it comes to how the company handles its drivers: considering them contractors, but treating them like employees, with all of the responsibility and few benefits. "I think it's breaking the law in a pretty widespread way," she says. More on the Flex program, part of the "constantly shifting, secretive nature of Amazon," here. (More Longform stories.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.