the Netradyne cameras were the last straw. For the past year, Casey had been working as a driver for one of Amazon’s Delivery Service Partners (DSP), the company’s network of last-mile delivery contractors. On busy days, she’d cart nearly 300 packages to 200 stops in a 10-hour shift—one stop every three minutes—skipping lunch and limiting her water intake so bathroom breaks wouldn’t cause her to fall behind. If her icon turned red on the dispatcher’s tracking screen, indicating a delay, she knew she might get a call.
Casey (not her real name) was sick of the “group stops,” multiple nearby stops marked as one, despite sometimes falling blocks apart. She was sick of the cattywampus routing, making her retrace her tracks to accommodate individual delivery windows. She was sick of the oppressive monitoring app docking points from her safety score for hard braking or speeding up, even to avoid a collision. Low scores meant potential lost hours or even termination. Now her boss was about to stick an AI camera in her face that would record her every expression, potentially dinging her for yawning. When the app asked for permission to do just that, she declined. She put in her two weeks notice.
Casey also logged onto a DSP driver Discord channel to vent. Despite their largely solitary workdays and Amazon’s watchful eye, drivers use online forums like Reddit and Discord to commiserate—although, given reports of the company monitoring drivers on social media, anxiety about potential sleepers abounds. People were pissed about the cameras. They griped about yet another layer of micromanagement and worried about their privacy. (So did Congress.)
Later that week, Casey got a DM from Ron, a Canadian DSP driver. He was fed up too. (Casey and Ron withheld their real names out of fear of jeopardizing their jobs.) Last month the two launched an informal online survey to see whether other drivers were facing similar issues. Some 500 people have responded so far. They complained about the relentless pace, about the Mentor app surveilling and scoring their every move, about feeling the need to cheat to get around its hypersensitivity. (Casey said her boss advised her to download Mentor on a secondary phone and avoid touching it.) They complained about the pay—80 percent of respondents make between $15 and $17 an hour—and the cameras. The “fucking cameras.” The “stupid fucking cameras.”
https://bbs.now.qq.com/home.php?mod=space&uid=2001151 by the union election at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, Ron added a question about whether drivers should unionize. Nine percent of respondents said maybe. Eighty-seven percent said yes.
For Amazon workers across the country, the Bessemer election is sparking conversations about their own working conditions and how they might improve them. On the road to becoming the nation’s second-largest employer, the company has faced a slew of criticism over its labor practices, from warehouse safety to allegations of discrimination and harassment by senior staff. As the people who literally hold the keys to the company’s increasingly speedy shipping, last-mile delivery drivers could have enormous collective power. The rub is, none of them are technically Amazon employees—not the Flex drivers distributing Amazon totes out of their own cars, not even the DSP drivers in Amazon-branded uniforms driving Amazon-branded vans. For those who want a union, this throws up some major roadblocks.
Amazon’s DSP network spans eight countries and employs 158,000 drivers. Each one of those drivers is a subcontractor, employed by one of 2,500 DSPs that contract with Amazon to deliver its packages. Amazon provides a suite of equipment that DSPs use to surveil their employees: There’s the Rabbit, an electronic scanning device that tracks drivers in real time; the Mentor app, which monitors and scores their driving behavior; and now, increasingly, the always-on AI cameras that record inside and outside the van, a concern not only for drivers but for anyone on the other side of its four lenses. Amazon can reward high-performing DSPs with additional routes and cut poor performers, putting constant pressure on owners to keep drivers moving swiftly.
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said, “We’re proud to empower more than 2,000 Delivery Service Partners around the country—small businesses that create thousands more jobs and offer a great work environment with pay of at least $15 an hour, health care benefits, and paid time off.”