(Image via SMITH COLLECTION/GADO/GETTY IMAGES)
Staff Writer: Maya Arruda
It’s gotten to the middle of November. While many Americans know this as the season of Thanksgiving (or, as I like to call it, the season of feasting), many people use this time to get their Christmas shopping done early.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become well-known holidays in their own right, celebrations of capitalism and the eternal balance between buying a good present and not spending a lot of money.
Nowadays, with online shopping becoming more and more mainstream during and after the pandemic, online retailers are the way to go for Christmas shopping.
Hands down, most Christmas shopping will be done on the net rather than fist-fighting your fellow shoppers for the cheapest steals in the mall like in the olden days.
The biggest online retailer, Amazon, will definitely be getting the bulk of this seasonal spending, especially considering Amazon is pretty much a one-stop shop with its vast selection.
Since Amazon also handles its own deliveries in-house, there is no doubt the increased flux of orders will cause an intense strain on the fleet-driving staff. Which, for the workers of Amazon, only will add stress to an already stressful environment.
Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos are infamous on the internet for their poor treatment of workers and terrible working conditions.
According to Amazon’s official Q & A webpage, one driver delivers 250-300 packages in one day with about 200 stops for deliveries. It should be noted that this is the standard delivery rate for one driver, not the holiday rate.
Hopefully, Amazon will be able to hire enough seasonal drivers to prevent this already high package delivery rate from increasing further, but it is within the realm of possibility that drivers will have to deliver more packages per day during the holiday season.
Their workers are on a strict quota-based work schedule. As a result of this quota, the risk of injury during work increased in order to meet the quota. According to a study by the Strategic Organizing Center, one in five Amazon drivers were injured on the job in 2021, which was a 40% increase from 2020.
In a report by Vice, it was discovered that Amazon drivers are encouraged to drive recklessly for the sake of meeting their 250-300 package quota, including disabling a driver safety application for the sake of speed. With this “advice,” it’s no wonder why on-the-job injuries for Amazon drivers occur so often.
Although the study only reported on the job injuries for Amazon workers, it would not be surprising if this reckless driving hurt nonemployees in the surrounding area as well. Needless to say, reckless driving increases automobile accidents, which can lead to permanent debilitation or death.
Multiple Amazon employees have also reported working through breaks, including restroom breaks, in order to meet this quota, even though the state of Massachusetts legally requires employees to take a break based on the shift hours. Eight-hour shifts are legally required to have a half-hour break while six-hour shifts are required to have a fifteen-minute break.
This article by Vice highlights the fact that Amazon drivers are still having to pee in bottles because they do not have access to restrooms, even after Amazon publically acknowledged the issue.
In addition to forcing dangerous and harsh working conditions on its staff, allegations have been made that Amazon prevents the unionization of its workers. Labor unions are federally protected as a civil right in the United States of America to prevent worker exploitation, so any kind of “union busting” is immoral and sometimes illegal.
The standard wage for an Amazon driver nationwide is around $19, with the pay rate fluctuating based on state. In addition to the company drivers that get benefits, there is also Amazon Flex (DoorDash but for delivering packages, not food) to make deliveries at a similar pay rate.
However, Amazon Flex drivers get no benefits from the company.
According to the testimony of an Amazon Flex driver, the standard package delivery rate was supposed to be 15 packages per hour. The pay is determined on an hourly rate, but depending on the workload for deliveries, the pay can be considered very low.
However, Amazon Flex does not have the same environmental drawbacks as the company-employed fleet drivers.
“Megacycle” shifts were also implemented by the company in 2021. These shifts go from 1:20 to 11:50 A.M., a ten-and-a-half hour shift, and were the cause of a workers’ strike back in 2021. There has been no news of these megacycles being swapped out with normal-sized shifts.
The unsafe working conditions and lack of bathroom breaks are, unfortunately, not exclusive to just Amazon drivers, to add injury to insult.
A few months ago in 2022, Amazon employees had gone on strike in late October to push for better working conditions and higher wages with additional allegations of wrongful termination.
Many of the warehouse workers walked out on October 12th, what Amazon was calling Prime Day, in protest.
This strike has not ceased and most likely won’t in the foreseeable future.
Strikes have occurred repeatedly against Amazon, and the fact that strikes have occurred nearly every year for the past 8 years globally makes it seem unlikely that Amazon will satisfy its workers’ demands.
Expect the strike to impact your holiday plans if you intend to shop through Amazon.
Instead, it would be recommended to use a different online retailer or go to the store in person if possible. Handmade crafts may be a heartfelt alternative to buying its counterpart on Amazon.
Better yet, just gift cash.