Three U.S. Senators are calling on Amazon [NASDAQ: AMZN] to stop doing business with contract delivery drivers that are allegedly violating federal labor laws and skirting commercial motor carrier regulations.
In a September 12 letter to Amazon President and CEO Jeff Bezos, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) claimed that Amazon’s delivery standards are “imposing unfair and dangerous conditions” on its contractor companies and their drivers who make final-mile deliveries.
“Amazon should vigorously and proactively monitor the companies it does business with and ensure its contractors are adhering to labor laws and safety regulations,” they wrote. “We urge Amazon to immediately cease business with contractors that violate labor laws and to promote standards that protect its drivers and ensure public safety.”
The lawmakers’ demands were prompted by a year-long investigation into Amazon’s contractor driver practices by BuzzFeed. The report found that Amazon continues to contract with “at least a dozen” last-mile delivery companies that have been sued or cited for allegedly failing to pay overtime, denying breaks, and sexual harassment.
The report also alleges that the company has been able to side-step federal regulations by using vehicles with weight limits that fall just under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversight, giving Amazon a competitive edge over FedEx and UPS. Amazon sought to sharpen that edge last year with the purchase of 20,000 Sprinter vans for its ‘Delivery Service Partner’ program.
In a statement to FreightWaves, Amazon said the company has a strong labor and safety compliance record across its contractor network, working conditions that “meet or exceed the law,” and is continuing to drive improvements.
“We also require comprehensive insurance, competitive wages, working hours and numerous other safeguards for our delivery service providers and regularly audit to ensure compliance,” Amazon said. “Safety is and will remain Amazon’s top priority as evidenced by the vast percentage of deliveries that arrive on time and without incident.”
The lawmakers contended, however, that while Amazon has asserted repeatedly that it is not liable for its contractor driver working conditions, “it is clear that the aggressive managerial style Amazon forces upon the delivery companies it contracts with is a major contributor to the strenuous conditions drivers face and has led to a chain of worker abuse.”
They asked Bezos to respond, by Sept. 27, to a list of questions, including:
- Will Amazon commit to ending contracts with companies that have violated labor laws, or have long and checkered track records?
- Will Amazon commit to publicly disclosing the delivery companies with which it contracts?
- How often and to what extent does Amazon audit its delivery contractors and warehouses for compliance with labor laws?
- Does Amazon believe that its third-party drivers and warehouse workers should be able to unionize?
- How often and to what extent does Amazon audit its delivery contractors for compliance with transportation safety standards?
The inquiry into Amazon’s independent contractor practices is being made following several decisions this year by the National Labor Relations Board favoring employers on the issue of independent contractor status, including a recent ruling asserting that misclassifying employees is not considered a violation.