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U.S. lawmakers demand Amazon cut last-mile contractor ties

Amazon last-mile drivers focus of inquiry. Credit: Amazon

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.

Amazon stock down 6.55 points in mid-day trading Sept. 13. Source: SONAR

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.


  1. Mike

    Just like always, Democrats didn’t receive any under the table money from Amazon so they are going after them. If these companies are doing illegal business then why don’t these Democrats go after these companies instead of Amazon ???

  2. Chris book

    Just weird that they slave their van drivers giving them 2-300 packages per day paying them pennies compared to flex drivers who’s makin $160-200 per day with 20 packages per route.. they have these contracts with these companies that’s running a sweat shop delivery Service.. definitely under paying the drivers .. If I was a driver I would quit driving the van and use my own car and make $800-1000 per week with no slave work.. Amazon flex is the best thing since sliced bread Quick easy money with no hassle I know it was gonna be a problem sooner or later competition can’t keep up with that ..

  3. Joey

    As a previous driver for one of these “delivery partners”, I can confirm that the way these third-party contractors (some, not all) is definitely unfair, poor, and illegal in some cases. They make a substantial amount of money off the drivers and are so reluctant to offer more. And the part about Amazon’s “aggressive managerial style” really did frighten my managers!! Sad but true…

    1. Bill Hood

      While I will not talk about the conditions I can tell you from working on business plans for several clients looking to get into this that there is no money for the owners. Even with all of the discounts on products and services that Amazon can provide.
      What I also found interesting is that of the people that I talked to that are doing this not a single one had any business experience. It seemed that all of their budgets had been based on everything working perfectly. One ex-owner said he got out when someone when he realized the small profit he made after 3-quarters was just slightly less than an insurance settlement he had gotten because of an accident.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.