When they disabled me due to WH errors, I sent an email firstname.lastname@example.org. It took me 2 weeks, but I was rehired, became an amazon flex independent contractor by downloading an app, doing a background review, and watching 19 videos that explained the package delivery process in great detail. (I wasn`t paid for the time it took me to watch these videos, and there was no guarantee that I would be allowed as a driver as soon as I watched the videos.) The videos covered topics like what to do when a customer decides they don`t want their order anymore (“Isn`t that customer crazy?!” Amazon asks) and how to provide alcohol (asking customers how old they are, it turns out that this is not an acceptable form of ID card verification). As the videos were followed by quizzes, I had to be careful. But Flex works all year round, not just during the holiday season, which suggests there`s another reason for this: it`s cheap. As the transport sector has seen over the past decade, using independent contractors instead of unionised drivers saves money, as so many expenses are borne by the drivers and not by the company. For some people, being an independent contractor is one of the best parts of driving for Flex. Jeremy Brown, a 36-year-old driver in Milwaukee, told me he loved the freedom of being his own boss. If he wakes up in the morning and doesn`t feel like driving for Flex, he can go back to sleep or spend his time conducting the musical divine service in his church or teaching his children at home. He earns enough money — about $120 a day, if he takes into account expenses — from Flex that his family needs it for most of his income. “There has been quite a movement to try to cut costs and underestimate the cost of labor by classifying drivers as independent contractors, so companies don`t have to worry about wage laws,” says Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer who has filed numerous complaints against tech companies that have mistakenly called workers independent contractors.
Amazon Flex employees sometimes earn less than the minimum wage in the city where they live — including Seattle, where the minimum wage is 15 $US an hour — and they don`t get an hour and a half for the hours they work after 40 hours a week, according to a lawsuit filed by Liss-Riordan on behalf of flex workers in the U.S. District Court for the U.S. District of Washington State. (Amazon said it doesn`t comment on ongoing litigation.) California`s Supreme Court ruled in April that companies must use an “ABC” standard when deciding how they classify workers. The standard, already used in Massachusetts and New Jersey, means that a worker is an independent contractor only if the work is performed without instruction or control of the employer outside of the employer`s usual activities and is performed by someone who has his own independent business that performs this type of work. This may make it harder for employers to classify workers as subcontractors, but it will still be difficult for Amazon Flex employees in California to change their classification. You must file a formal complaint or take the case to court, provided that Amazon and other companies in the gig economy do not reclassify them themselves. Kelly Cheeseman, an Amazon spokeswoman, told me that Flex is a great opportunity for people to be their own boss and set their own schedule. While workers prefer to be employed full-time and not independent contractors, the company has a “great diversity” of full-time and part-time opportunities, she said. (Of course, many full-time jobs are also physical challenges. Chris Miller, the Cleveland worker, told me he would rather work as a contractor than work as an employee for Amazon, which is infamous for its stress and pressure among employees.) There are efforts to make some of the people who drive for Flex collaborators and not independent contractors, a step that proponents say could go a long way in improving the quality of these jobs.