While millions have lost 的ir jobs 和 thousands of 小本生意es have shut 的ir doors, at least 上 e 公司 has thrived during 的 pandemic: 亚马孙. The e-commerce behemoth controls 40 percent of 上 line sales 和 has amassed record profits. The net worth of founder Jeff Bezos, 的 world’s richest man, has jumped to $186 billion, up more than $70 billion since March.
亚马孙’s continued growth 和 dominance in 上 line retailing are due to its mastery of logistics—including its investment in building 的 world’s largest contingent (that is, not made up of permanent employees) last-mile delivery network, with over 500,000 contracted drivers globally.
Last-mile logistics workers complete 的 final steps of delivery to a consumer’s home (or a neighborhood 亚马孙 locker). While most packages in 的 U.S. are still delivered 通过 的 big four—UPS, FedEx, DHL, 和 的 Postal Service (USPS)—Amazon is increasingly building out its own delivery network, posing a major threat to 的se firms 和 to working conditions in 的 industry.
In contrast to big-box retailers that rely heavily 上 warehouse workers hired through temp agencies, 亚马孙 directly employs hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers around 的 world (though it still regularly hires temps during peak periods).
However, in 的 last-mile delivery sector, 亚马孙 has taken a different approach: expanding its network of contingent 和 subcontracted drivers.
The last mile is 上 e of most 劳动-intensive components of 的 e-commerce supply chain. Nearly 上 e-third of 的 total cost of shipping goods occurs here. Logistics experts have described 的 challenges facing e-commerce firms as “the last-mile problem,” since 的 final leg of delivery usually involves multiple stops with small packages.
To decrease its dependence 上 的 big four (including 的 联盟ized UPS 和 USPS), 亚马孙 has invested in parcel delivery. By 2019, around half of 亚马孙 Prime packages in 的 U.S. were delivered 通过 subcontractors or contingent workers.
亚马孙 Flex drivers are 零工 treated as independent contractors, similar to Uber drivers. They are paid per completion of a delivery route, not 通过 的 hour. Flex drivers must provide 的ir own vehicles or rent delivery vans.
Independent contractors lack 的 legal rights of employees to 联盟ize 和 enforce minimum wage protections. In 2019, a group of 亚马孙 Flex Drivers based in California sued 亚马孙, claiming that 的 公司 had intentionally misclassified Flex drivers as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime 和 employee benefits.
In addition to Flex, 的 公司 is increasingly relying 上 its Delivery Service Partners program, rolled out in 2018. DSPs are small subcontracted parcel delivery firms with 20–40 delivery vans apiece—considered “independent” of 亚马孙, though 的y exclusively deliver packages for 亚马孙 Prime customers.
DSP fleets are limited to 40 vans to complicate 联盟ization efforts 和 to increase 亚马孙’s flexibility 和 power over 的 price paid per delivery. Limiting 的ir size makes it difficult for 的se small firms to gain leverage against 亚马孙. Each DSP manages between 40 和 100 employees.
The majority of 的se drivers in Southern California work eight- to 10-hour shifts 和 earn about $15 per hour. Many do not receive health insurance benefits.
These workers face extreme pressure to meet 的 demands of 亚马孙’s tight delivery terms. During peak holiday periods, 的 number of deliveries can reach as high as 400 per shift. Drivers complain of unpaid overtime, poor working conditions, 和 unrealistic expectations 和 pressures set 通过 亚马孙.
Between Flex 和 的 DSPs, 亚马孙’s expanding market power has introduced new levels of exploitation for thousands of 送货司机, many of 的m workers of color 和 immigrants.
Walmart became 的 world’s largest corporation 通过 developing a sophisticated logistics management program, which reduced inefficiencies in 的 movement of consumer goods across thousands of miles.
However, 的 supply-chain management approach that Walmart perfected in 的 big-box era has not adapted well to 的 rapid changes brought 上 通过 的 growth of e-commerce.
Big-box retailers have struggled to compete because 的ir infrastructure was built to accommodate long-distance shipping. E-commerce depends upon a more localized 和 fragmented distribution 和 delivery system.
Consumers demand increasingly fast delivery to 的ir homes; 的 亚马孙 Prime program has driven further consumer demand for expedited free shipping. All this creates pressure 上 workers in both warehousing 和 last-mile delivery to speed up.
Connected to this speed-up are technologies that track workers’ movements 和 speed in real 时间。 亚马孙 is 的 industry leader in worker surveillance across 的 global supply chain.
亚马孙’s logistics infrastructure relies upon this exploitation 和 hyper-surveillance of both warehouse workers 和 contracted 送货司机. In global 劳动 organizing, joining 的se two groups together will be critical to worker power.
To compete with 亚马孙, FedEx has begun to tap into 的 e-commerce market 通过 working with hybrid retailers (big-box stores that combine offline 和 上 line sales) that offer in-store pickup.
According to FedEx, approximately half of all 上 line purchases occur after 4 p.m. This prompted 的 公司 to roll out a new late-night shipping option, giving retailers 的 opportunity to offer next-day shipping 上 orders placed as late as midnight.
FedEx Express drivers pick up 的 packages from retailers as late as 2 a.m. 和 take 的m to sorting hubs. Deliveries can occur as soon as 的 next day within 的 local market, 和 two days for destinations farther away.
The late-night shipping program began in 2017 as a pilot in Los Angeles. Since 的n it has entered 100 local markets. Using 的 physical infrastructure of big-box retail outlets as a point of competitive advantage, FedEx has increased 的 speed from fulfillment centers to delivery to less than 24 hours.
Competition between 亚马孙 和 hybrid retail firms has fueled a race to capture 的 last-mile market in other ways, too. 亚马孙’s acquisition of Whole Foods, at a price of $13.7 billion, had less to do with groceries 和 more to do with increasing its last-mile market share.
By acquiring Whole Foods, 亚马孙 instantly added to its delivery network 440 refrigerated warehouses within 10英里 of 80 percent of 的 population. Since 的 acquisition, 亚马孙 Flex drivers routinely use Whole Foods stores to drop off 和 pick up packages at 亚马孙 lockers. The acquisition also improved 亚马孙’s last-mile market position in relation to its hybrid retail competitors Walmart 和 Target.
该博客最初出现在 劳工须知 于2020年12月17日发行。经许可转载。
About 的 Author: 杰克·阿里玛霍姆德·威尔森 是一个 sociology professor at Cal State-Long Beach. He is 的 co-editor, with Ellen Reese, of The Cost of Free Shipping: 亚马孙 in 的 Global Economy (Pluto 按, 2020). This piece 是一个n edited excerpt from 的 book. 在这里阅读评论。