Two large delivery companies serving the Portland area notified drivers this week they will stop working with Amazon, their only client. In an email to drivers, one of the contractors cited “unsafe” working conditions and a deteriorating relationship with the retail giant.
“Amazon has been nickel and diming us so bad that if we don’t make change we can no longer offer the support and incentives that thus far we have been able to provide. This leaves all of you without help to do over 200 stops while getting paid less to do so,” Tracy Bloemer, co-owner of Last Mile Delivery, wrote in a note to her drivers Wednesday.
“For 2 years now, we have heard your concerns and outrage when it comes to how Amazon treats the delivery driver,” Bloemer wrote. “We believe most of the routes are unsafe and require drivers to deliver in an unsafe manner.”
In her note, Bloemer said Portland-based Last Mile had stopped serving Amazon as of Wednesday morning. A second Oregon delivery company, Triton Transportation, has stopped serving Amazon for the same reason, according to the companies’ attorney.
The two companies have about 155 drivers between them, averaging 22,000 Amazon deliveries each day in the Portland area. That may not be enough to disrupt Amazon’s local deliveries and get the company’s attention. The Seattle-based company uses other delivery contractors, including the U.S. Postal Service, and has its own drivers, too.
But Portland attorney Tom Rask, who represents both Last Mile and Triton, said the companies are preparing to sue Amazon for “arbitrarily, capriciously and unreasonably” changing the terms of their business relationship. He said Amazon frequently dictates new terms of its agreement with the two Oregon companies, cutting delivery fees, changing work requirements and even firing the contractors’ own drivers without notice.
“It’s improper, unreasonable, and we think Amazon should be held civilly liable for it,” Rask said.
In a statement, Amazon said the two Oregon companies had “resigned” and added, “we’re doing everything we can to support affected drivers and connect them with other delivery service partners in the area.”
Amazon said the two companies were seeking monetary payments and that the safety claims are unfounded.
The online retailer is under increasing scrutiny for working conditions in its warehouses and delivery routes. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Amazon workers quit jobs in its warehouse so frequently that it loses about 3% of its hourly employees every week.
Using public labor records, The New York Times found that turnover rates among all warehousing employees in Oregon’s Multnomah County spiked to more than 150% annually after Amazon opened a new warehouse near Portland. Industry turnover had been below 50% in Multnomah County before that.
Amazon delivery drivers have long complained that the demands on their time are so severe they resort to urinating in bottles inside their vans rather than take the time to find a restroom. In March, Amazon ridiculed that notion — then apologized a week later and admitted its workers sometimes do that.
The decision by Last Mile and Triton to stop delivering packages means the companies’ drivers have nothing to do, at least for the time being while the companies campaign for changes to their business arrangement with Amazon.
In her email to Last Mile drivers, Bloemer wrote they would be paid Wednesday as if they were delivering a route. But she offered no promises for the future, beyond a hope that Amazon would “come to their senses and be willing to make changes to the routes and pay.”
“We ask that you be patient and don’t panic,” Bloemer wrote. “We have to prove we are serious about the changes.”