Way Under Contract - A Florida Story

The Case for Reparations
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Resty Evinger was pulling out of a parking space outside an apartment complex in Austin in March when she collided with Julia Barrera Duran. The year-old was knocked to the ground, and her head hit the asphalt. According to claims in a pending lawsuit filed by Duran, Evinger had her left foot in a medical boot and walked with crutches.

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Amazon said that it considers a variety of factors when considering the size of loads, but said it is up to drivers to determine how to pack the vans and where to put the packages. If a driver is worried about the number of packages they are given, they are welcome to raise those concerns.

Amazon can surveil almost every driver in its delivery network. But when it comes to the pedigree of the companies it entrusts to deliver its cargo, officials are remarkably hands-off, overlooking serious safety lapses, criminal convictions, and egregious violations of labor laws. In July , an obscure mining firm in Idaho abruptly changed ownership and announced it was getting into the package delivery business for Amazon, under the unlikely new name of Scoobeez.

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Just months after making its first deliveries, however, the company was sued by four drivers who successfully claimed they had been misclassified as contractors rather than employees. It would be the first in a string of employment, personal injury, contract, and workplace discrimination lawsuits filed against the firm. Ashley McDow, an attorney representing Scoobeez in its ongoing bankruptcy, said the company had nothing to add beyond what is in the public record. Ohanessian and his wife are no longer with Scoobeez and lately have turned to another possible get-rich scheme: putting logistics on the blockchain.

Like other Amazon delivery companies, CDS — based outside of Atlanta but delivering Amazon packages in several states, including Wisconsin, California, Pennsylvania, and Illinois — was required to carry a full slate of insurance. In addition to cargo, business, and general legal liability coverage, Amazon requires delivery firms to carry workers' compensation policies, which are designed to cover the costs of medical care for employees injured on the job as well as any lost wages.

In April , while completing a delivery to a house, Thomas said, she was violently attacked by a dog , causing her to fall and hit her head. Jim Blanchard, a CDS representative, acknowledged the four-month insurance lapse but said it occurred while the firm was applying for different coverage. Wisconsin was far from the only region where CDS appears to have fallen fell behind on its bills. Some of those cases settled out of court.

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Elsewhere, CDS had faced a mutiny from some of its drivers. A few days later, he recalled receiving a phone call from a supervisor while at a holiday party. Bray and several other workers sued CDS and eventually settled out of court. I asked if there was a manual or a handbook, what are my expectations?

Blanchard denied the allegations. In the wake of the uprising, CDS lost its Sacramento routes. But Amazon continues to work with the company in numerous other cities around the country. Just months after Amazon began working with the firm in , it fell under investigation by the Department of Labor for chronically underpaying dozens of drivers and was ordered to pay employees back wages. Yet despite the mounting warnings that Inpax had serious issues, Amazon kept shoveling more business in its direction.

By , the firm was delivering in at least five cities — Atlanta, Cincinnati, Miami, Dallas, and Chicago — Labor Department records acquired through the Freedom of Information Act show. As Christmas of approached, Amazon was on track for what would be its biggest holiday season to date, ultimately shipping more than 1 billion packages worldwide. To handle the record-setting workload, it piled on the pressure, ramping up the number of packages each driver was expected to deliver each day. By then, Inpax had eliminated numerous fleet managers whose job it had been to oversee safety and operations, according to former employees.

The firm had stopped repairing vans that were damaged or had missing mirrors, cracked windows, or bald tires. And, two said, it stopped paying for a state-of-the-art fleet monitoring service it had installed in all of its vehicles that tracked their location and speed and was designed to alert fleet managers if drivers were making unsafe maneuvers. Court records show the company has been served with at least five additional accident-related lawsuits since then. In October , an Inpax van loaded with Amazon parcels came around a corner in Weston, Florida, and plowed into a cockapoo that had run into the road before the eyes of its owner and her two young sons.

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When the distraught woman banged on the window in outrage, the driver hit the gas, dragging her to the ground, according to a police report. Although the woman escaped with minor scrapes, the dog did not survive. The driver told police that she called her manager at Inpax to report the accident and was instructed to leave immediately and return to the delivery station. Amazon was not sued; once again it escaped liability. Traivon Hemingway , a slender year-old who delivered packages in and around Chicago for Amazon delivery provider Sheard-Loman Transport, was attempting to make an exit off an interstate southwest of town on the morning of June 19, , when the Ford van he was driving struck the back of a tractor trailer parked on the highway shoulder.

The Escape

The force of the impact tore off the top of the van and drove the rest of the vehicle under the trailer. Emergency workers tried but failed to resuscitate Hemingway at the scene of the crash, where he died. All three suits are pending. More than a year after his death, one of Hemingway's relatives in Chicago was still frequently posting about his death on Facebook. When delivery drivers complain about the harsh conditions they face, Amazon refuses to admit any responsibility. But when a group of drivers banded together to advocate for their rights to fair pay and safe conditions, executives at the e-commerce giant moved quickly to quash any further such efforts.

In March , a group of drivers for the delivery firm Silverstar Delivery met with a Teamsters organizer at a TGI Fridays outside of Detroit to complain about the shoddy condition of the vans they drove, Amazon GPS devices that conked out at crucial moments, and, in particular, a lack of overtime pay, despite shifts that routinely lasted as long as 12 hours. The organizer convinced them to unionize, and the following month, Silverstar employees voted 22—7 to join the Teamsters , making it the only Amazon delivery contractor to have unionized to date.

Silverstar did not react positively to the news.

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Way Under Contract uses black comedy to address a very serious issue: over development in the sunshine state. Although the story takes place on a fictitious. Editorial Reviews. Review. "Way Under Contract" proves the point that the rich are different from you and me " -- Harold Hunt, The Cape Coral Breeze.

Within weeks, drivers reported to the National Labor Relations Board that they were being fired for joining the union. One of the workers claimed he was terminated in May after bringing back undelivered packages to the warehouse. The board dismissed the charges that workers were illegally fired in retaliation for unionizing, but allowed other claims of anti-union activity to proceed.

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The Teamsters named Amazon in their complaint, but the retailer denied having any legal relationship to the unionized workers. A few months later, Norm Collins, who had been elected shop steward, received a call from a Silverstar dispatcher who told him the company was shutting down its Michigan location immediately, putting dozens of drivers, as well as several dispatchers and managers, instantly out of work. Not long after the successful unionization vote, a team of Amazon officials paid a visit to Chicago, where they gathered top management from delivery firms operating in the city at a hotel west of town, according to two people who attended the meeting.

The topic: how to ensure that what happened to Silverstar would never happen to them. In July, a Canadian news site reported that Amazon had held a similar meeting to discourage organizing among drivers for Toronto-area delivery companies. Other delivery firms already operating in the area were happy to pick up the available routes. Because of the low pay , long hours, and high stress of the job, turnover among Amazon delivery drivers is high. Amazon routinely monitors and ranks the performance of each provider, delivery company managers say, and rewards its most reliable performers with additional and more profitable routes.

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A manager at Sheard-Loman, for example, recently used Facebook to cast a wide net for potential drivers. Some have had their dreams crushed. Two years ago, Thomas Chen, a Chinese immigrant living in Southern California, was delighted when Amazon invited him to join its last-mile delivery empire. Chen had spent several decades in the import-export business and had built a relationship with Amazon through his work bringing Chinese merchandise into the US for sale.

In the summer of , he said, he enrolled in a multiday training session that Amazon holds for new delivery firms and had his first five vans on the road in Portland, Oregon, starting Nov. Rather than lease vehicles, Chen invested in a fleet of 36 brand-new vans, and his fledgling firm, FM Xpress, was soon awarded several routes in the Inland Empire outside of Los Angeles. Business was good and growing fast, and so when an Amazon executive approached him in April about buying a third company a few months later, he leaped at the opportunity.

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The firm, NEA Delivery, had been one of the first delivery companies contracted by Amazon back in and had more than vans in service, making deliveries up and down the West Coast. The firm had been sued numerous times over employment issues and accidents involving its drivers.

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But an insured mortgage was not a possibility for Clyde Ross. Interactive Census Map. Another was aimed at Chancellor Adenauer himself. Still, whenever other departments tried to lure him for better-paying jobs in bigger places, he turned them down. I wanted to show him what im capable of doing. Not far away, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas that rise up east of Tulare County, officials are also waging a battle over marijuana being grown on public lands — often, officials said, by armed work crews that occasionally shoot one another, pollute national parks , or spark huge wildfires.

One such suit , filed against NEA and Amazon, involved a teenager who said he suffered a head injury in when his bicycle was struck by an NEA delivery driver opening his door into the bike lane. The case eventually settled.