Amazon’s AI-powered cameras are a double-edged sword that could make drivers safer, but also force the company to sacrifice productivity, a transportation expert says

GettyImages 1232149494 UNITED STATES - APRIL 6: Amazon driver Shawndu Stackhouse delivers packages in Northeast Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Amazon’s drivers must meet demanding productivity quotas as high as 300 packages per day, which drivers say require them to cut corners.

Amazon recently installed AI-powered surveillance cameras in its delivery trucks that monitor drivers’ behavior in what the company says is an effort to reduce risky driving behaviors and collisions.

Whether the cameras ultimately accomplish that goal may depend on how much productivity Amazon is willing to sacrifice in order to keep drivers safe, according to a transportation expert who studies AI-powered safety systems.

Amazon’s cameras, which are made by a startup called Netradyne, record 100% of the time that the vehicle’s ignition is on, tracking workers’ hand movements and even facial expressions and audibly alerting them in real-time when the AI detects what it suspects is distracted or risky driving.

Almost immediately, drivers pushed back – and one even resigned, according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation – citing concerns about the cameras eliminating virtually any privacy they once had, as well as potentially making them less productive.

Several drivers told Insider’s Avery Hartmans and Kate Taylor they’re worried about Amazon penalizing them for using their phones on the job, even though they need the devices for navigation. Others said the additional safety precautions they’re taking to avoid committing infractions, like stopping twice at an intersection or driving slower, are making it hard to keep up with the company’s notoriously demanding delivery quotas, which can run as high 300 packages per day.

But that’s exactly the trade-off Amazon may be forced to make, Matt Camden, a senior research associate at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, told Insider.

“If a fleet wants to reduce risky driving behaviors, it’s critical to look at why the drivers are doing that in the first place, and usually, it’s because there’s other consequences that are driving that behavior,” such as “unrealistic delivery times,” Camden said.

“They want to keep their job. If they miss their delivery time, that’s going to look bad – they could be fired, they could lose their livelihood,” he said. “And if [the delivery time] is unrealistic, then they have to find a way to get it done.”

Instead, Camden said, companies like Amazon need to approach technology-based safety systems “from a more positive standpoint, from a training standpoint and say: ‘We’re not going to nitpick you. We just want you to be safe.'”

“Netradyne cameras are used to help keep drivers and the communities where we deliver safe,” Amazon spokesperson Alexandra Miller told Insider in a statement.

“Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety,” she added.

Netradyne could not be reached for comment.

Safety first

Miller told Insider in Amazon’s pilot test of the Netradyne cameras from April to October 2020, accidents decreased 48%, stop-sign violations decreased 20%, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60%, and distracted driving decreased 45%.

However, independent research on the Netradyne “Driveri” camera system Amazon uses, and AI camera systems generally, is more sparse.

In an informational video for its camera rollout, Amazon claimed “the camera systems” can “reduce collisions by 1/3 through in-cab warnings,” citing studies by an investment bank called First Analysis as well as VTTI, where Camden works. (First Analysis could not be reached for comment).

Amazon didn’t respond to questions about which studies it was referring to in the video.

Camden said VTTI hasn’t looked at Netradyne’s cameras specifically, but that a study it conducted in 2010 found “video-based monitoring systems” without real-time alerts or AI prevented between 38.1% and 52.2% of “safety-related events” when tested on two different company’s delivery fleets.

But those safety benefits were a result of funneling data from the cameras to safety managers, who could then give feedback to drivers to help them drive safer.

“We can’t say that these AI-powered cameras would reduce 10%, 20%, 30%, 50% [of safety incidents],” Camden said. “We can’t get that specific number yet because we haven’t done the research, but it makes sense that in-vehicle alerts do work to address risky driving,'” Camden said.

Similar technologies do show promise, he said, citing VTTI research that showed real-time lane-departure warnings reducing crashes by more than 45%.

But Camden also said when VTTI did a study last year looking at why some delivery fleets are safer than others, it ultimately came down to which ones had a strong “safety culture” and were “prioritizing and valuing safety, at least on the equal level as productivity, if not higher.”

“The safest ones typically said: ‘If you’re tired, we don’t care if you miss your delivery, we want you to stop. We want you to take a break. If you have to go to the bathroom, we want you to stop and go to the bathroom. We don’t want you to feel pressured to keep going.'”

Camden said those fleets made it clear that drivers could reject unrealistic delivery times and wouldn’t be penalized if the route took longer because of traffic or construction.

“It’s easier said than done, of course, because productivity is driving the business. They have to make money, they have to keep their customers happy,” he said.

“But really, it comes down to creating the policies and the programs to support safety, support the driver, because we don’t want them speeding. We don’t want the drivers cutting corners to try to make a delivery.”

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Amazon drivers describe the paranoia of working under the watchful eyes of new truck cameras that monitor them constantly and fire off ‘rage-inducing’ alerts if they make a wrong move

Amazon Delivery Driver
An Amazon delivery driver.

  • Amazon drivers now have multiple cameras constantly filming them as part of the Driveri system.
  • Drivers told Insider they’re worried about privacy, with cameras monitoring every yawn.
  • They fear they’ll fail to keep up with Amazon’s breakneck pace because of the new surveillance system.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Many Amazon drivers say the solitude and the independence of working on the road are big draws of the job.

But those perks are under threat since Amazon started installing surveillance cameras in delivery vans that monitor workers’ driving, hand movements, and even facial expressions.

Some workers are paranoid about what the cameras – which peer at them from their windshields and fire off audible alerts following missteps – are watching and how they could be punished for what the technology flags, according to interviews with five drivers.

“I know we’re on a job, but, I mean, I’m afraid to scratch my nose. I’m afraid to move my hair out of my face, you know?” a female driver based in Oklahoma told Insider. “Because we’re going to get dinged for it.”

The Oklahoma driver and several others interviewed asked that their names be withheld for fear that their jobs would be affected, but Insider verified their identities.

Several drivers said the cameras could be helpful in cases of collisions or other dangerous situations. But they also worried about how the technology was affecting their productivity and described concerns with managing bathroom needs, like changing adult diapers, within sight of the cameras.

“We have zero privacy and no margin for error,” a California-based driver said.

Netradyne, the maker of the camera system, did not respond to Insider’s request for comment. A representative for Amazon said in a statement to Insider that Netradyne cameras are used to keep drivers and communities safe. In a pilot of the cameras from April to October 2020, accidents dropped by 48%, stop-sign violations dropped by 20%, driving without a seatbelt dropped by 60%, and distracted driving dropped by 45%, according to the company.

“Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety,” Amazon’s statement said.

The cameras capture yawns, distracted driving, and more

Amazon Driveri instruction video
A still from the instructional video on Amazon’s Netradyne camera system.

The camera system, called Driveri, isn’t made by Amazon. It was created by Netradyne, a transportation company that uses artificial intelligence to monitor fleets of drivers.

The system, mounted on the inside of a windshield, contains four cameras: a road-facing camera, two side-facing cameras, and one camera that faces inward toward the driver. Together, the cameras provide 270 degrees of coverage.

While the cameras record 100% of the time when the ignition is running, Amazon says the system does not have audio functionality or a live-view feature, meaning drivers can’t be watched in real time while they drive. The cameras upload the footage only when they detect one of 16 issues, such as hard braking or a seatbelt lapse, and that footage can be accessed only by “a limited set of authorized people,” Karolina Haraldsdottir, a senior manager for last-mile safety at Amazon, said in a training video about the cameras.

The Driveri system also sounds alerts in four instances: failure to stop, inadequate following distance, speeding, or distracted driving.

The system can be shut off, but only when the ignition is also turned off. Amazon said it would share video data with third parties, such as the police, only in the event of a dangerous incident.

The camera system sparked a backlash from some drivers shortly after it was announced. A driver named Vic told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the cameras were the final straw that led him to quit, calling them “both a privacy violation and a breach of trust.”

A driver named Angel Rajal told Insider last month that he thought the new cameras were “annoying” and made him feel as if he were always being watched.

“I get a ‘distracted driver’ notification even if I’m changing the radio station or drinking water,” he said.

Read more: Amazon logistics salaries revealed: Here’s what workers bulking out Amazon’s supply chain make, from entry-level analysts to senior management

Drivers say they’re worried about their privacy

Amazon delivery driver
The struggles of Amazon drivers have been in the spotlight recently.

In interviews with Insider, drivers whose vans have the cameras installed highlighted a slew of issues they were facing so far. Lack of privacy is a top concern, they said.

Several drivers said they feared that yawning while driving would result in an infraction for drowsiness. And with some drivers feeling pressured to urinate in bottles on the job, there are concerns about being caught on camera in an uncomfortable position.

Bronwyn Brigham, a driver based in Houston who has driven trucks outfitted with Driveri for about two weeks, told Insider that the presence of the cameras made her feel as if she were being watched and made her worry about how to manage her bathroom needs inside the van.

“I have to wear a Depends because I’m 56,” she said, referring to a type of adult diaper. “If I wet that Depends, I need to take that off. Then the cameras are on, so that makes it hard. If I need to change into another one, they’re watching that.”

“We are all worried that we have zero privacy,” the California driver said. “Considering we have to use bottles to relieve ourselves – is that being watched?”

The ignition must be off to turn off the cameras, but that leaves drivers with no air conditioning.

As a result, drivers in regions that experience extreme heat during the summer will need to choose between privacy and cool air while they take their breaks.

‘Rage-inducing’ voices and guidance ‘designed to make you slower’

A male driver based in Oklahoma who has been driving with the cameras for about a month told Insider that the Driveri system was obstructing his view while he drives, making it difficult to see house numbers – and children playing – on the passenger side of the street.

“I’ve had times where I look up and there’s nobody there, and then all of a sudden the kid pops out from behind where the camera is obstructing the view,” the driver said.

The driver also said the camera’s verbal alerts, which use a computer-generated voice, were distracting and “rage-inducing.” That sentiment was echoed by several other drivers who said the alerts made them feel as if they were being micromanaged.

Several drivers told Insider that they were worried about receiving infractions for handling their phones on the job, even though they need the devices for navigation.

Drivers rely on two apps while they work: Mentor, which monitors driving, and Flex, Amazon’s navigation app. A driver who delivers near the Twin Cities told Insider that he juggled this by loading one app on his work phone and the other on his personal device.

“In order to be successful throughout your day, you have to zoom in and out on the map on the Flex app that you have on a dock that you can look at while driving,” he said. “My concern is that … with the cameras in place, it’s going to be noticing we’re using our phone while driving.”

Keeping up with Amazon’s demands is an ongoing concern for drivers. Some are worried that the new system will slow them down, making it more difficult to deliver all the packages they’re expected to drop off every day, which could be as many as 300.

For example, Driveri is triggered by a “failure to stop” at an intersection. However, the female Oklahoma-based driver said that in situations where a stop sign is several feet before the intersection, she had to stop twice to avoid an infraction, costing her valuable seconds. The California driver said he feared being reprimanded for going just a few miles above the speed limit.

Brigham said that she was doing her best to drive especially carefully now that the cameras are installed and that it was slowing her down. If she’s not moving fast enough, she said, she’ll get a call from her dispatcher – a supervisor who tracks drivers’ progress – telling her she’s running behind in her deliveries.

The male driver from Oklahoma said the new system felt like a Catch-22.

“The job is all about speed and how fast you can get to the door,” he said. “But these cameras and some of the other policies Amazon has in place, it’s like they’re designed to make you slower.”

Being watched by a computer is now part of the job

Amazon delivery
Cameras have advantages and create challenges.

Several of the drivers Insider interviewed said there were advantages to the Driveri system.

If an accident occurs during a delivery, for instance, the system will automatically upload the footage. Drivers will be able to prove if they were paying attention and following the rules of the road.

And the cameras will record outside the delivery van for 20 minutes even if the ignition is turned off, which could help drivers if someone approaches the van to harass or rob them.

Still, drivers say the cameras are a new frustration in an already challenging job.

“I do like my job, but it is stacked up against me,” the California driver said.

The driver said that 99% of the time he enjoyed delivering packages but that the cameras highlighted the extreme demands of the job. Recently, he said, he worked from 10:45 a.m. to 10:10 p.m. He said he did not have time for a single break and had to pee in a bottle twice. The entire time, he was aware the camera was on.

“The part that bothers me the most is that we’re being watched by a computer,” the male driver from Oklahoma said, “and that computer is what makes a judgment as to whether we’re doing something wrong or not, whether or not we get to keep our jobs.”

Are you an Amazon driver with a story to share? We want to hear from you. Email ahartmans@businessinsider.com or ktaylor@businessinsider.com, or via the Signal encrypted messenger app at (646) 768-4740.

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I’m an Amazon delivery driver who’s had to pee in water bottles and eat lunch in my van. I hate the new surveillance cameras and feel like I’m always being watched.

Rivian Amazon delivery van
“During the holiday season, I was targeted in attempted robberies and have had people follow me while out on my route,” says Angel Rajal, who started driving for Amazon in July.

  • Angel Rajal, 26, is an Amazon delivery driver living in Las Vegas.
  • He’s been penalized for changing the radio station and calls the new surveillance cameras “annoying.”
  • This is his story, as told to freelance writer Meira Gebel.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After four years of working in an Amazon warehouse, I applied to be an Amazon delivery driver.

I wanted to be a driver because I thought I would have a lot more freedom and wouldn’t have to deal with the uneven management style in the warehouse.

Angel_Rajal
Angel Rajal.

I started as a delivery driver in July, in the middle of the pandemic, driving a classic Amazon van, but have enjoyed being in a customer-facing role compared to the distribution center. (Rajal, like most Amazon delivery drivers, is hired by a local delivery service partner (DSP) and considered an independent subcontractor.)

However, during the holiday season, I was targeted in attempted robberies and have had people follow me while out on my route.

Working as a delivery driver comes with its own pains, too. You’re in a packed-to-the-brim van for more than 10 hours a day, are expected to deliver up to 400 packages, and each package is expected to be delivered within 30 seconds.

The routes, too, sometimes take you to rural areas where public bathrooms are out of reach.

There have been multiple times where I’ve had to pee in a plastic water bottle because there was no bathroom available to me.

Many public restrooms are closed because of COVID-19, but most of the time I’m out in the mountains making deliveries and feel pressured to keep up with my route.

My current route is fairly rural, and it would take me 15 minutes to get to the nearest restroom. It would take over 40 minutes round trip and put me far behind schedule, which would dock points from my score.

I used to enjoy being an Amazon delivery driver. But ever since the company installed cameras in our vans, it feels like we’re always being watched.

Amazon says the AI-powered, 270-degree cameras are motion activated and not recording all the time.

They can tell what the driver is doing. I get a “distracted driver” notification even if I’m changing the radio station or drinking water. Sometimes if I turn my head away from the front of the van, I’ll get a ding.

It’s getting to be so annoying. For every “distracted driver” notification, I’m being docked points from my safety score, which is reviewed by management and can be used to dock my hours or fire me. Amazon said the camera is there to help us with safety, but it feels like an invasion of privacy.

Most of the drivers in my DSP feel just as frustrated as me with the new cameras. Amazon has also changed its routing algorithm and marks multiple deliveries in one area as a single stop, even though the houses and apartments are spread out and are oftentimes on the other side of the block. It’s changes like these that make our jobs so much harder.

I used to think I would have freedom as a delivery driver, but most of the time I eat my lunch in my van on the side of the road of my route because it would take me too far out of the way to find a park and enjoy the fresh air.

I used to work for Amazon in the customer service returns department.

My job was to process every single return customers sent back to the company, make sure the items were not damaged, and determine whether the item could be resold.

The warehouse was the biggest warehouse I’ve ever seen. I estimate over 1,000 people worked there throughout various departments.

I worked the night shift, meaning I worked from around 7:15 p.m. to 7 a.m. Before working for Amazon, I worked in security, so I was already used to the long, late-night hours.

Amazon warehouse workers are expected to “make rate” – a productivity metric where we have to process a certain number of packages and items within an hour or risk dropping in rate, being written up, or fired if we fall too far behind. In my department, I was expected to process 40 to 60 returns in a single hour, which was stressful and at times seemed impossible.

I was written up twice during my time working in the warehouse.

The first was because I had a bloody nose and didn’t make rate for the hour I spent tending to it.

The second was when I had to leave early to deal with a family emergency. Whenever you don’t make rate, it goes into your performance review.

The most challenging thing about working in the warehouse was leadership and management.

In my experience, managers showed favoritism to some and overlooked others when it came to promotions. I applied for ambassador roles (workers who trained new hires) multiple times and never received a promotion or raise.

Leadership also contradicted one another often. I would have one manager tell me to do a task a certain way and another tell me to do it the opposite. The managers often disagreed on the right ways to train new hires and coach associates on simple tasks like processing items.

Sometimes managers would yell at each other in the presence of associates.

It felt like the company had no structure and anyone could make up the rules as they went along.

It also felt like we were discouraged from using our paid time off and vacation hours. Managers would often tell associates to “be careful” of how we spent our PTO because if we ever had an emergency and didn’t have enough hours to make up the rest of our shifts, we wouldn’t be able to leave. (PTO is determined by how an employee is classified, whether part-time, full-time, or salaried, and increases based on how many years are spent working for Amazon.)

There were times when associates talked about forming a union, but nothing ever came out of those talks.

My job as a warehouse worker for Amazon was easy in terms of tasks, but was physically demanding.

The one thing I liked about working for Amazon as a customer service associate was the pay and that medical benefits were available when you started. But overall, the experience in the warehouse itself was very negative.

I would say about 60% to 70% of the drivers I’ve talked to are interested in unionizing.

I stay up to date on Amazon news through employee social media forums on Facebook and Reddit.

A lot of Amazon workers are paying attention to what happens in Alabama with the union vote and believe unionizing is the way to go for better pay and better working conditions.

In a statement to Insider, Amazon spokesperson Deborah Bass wrote: “Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazon employee and we measure actual performance against those expectations. Associate performance is measured and evaluated over a period of time as we know that a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour. Netradyne cameras are used to help keep drivers and the communities where we deliver safe. We piloted the technology from April to October 2020 on over two million miles of delivery routes and the results produced remarkable driver and community safety improvements – accidents decreased 48%, stop sign violations decreased 20%, driving without a seatbelt decreased 60%, and distracted driving decreased 45%. Don’t believe the self-interested critics who claim these cameras are intended for anything other than safety.”

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Amazon drivers say peeing in bottles is an ‘inhumane’ yet common part of the job, despite the company denying it happens

Amazon Truck Drivers 2x1 FINAL
  • Amazon says workers don’t pee in bottles, but its drivers and piles of evidence indicate otherwise.
  • “There were times when I would personally find a pee bottle in my van,” one former driver said.
  • Insider reported in 2018 accounts of drivers urinating in bottles.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon says workers don’t pee in bottles. Interviews with delivery drivers and mountains of evidence indicate otherwise.

On Wednesday, Amazon tweeted at Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”

The e-commerce giant was responding to Pocan’s tweet: “Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles,” he wrote.

While Amazon denied “the peeing in bottles thing,” five current and former Amazon drivers told Insider that urinating in bottles was part of the job.

“They didn’t really force you to pee in the bottles,” Savannah, who stopped working as a driver for one of Amazon’s third-party delivery-service providers in February, told Insider. “You just didn’t really have time to go to the bathroom.”

Savannah added: “Honestly, I would try to hold it as much as I can. But … there were times when I would personally find a pee bottle in my van because people were lazy and didn’t want to throw it away.”

Savannah and some other drivers who talked to Insider spoke on the condition of anonymity or requested that only their first names be used in order to speak frankly about the situation. Their identities and the fact they worked as Amazon drivers have been confirmed by Insider.

Amazon is known for imposing strict time constraints on drivers and warehouse workers, which some say can have negative consequences. While the company has factored in break times – a 30-minute lunch and two 15-minute breaks – some drivers say they either can’t or don’t want to take them.

“They keep track of your movements – how many times you stop, how fast you drive,” Enrique Sanchez, who worked as a driver for eight months in 2020, said. “Using the restroom in the van is the only option sometimes.”

“It’s a very aggressive company that has generated so much revenue, profits over the last years, decades – but it’s all been at the expense of workers being mistreated,” Sanchez added.

A spokesperson for Amazon was not immediately available to comment.

Reports of bottles of urine have plagued Amazon for years

Insider’s Hayley Peterson reported in 2018 that drivers urinating in bottles was a common practice throughout the system of drivers employed by Amazon and third-party courier companies that work out of Amazon facilities and deliver the bulk of the company’s packages.

“The work is brutal,” a manager of a courier company in New Jersey told Insider at the time. “Drivers have to pee in bottles in their vans all the time.”

Three years later, drivers say not much has changed.

A driver in Oklahoma who works for a third-party delivery service that transports packages on behalf of Amazon told Insider it was common to get into a delivery van at the start of a shift and find a bottle full of pee.

“I’m not saying that Amazon is encouraging it,” the driver said. “But I almost guarantee any driver that’s been working there long enough has got in a van and saw a translucent bottle filled with something that definitely isn’t apple juice. It’s happened. It happens.”

The driver said he had never faced pressure from his company not to take breaks but that he often skipped them to keep his momentum going throughout the day. He typically finds a gas station when he has to use the restroom, he said, but has peed into bottles during his shift when it would have taken upward of 30 minutes to get to a restroom.

“If people saw the bottle, unless they opened it, they wouldn’t even know because I drink Soylent … and the bottles are not translucent,” he said.

Amazon delivery trucks

A delivery driver in the Detroit area told Insider that rather than pee inside the vans, she used to hold it to the point of bladder infections. She said she recently decided to purchase a female urinal system, which she brings to work along with a bottle, hand sanitizer, and wipes.

She described getting her period at work as “a nightmare” and said she had had several female colleagues call her crying because they leaked through their clothing while working.

“I was forced, because I didn’t have anywhere to stop, to change my pad in the back of the van,” she said. “I didn’t have time to stop somewhere to change it, so I didn’t have anywhere to stop to throw it away either. You kind of have to carry that stuff with you.”

She added: “It’s inhumane, to say the least.”

Even Amazon drivers who have primarily positive things to say about the company said peeing in bottles was a common practice.

Art Velasquez, a former driver, said he thought Amazon was generally a great company. But during the pandemic, “it’s rare to find any open public bathrooms, and most places denied us access to restrooms,” Velasquez added.

“Can’t really complain much besides that they’re denying these allegations,” Velasquez said.

The Oklahoma delivery driver said he was happy with his job and liked the company. But he said Amazon’s system was set up to shift responsibility onto the third-party courier companies, which can sometimes pressure workers to move faster and skip breaks.

“There’s a lot of problems with the system, but it comes back to the system being set up for Amazon to push off as much responsibility or liability for anything that goes wrong onto somebody else, whether it’s the DSP owners or the drivers themselves,” he said.

There is extensive evidence of Amazon drivers peeing in bottles

Amazon’s tweet on Wednesday set off a wave of backlash, in part, because the bottles of urine have been so widely reported.

On Thursday, Vice published an article with the headline: “Amazon Denies Workers Pee in Bottles. Here Are the Pee Bottles.”

An Amazon driver sent the Vice reporter Lauren Kaori Gurley a photo of two bottles filled with urine. As Gurley noted, these “piss bottles” make frequent appearances on a subreddit dedicated to Amazon delivery drivers.

Documents obtained by The Intercept showed Amazon was aware that drivers were urinating and defecating in public on the job and listed the practices as recurring infractions in a January document.

“The practice, these documents show, was known to management, which identified it as a recurring infraction but did nothing to ease the pressure that caused it,” The Intercept’s Ken Klippenstein reported on Thursday. “In some cases, employees even defecated in bags.”

Celine McNicholas, the director of government affairs at the Economic Policy Institute, said Amazon was denying the “pee bottle thing” as part of a public-relations push to be seen as a progressive employer, while it attempts to shut down a union drive in Alabama.

“I think it is probably the only play that they have – to say this is not the reality,” McNicholas said. “Because the reality is shameful and disgusting.”

There are also reports of Amazon warehouse workers urinating in bottles

There have also been reports of Amazon warehouse workers peeing in bottles.

In 2018, a survey of 241 Amazon warehouse employees in England found that 74% said they avoided going to the bathroom at work. Employees said they were scared of being fired or missing their target if they used the toilet.

About the same time, James Bloodworth, an undercover reporter, said employees had a “toilet bottle” system in place at the warehouse where he worked in the UK.

“For those of us who worked on the top floor, the closest toilets were down four flights of stairs,” Bloodworth told The Sun. “People just peed in bottles because they lived in fear of being ­disciplined over ‘idle time’ and ­losing their jobs just because they needed the loo.”

While Amazon said “nobody” would work for the company if people had to pee in bottles, the problem appears to be a common one. A November 2019 blog post on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “Many workers in a wide range of industries and occupations say they cannot take the bathroom breaks they need.” It cited surveys of teachers, poultry-processing workers, nurses, bus drivers, and taxi drivers.

Savannah said Amazon did not understand what drivers and other workers go through on the job.

“They don’t see how hard it is – the weather we deal with, these bathroom situations, lunch breaks,” she said.

Efforts to unionize an Alabama warehouse offer Savannah some hope that things can change for Amazon workers. She said she hoped unionizing would make the company understand what warehouse workers’ and drivers’ jobs require.

“That way, Amazon can see what we really go through,” Savannah said.

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Amazon and delivery contractor fined $6.4 million by California regulators for stealing wages from drivers

Amazon delivery driver with mask, France
  • California fined Amazon and a delivery contractor $6.4 million for wage theft violations on Monday.
  • In a press release, the state’s labor commissioner said more than 700 drivers were owed money.
  • The drivers were employed by the contractor, but California law makes both companies liable.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

California’s labor commissioner fined Amazon and Green Messengers, a contractor used by Amazon to deliver packages, $6.4 million for stealing wages from 718 delivery drivers, the regulator announced in a press release Monday.

Its investigation found that the drivers, who were employed by Green Messengers to work 10-hour shifts, often had to work more than 11 hours and skip their meal and rest breaks in order to complete their Amazon delivery routes due to the high volume of packages.

But the investigation also found that, between April 2018 and January 2020, Green Messengers failed to pay them correctly for that extra work, which “resulted in frequent minimum wage, overtime, meal break, rest period and split-shift violations,” the release said.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story. As of Monday evening, Green Messengers’ website had been taken offline and a phone number listed for the business had been disconnected. According to the release, both companies have appealed the fines.

Read more: Amazon spent $44 billion striving for 1-day shipping in 2020, and its logistics empire is nowhere near done

While Amazon owns a massive fleet of delivery vehicles, it relies on a complex network of regional contractors like Green Messengers to employ many of the drivers who operate those vehicles.

The arrangement typically allows Amazon to avoid certain labor costs and legal liabilities that come with hiring employees directly, but a California law that went into effect in 2015 prevents companies like Amazon from shifting blame to contractors by allowing them to still be held liable for labor violations.

“Contracting out services does not release employers from their duty to ensure workers are being legally compensated,” California labor commissioner Lilia GarcĂ­a-Brower said in the release. “In this case, both Green Messengers and Amazon.com Services are responsible for the wage theft that these workers suffered.”

The fines included more than $5.3 million in damages, wages, interest, and other penalties owed to the drivers, plus roughly $1.1 million in civil penalties owed to the state, according to the release.

Amazon has come under fire before for the working conditions it imposes on delivery drivers, both directly and indirectly through its delivery service partners, which investigations from multiple outlets including Insider and BuzzFeed News have found contributed to increased injury rates.

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