An Amazon driver said she nearly lost her house and had her car repossessed with her kids’ Christmas presents inside after an algorithm suddenly fired her

Amazon Delivery Driver
An Amazon delivery driver.

After three years working for Amazon’s contractor delivery service, Amazon Flex, 42-year-old Neddra Lira said she was suddenly fired last October.

As a result, Lira said, her car was repossessed and she stopped paying her mortgage. When the car was repossessed, it had donated Christmas presents inside for her three children, Lira told Bloomberg.

“I nearly lost my house,” she said. Lira’s other job, as a school bus driver, was on hiatus in October 2020 as schools were still mostly remote and pandemic lockdowns remained in place.

Amazon’s Flex program is a contractor position where drivers use their own vehicles. Deliveries routes are chosen through a corresponding app – like Uber or Lyft, but for Amazon package delivery.

Just before her firing, Lira was assessed by Amazon’s Flex app as being in “Great” standing as an employee, screenshots obtained by Bloomberg show – part of the algorithmic tracking of Amazon’s contracted delivery drivers.

Then, on October 2, 2020, Lira said she received an email saying she’d violated the service’s terms and was “no longer eligible to participate in the Amazon Flex program.”

After weeks of emails and appeals, Lira’s case was reviewed and denied by a string of emails from employees she’d never met.

It’s not clear what caused Lira’s firing in the first place, but Amazon Flex drivers speaking with Bloomberg describe tracking issues with Amazon’s algorithms: The inability to account for a long line of Flex drivers outside of the delivery station, for instance, or car maintenance and repair issues that can cause delivery delays.

Amazon representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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Most executives say they want more contract and temp workers. A majority of those workers say that’s not good enough.

Prop 22 protest
Jorge Vargas joins other rideshare drivers in a demonstration in November 2020 urging voters to vote reject Proposition 22, a ballot measure that exempted companies like Uber and DoorDash from California’s AB-5 law.

  • Contract workers “overwhelmingly” want to be permanent employees, according to a new McKinsey-Ipsos survey.
  • But executives say they plan to rely more heavily on contract labor, McKinsey previously found.
  • The findings reveal a huge divide between workers’ wants and those of their bosses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Around a quarter of Americans say they work mostly in the gig economy, and 62% of those workers say that they’d rather not, according to a survey published Wednesday by McKinsey and Ipsos.

“Gig workers would overwhelmingly prefer permanent employment,” the survey found.

That preference is even stronger among immigrants and workers of color, who disproportionately make up the gig workforce.

Among those groups, 72% of Hispanic and Latino gig workers, 71% of Asian American gig workers, and 68% of Black gig workers said they’d rather be permanent or non-contract employees, as did 76% and 73% of first- and second-generation immigrants, respectively.

McKinsey and Ipsos surveyed 25,000 Americans over the spring of 2021, and 27% percent of those surveyed said their primary job at the time was as a contract, freelance, or temporary work.

But their resounding preference for the security, benefits, and legal protections that come with employee status could encounter some tough resistance: their bosses.

Globally, 70% of executives – mostly from large US firms – said they plan to ramp up their reliance on contract and temporary workers, according to a McKinsey study from September.

Corporate America has aggressively opposed efforts to reclassify contractors as employees, in many cases arguing that workers prefer the flexibility that gig work claim to offer. But McKinsey’s latest findings suggest that executives – often citing surveys that their own companies funded – may not be as in touch with workers’ needs and wants.

While companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Grubhub, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have played leading roles in familiarizing American consumers with the gig-based business model, they’re far from the only ones who have leveraged contractors to skirt labor laws and minimize their costs. (Insider has contacted the above companies for comment, and will update this story if they respond.)

Executives in the lodging, food service, healthcare, and social assistance sectors, are especially keen on relying more heavily on contractors, according to McKinsey.

As Insider previously reported, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed how the tech industry’s push to build their empires on the backs of contractors has failed American workers, who abruptly found themselves without healthcare, sick pay, workers’ compensation, and other benefits guaranteed to employees.

Read more: Biden could be the most pro-labor president in decades. These 81 government power players will take a major role in shaping policy during his administration.

That model also hit taxpayers hard, as they subsidized unemployment benefits for contractors laid off by multibillion-dollar corporations that, despite record profits, hadn’t contributed a dime to those funds on behalf of their workers. Taxpayers coughed up $80 million in pandemic assistance for around 27,000 Uber and Lyft drivers who lost their incomes.

State and federal lawmakers are increasingly considering ways to secure better pay, working conditions, and legal protections for contractors, from California’s AB-5 to recent talks between unions and app companies in New York, though experts say more wide-reaching labor law reforms are needed.

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Uber will pay its 70,000 UK-based drivers minimum wage and benefits following a major Supreme Court defeat

uber driver prop 22
Rideshare driver Teresa Mercado raises her fist in support as app based gig workers held a driving demonstration with 60-70 vehicles blocking Spring Street in front of Los Angeles City Hall urging voters to vote no on Proposition 22 on Oct. 8, 2020.

  • Uber is reclassifying its UK-based drivers as “workers,” it said in a regulatory filing Tuesday.
  • The move requires Uber to follow minimum wage, paid vacation, and other labor laws.
  • Uber strongly opposes efforts to reclassify its drivers, but pivoted in the UK after a legal defeat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber announced Tuesday it will reclassify drivers in the United Kingdom as “workers,” guaranteeing them minimum wage, paid vacation, pensions, and additional protection under the country’s labor laws.

In a statement, Uber told Insider the move will impact more than 70,000 drivers, and follows a recent unanimous Supreme Court decision that determined drivers should be classified as workers.

Uber initially downplayed the ruling, saying it “focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016,” though shares of Uber dropped as much as 2% following the ruling.

With Tuesday’s announcement, Uber has opted to reclassify all UK drivers rather than fight legal battles with individual drivers about whether the court’s ruling would apply to them.

“Uber is just one part of a larger private-hire industry, so we hope that all other operators will join us in improving the quality of work for these important workers who are an essential part of our everyday lives,” Jamie Heywood, the regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, told Insider in a statement.

The move is a major shift for Uber, which has aggressively fought rulings by courts and regulators in the US that have determined drivers to be employees as opposed to contractors. In California, Uber spent at least $30 million persuading voters to pass Proposition 22, a law it co-authored that carved out an exemption from state labor laws to allow rideshare and food delivery drivers to be treated as contractors.

Unlike American law, which defines workers as employees or contractors, UK law has an additional “worker” category, which entitles workers to receive the minimum wage, paid vacation, rest breaks, and protections against illegal discrimination, retaliation for whistleblowing, and wage theft. That classification falls short of guaranteeing benefits like parental leave and severance to which full employees are entitled.

Uber said the UK minimum wage, which is slightly above $12, will serve as an “earnings floor, not an earnings ceiling” after accounting for roughly 62 cents in per-mile expenses, but that drivers won’t be paid for the time they spend waiting for a ride – which some researchers have found accounts for as much as 33% of drivers’ work.

Uber also said it will pay drivers around 12% of their earnings as vacation pay every two weeks and enroll them in a pension plan to which Uber will also contribute.

Labor advocates voiced their support for the move and the court ruling that proceeded it.

“Dear America … see what happens when a government lays it down? Is Uber leaving? No, they’re actually doing right by their workforce in the UK. Our drivers deserve this too. Why would an American company short change American workers? Because we let them!” tweeted California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the author of AB-5, the state labor law that Uber sought an exemption from by pushing Prop 22.

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