[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith joined 27 of their Senate colleagues in a bipartisan letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy requesting information about the company’s Delivery Service Partner (DSP) program and its efforts to avoid legal liability for the persistent mistreatment of DSP drivers. The senators are also seeking information regarding Amazon’s justification for refusing to bargain with union representatives of DSP employees and requiring DSPs to sign non-poaching agreements.
“Amazon’s freight truck drivers haul a variety of goods across highways every day, and their branded delivery vehicles are a virtually unavoidable feature in neighborhoods all over the country. Though nearly all Americans are familiar with and reliant on the services of Amazon- branded vehicles – which are operated by drivers in Amazon-branded vests who exclusively deliver packages with big, bold Amazon labels – few realize that Amazon refuses to acknowledge the workers who operate these vehicles as its legal employees,” the senators wrote.
The senators detailed the dangerous working conditions of DSP drivers, pointing to reporting that suggests this system takes an awful toll on drivers, who have been forced to work in extreme heat without air conditioning, make deliveries in the snow without proper safety equipment like snow tires or chains, and are pressured to skip breaks. Some drivers have been forced to work for nearly twelve hours without access to a restroom.
“Amazon is also facing numerous allegations of flagrant violations of the National Labor Relations Act, including refusal to recognize and bargain with workers who recently voted to unionize with the Teamsters, holding captive audience meetings to stifle worker organizing efforts, reducing DSP routes in response to union activity, and terminating DSP employees in retaliation for union organizing and other protected activities,” the senators added.
Senators Klobuchar and Smith have concerns with large corporations, like Amazon, using allegedly independent subcontractors to evade their responsibility as an employer. Both are original sponsors of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would expand labor protections for employees to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace. Senator Smith has previously urged Amazon to recognize their workers’ right to unionize after disturbing reports of work-related injuries from fulfillment centers like the one in Shakopee.
The letter was led by U.S Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and signed by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Full text of the letter is available here and below:
Dear Mr. Jassy,
We write to express concerns regarding reports that Amazon inflicts persistent mistreatment on its Delivery Service Partner (DSP) drivers and to request further information regarding Amazon’s DSP program.
Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Sanders recently launched an investigation into “the abysmal safety record in Amazon’s warehouses and the company’s treatment of workers who are injured in those warehouses.” In response to a growing body of public reporting, expert analyses, and constituent concerns shared with our offices, we are conducting a similar but distinct oversight inquiry into Amazon’s DSP program.
Amazon’s freight truck drivers haul a variety of goods across highways every day, and their branded delivery vehicles are a virtually unavoidable feature in neighborhoods all over the country. Though nearly all Americans are familiar with and reliant on the services of Amazon- branded vehicles – which are operated by drivers in Amazon-branded vests who exclusively deliver packages with big, bold Amazon labels – few realize that Amazon refuses to acknowledge the workers who operate these vehicles as its legal employees.
Even though Amazon reportedly exercises near-total control over the wages and working conditions of its delivery drivers, it appears to avoid legal liability through a network of delivery service partners – supposedly independent businesses that contract with Amazon. On paper, Amazon claims that these DSPs are the real employers of its delivery drivers. But as has been reported, DSPs have little discretion over key aspects of their businesses, which means that Amazon may be required to shoulder legal responsibility as an employer of DSP drivers.
An overwhelming body of reporting suggests this system of control without responsibility exacts an awful toll on drivers. Drivers have been made to work in extreme heat without air conditioning, forced to make deliveries in the snow without proper safety equipment like snow tires or chains, and are often pressured to skip breaks. In some instances, drivers have been forced to work for nearly twelve hours without access to a restroom. In 2021, researchers used publicly disclosed OSHA 300A summary data to estimate that DSP drivers were injured at a rate of 18.3 injuries per 100 workers in 2021. In other words, nearly one in five drivers was injured on the job. This represented a shocking 38% increase over the 2020 injury rate.
Over the last few years, reports of unsafe and unfair working conditions have demonstrated that widespread safety and labor violations appear to be a feature, not a bug, of the DSP program. As a result, Amazon drivers and dispatchers have picketed 25 Amazon warehouses across nine states over the past several months, including Connecticut, California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.
Amazon is also facing numerous allegations of flagrant violations of the National Labor Relations Act, including refusal to recognize and bargain with workers who recently voted to unionize with the Teamsters, holding captive audience meetings to stifle worker organizing efforts, reducing DSP routes in response to union activity, and terminating DSP employees in retaliation for union organizing and other protected activities.
In addition to being dangerous for workers, the structure of Amazon’s DSP program may help Amazon escape regulatory scrutiny. The DSP program is a highly fragmented, captive business model, characterized by its use of leased vans and other vehicles under 10,000 pounds. Because these vehicles are not subject to certain commercial vehicle regulations, it is nearly impossible to conduct oversight or regulatory efforts to analyze and understand the full universe of DSP operations. And while Amazon reportedly contracts with a workforce that is nearly as large as the U.S. Postal Service, there is no clear reporting requirement that would enable regulators to effectively identify all DSPs.
Clearly, further Senate oversight of Amazon’s DSP program is overdue. In furtherance of this inquiry, we request answers to the following questions by February 10, 2024:
1. What is Amazon management’s justification for insisting it is not obligated to bargain with union representatives of DSP employees, given the control Amazon wields over the terms and conditions of DSP employees, such as their wages, working conditions, routes, and hours of availability?
2. What is the justification for Amazon’s requirement that several DSPs sign non-poaching agreements, in light of the company’s claim that it does not control the working conditions of its DSP’s employees?
3. Under what circumstances might an Amazon DSP possess a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number and be subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) inspection? Under what circumstances might an Amazon DSP operate under an Amazon DOT number?
4. If DSPs are indeed independent entities, are DSPs permitted to work with Amazon’s direct package delivery competitors? Why, or why not? If so, what percentage of current DSPs work directly with Amazon’s competitors?
5. Is Amazon responsible for the provision and maintenance of DSP vehicles and other safety and health conditions at its DSPs? If so, what is Amazon’s process for ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations?
6. On average, at what percentage or dollar amount does Amazon subsidize the costs of vehicles and equipment for DSPs? What additional details can you provide as to the vehicle and operations financing model Amazon offers to prospective DSPs?
7. Does Amazon limit the number of delivery stations a DSP may operate out of or restrict how much DSPs can scale operations within the Amazon network?
8. What companies has Amazon contracted with as a part of its DSP program? Where are these companies operating their DSP programs?
9. Does Amazon have a standard lease agreement that DSP companies must sign to receive vehicle fleets? Please provide a copy of the standard lease agreement or copies of your 10 most recently entered lease agreements.
10. Does Amazon possess copies of OSHA 300A and OSHA 300 filings for all currently active DSP companies for the past 3 years (2020-2023)? If so, please provide this information. If no, please explain why Amazon does not collect this information.
11. What is the DSP turnover rate, and how many DSPs have stopped participating in the DSP program since 2018? Please provide this information by calendar year.
12. Does Amazon collect data on the automobile crash rates involving DSPs over the last 10 years (2013 – 2023)? If so, please provide this information. If not, please explain why Amazon does not collect this information.
We look forward to your prompt attention to this request.