At Amazon, Black and Brown delivery drivers have it worst
A recent report from Vice’s Motherboard found many Black and Brown drivers were forced to repeatedly deliver to the same address they encountered racism.
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For many Amazon delivery drivers across the U.S., intimidation, threats of violence and unwarranted aggression from customers as well as their neighbors come with the professional territory.
Black and Brown drivers in particular, report regular encounters with racist customers.
Motherboard, VICE News’ online magazine dedicated to technology, science and humans, recently spoke to 10 current and former Amazon delivery drivers in several states who told their stories of racism and violence on the job.
The retail giant does have a system for blocking these customers or removing them from its delivery routes, but many drivers claim that Amazon and its delivery service partners don’t always take advantage of the system, so racist customers remain on the routes.
Amazon also reportedly does not communicate with its drivers about how serious incidents have been handled. Two different drivers told Motherboard about times that they were sent back to the same addresses where traumatic incidents occurred, even after they’d been assured they wouldn’t have to go again.
Delivery drivers argue that part of the problem comes from Amazon’s self-proclaimed “customer-obsessed” mission and their willingness to put the needs of customers first, to the detriment of its drivers, who are often people of color.
Black and Brown delivery drivers say they have been threatened, harassed and experienced racist incidents on the job, especially when working in predominantly white neighborhoods.
NEW: I spoke to black & brown Amazon delivery drivers around the US who say that they are frequently threatened & experience racist incidents esp in white neighborhoods.— Lauren Kaori Gurley (@LaurenKGurley) June 22, 2021
Amazon says it removes dangerous customers, but I found it doesn't always do so. https://t.co/gARzpfBXj8
Many drivers said that opening a gate or walking onto the property of Amazon customers has triggered panic attacks, fear and anxiety. They claim that these experiences come most often from addresses whose residents have harassed workers before, or who have Confederate or Blue Lives Matter flags on display.
One former Amazon Flex driver told Motherboard that he delivered a package in his own car as an independent contractor to a house in Puyallup, Washington and was taken aback by the messaging written on a doormat.
It read “This House is Defended by the Good Lord and a Gun, You Might Meet Both if You Come in Unwelcome."
“That mat is ingrained in my memory," the former driver said.
Amazon claims to have safety protocols in place that protect its drivers from racist, violent and aggressive behavior.
In response to an inquiry by VICE News, an Amazon spokesperson, Alexandra Miller, said that safety is a “top priority,” and that the corporation is proud of the work it does to ensure the safety of its employees.
"When an incident occurs, drivers notify both their DSP and an Amazon team that is dedicated to reviewing and escalating the driver’s concern,” Miller said.
As confident as she may be about the protocols in place at Amazon, a different story is being told by current and former drivers of color.
For many Amazon delivery drivers around the United States, intimidation, threats of violence, and aggression from customers and their neighbors are a regular part of the job, particularly incidents of a racist nature. https://t.co/aZsl1vObYh— Motherboard (@motherboard) June 22, 2021
Last Summer, a Black delivery driver named David, was dropping off a package in a gated community in San Bernardino, California, when two middle-aged white men in an SUV pulled guns on him.
The vehicle stalked him for what David estimated to be 20 minutes, before one of the men ran into a nearby house and aimed a gun at him through a window. The other man, who stayed in the car, pointed another gun at him from his rolled-down window.
"It was definitely the worst thing that's happened to me on that job," David told Motherboard. "It felt like an act of intimidation to get me out of their neighborhood."
Michelle, a Black Amazon delivery driver and dispatcher in Illinois, says that racist incidents are routine for fellow drivers in her area, explaining that racial slurs are most common.
One instance left her feeling particularly agitated. Last Summer, Michelle often delivered packages to the same white woman, who repeatedly criticized Michelle’s service.
Over the course of several drop-offs, the customer became increasingly angry, and on one occasion, she followed Michelle out of the house and towards her van, yelling and calling her “a lazy Black bitch,” and said “fucking [N-words] don't like to work.”
When she returned to the station and reported the incident to her manager, she was assured that the address would be blacklisted and that she wouldn’t have to return to it again. Yet, Michelle continued to have this woman’s address on her delivery routes.
"It made me feel like 'wow, you guys don’t care about my safety at all,'" Michelle said. "This lady came up to me and called me all types of names, but I'm still delivering there.”
Amazon isn’t exactly known for their valuing their employees, and this is yet another example of how their Black and Brown employees are routinely disenfranchised and nothing is done to protect their financial, emotional or physical well-being.