For some people, this is one of the best parts of driving for Flex to be an independent contractor. Jeremy Brown, a 36-year-old driver in Milwaukee, told me that he loved the freedom of being his own boss. If he wakes up in the morning and doesn`t want to drive for Flex, he can go back to bed or spend his time leading the music department in his church or visiting his children at home. He earns enough money – about $120 a day, if he takes expenses into account – from Flex, that his family depends on it for most of his income. But Flex works all year round, and not just during the holidays, suggesting that there`s another reason for this: it`s cheap. As the largest truck industry has discovered over the past decade, the use of independent contractors instead of unionized drivers saves money because so much is being borne by drivers and not by the company. There were many complainants in the original case that was filed on the question of whether the workers were self-employed workers or contractors. In this case, a leading court decided against Amazon`s attempt to force arbitration rather than a lawsuit. But Scopelitis`s analysis continues to say that it is not certain that the Supreme Court will take up the case after having already issued an arbitration judgment in the New Prime cases.
Early last year, in another contractor against the staff dispute, the court ruled in favor of a driver for New Prime who tried to avoid arbitration. (The litigation in the case ended with a recent transaction.) Brown often finishes his two-hour shifts in less time than Amazon expected. But if a Flex driver takes longer to complete deliveries than Amazon has calculated, he or she is not paid for overtime. (An Amazon spokesperson told me that “the vast majority” of blocks are completed in or under estimated time.) If the driver is in a car accident, it is the driver, not Amazon, who is responsible for medical and insurance costs. If a driver receives a speeding ticket, the driver pays. (UPS and FedEx usually pay for tickets from their trucks, but Amazon explicitly says in the Flex-fahrer contract sign that drivers are responsible for fees and fines.) Even people who work full-time for Flex know that they can`t always rely on the app to make money. Akunts said people are often “deactivated,” meaning they get a message telling them they can no longer drive for Flex. “Sometimes workers don`t know why she was terminated and her contract cancelled,” he told me. Reintroduction can take up to a month.
Akunts, who enjoys working for Flex and earning a lot of money, told me that he was one of the few drivers not to have been disabled or finished after three years spent delivering parcels to Sunnyvale. “Amazon keeps you at a high level,” Akunts said. If someone ordered a food delivery but didn`t answer the phone, Akunts tries again and again – the customer could be in the shower or on the other line, he said. This commitment to the customer, he said, is what Amazon expects from its employees. But these union jobs are under pressure. “These are good jobs, and they can really get worse quickly,” Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who writes about the truck industry, tells me. The Teamsters recently gave the workers the go-ahead to strike amid ongoing contract negotiations, although both sides said late last week that they had reached an interim agreement. The APWU is also about to enter into contract negotiations.