When an Amazon delivery driver is moving too slowly, the company knows how to get their attention: a message from a dispatcher, a driver recently told Intelligencer. When drivers complain about the company’s surveillance, they’re referring in part to the dispatchers. Though dispatchers aren’t management, they’re enforcers in their own way. Amazon uses them to keep tabs on drivers, who work for third-party companies called “delivery service partners” or “DSPs.” One dispatcher spoke to Intelligencer about their job, describing irregular hours, a psychologically and physically taxing workload, and why they support forming a union — an effort Amazon has crushed, most recently in Bessemer, Alabama. The dispatcher spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear retaliation from the company. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Basically, our job entails being in contact with the driver all day long while they’re on the road. So we will call them if they’re moving a little too slow. We will let them know if they miss the package. They will be able to call us if they could mark a package delivered or anything like that. We’re the line between Amazon and the drivers.
I feel like the drivers are all adults. They know what their bodies can handle and it’s kind of off-putting to put someone in the position to call someone else and tell them to speed up more, to make sure they’re doing this or that. I’m a very sensitive person already so I feel horrible — especially when you know these drivers face-to-face — in the morning when they come in you can see how tired and how beat down they are. And it hurts my heart when I have to call someone and say, “You got to speed up.” And they’re just like, “I’m doing what I can.” And I’m like, “Well, Amazon says you got to speed up.” It’s a stressful thing.
That does make me feel like I’m pitted against them. When they come in, sometimes you have drivers who are mad at the dispatcher because of what has been going on through their day. Most of them don’t understand that it’s not me that’s telling you these things, it’s Amazon, and I have to tell you this because Amazon directed us to.
My hours vary. It depends on the package count and the drivers. If I have really strong drivers that day, maybe I’ll get home in six hours. If not, I’ll probably be there all night. My regular hours are usually between eight to ten hours. You start with $15, $16 dollars an hour to work for a DSP. If you have experience, you can make $17, $18, depending on what DSP you work with. When the package count varies, you can get low hours, no hours, or you can be perfectly fine. Sometimes it’s a little hard, sometimes I have 30 hours for a week, sometimes under it. It’s stressful to try to figure out what I’m going to be making for that week.
There’s a lot of people who work second jobs. I do GrubHub and Instacart. When it comes to someone having a legit second job, say, Amazon and McDonald’s, you literally have to choose one or the other. You cannot work two jobs with this job, because you never know exactly what days you are going to have off or what days you are going to be working. You don’t know what hours you’re going to be working, and they don’t have really any wiggle room for that. So if you’re starting at ten o’clock, and you’re going to start your second job at about five, you’re not going to make it.
The number-one thing that I want to put through is that even though Amazon has these DSPs in place, Amazon really calls every shot. They watch the drivers all day long. They have control of the package count, they have control of where we’re taking the packages out. Another thing I want to put through is the amount of time that this job takes away from you. This is stressful when you have a family and the job breaks you down so much mentally and physically that you can’t even interact with your family. I have a husband. I have family that I can’t spend time with appropriately, because when I come home from work, I’m physically tired. And that happens with a lot of us. We have a lot of single parents working, and they say that they feel like they can’t be part of their child’s life because you don’t know when you’re going to get off, you don’t know if you’re going to be able to get home on time, you don’t know any of that.
I find it really funny that Amazon says they support people that are going to school with “flexible schedules.” There’s no flexible schedules for drivers and us dispatchers. You’re working within their hours, 24/7. I have classes myself. You drop down to part time or you don’t have anything. I feel like a union would be phenomenal, because of the simple fact that we have no one to fight on our behalf. They get to do whatever they want to do with us. They change our hours at the drop of a dime. We need someone, that middleman in between, to help us, so that we have a voice with Amazon.