Delivery workers and supporters returned to Amazon’s Eagan warehouse early Monday to call for an end to wage theft in the online shopping giant’s package delivery system.
Amazon outsources most of its package deliveries through a complex system of independent contractors and subcontractors who pay workers a flat fee to drive a route each day no matter what the weather is like, what the traffic is like, how complicated the route is, and how many hours it takes. Drivers charge that they work a lot of overtime but don’t get overtime pay and that inconsistencies and repeated mistakes in pay are rampant.
“I remember coming to work one pay day and I could tell a lot of workers were upset,” said former Amazon driver Keith Morrisette. “One of them came over to me and asked if my check was right because all of their checks were wrong. And that was just a common situation. There were always issues with our pay.”
Morrisette is no longer an active driver but says he began delivering for Amazon on day one of their Eagan facility and has seen a lot. “One driver said he worked eight routes but on his check he was paid for one. To work eight days and only get paid for one, and then have to do all the follow-up and legwork to get paid, I just, that’s hard.”
St. Paul resident Daniel Baye, who recently moved here from Ethiopia, has been trying to get paid what he was owed from Amazon subcontractor Trinity Couriers since August. “They took $651 from my wages and when I asked them to give me my money - and it’s not about me but also for other drivers – when I asked them, a manager from Texas insulted me for being from Ethiopia and then said, ‘go to anywhere you want, we’ll not give you your money.’”
Texas-based Trinity Couriers is one of three companies subcontracting at the Eagan facility. They hire hundreds of mostly East African drivers to deliver Amazon’s packages each day. Drivers like Baye work for a daily rate of $165 per route, delivering between 200 and 250 packages per route.
Baye says he worked almost 10 days in July-August, averaging 17 hours per day to complete his routes. He says he quit when Trinity underpaid him and didn’t fix the error. He took his case to the MN Department of Labor and Industry (MNDOLI) which determined that he was indeed owed the money. They sent a letter but to date the company has not responded nor paid the wages owed Baye.
“They are cheating and robbing people, especially people new to this country,” Baye said.
Baye was a professional civil engineer in Ethiopia and was working the Amazon job to get on his feet and be able to get back to his profession. “I thought America was a land of freedom and justice,” Baye added, “but these guys are - in my country we call them legal gangsters.”
An investigation by Workday Minnesota found wage theft is larger and more widespread than most people realize. Minnesotans are losing millions of dollars every year.