I work for a subcontracted company that handles Amazon deliveries in New York City. Everyday, I meet my truck at a given location – which changes – pick up my route (packages) and embark on my shift.
As a worker, I work constantly shifting hours that greatly impact my ability to have a personal life and make it challenging to maintain a clear political perspective.So much of my day to day is focused on not getting hit by cars as I deliver packages, hoping to not get robbed, and trying to survive the rain, cold, and a life of low pay.
However, workers in logistics play a great role in keeping our society going. By being workers in a key sector of society, our lives become inherently more political. Labor and economics are intrinsically linked to the policies that run our lives. Just as we saw with the Biden administration passing legislation to repress a railroad strike to protect profits over the lives of over-worked and poorly compensated workers.
Therefore, the need to think politically takes on an even greater importance. I write these entries as a way to engage that reality and resolve my current personal/political contradiction.
New Year’s Eve
This is my first journal entry of possibly many or few. On December 31, 2022 many workers with basic labor rights were off from work for the holiday. They took advantage of the free time to see friends and family, to drink, laugh, and let their guard down, which workers are seldomly permitted to do.
For me (and many other workers who lack union representation and labor rights), the day started off ominously. I read the morning text I always receive before my shift that informs me of the location of the truck and the temperature for that day. On the last day of December, the high was 49 degrees Fahrenheit (9.4 degrees Celsius) in New York.
I arrived at the truck that my coworkers and I were tasked to unload. This day was particularly heavy because, even with full attendance (luckily), there weren’t enough people to deliver the packages. After working for a few weeks, you develop an eye that tells you whether the shift will be long or short when you look at the amount of packages in the truck compared to the amount of people present. I immediately knew I’d be working at least eight hours straight. I never have an opportunity for a break during my shifts and this would be no different.
My coworkers and I chopped it up for a while, joking about how much it sucked having to be there, with me playfully arguing with the driver that I’m faster than I used to be, so the day will end quickly — that it will need to end quickly for our sake since there was rain coming later that day.
Rain destroys packages and makes them undeliverable. The fewer packages you deliver, the more weight you have to continue to lug around on your route because you can’t get rid of them, making the shift more exhausting.
When carrying 80-100 packages of cases of water, kids toys, cat litter, and even kettle bells on a cart and walking up to 8,000-10,000 steps on Manhattan sidewalks and streets, it becomes apparent that the human body has its limits as the strain catches up to you.
I often have pain in my elbows from pulling the cart all day, sore legs from lifting the bags containing the packages, and a sore abdomen and arms from maneuvering the bags on the cart that carries them and the packages within those bags.
Upon setting off on my first route, the only difference between that day’s strain in comparison to others was that it was worse because I should have been off. Instead I toiled beneath the rain.
But I have to make money and survive somehow. So I delivered those packages, the late Christmas gifts, the needed supplies for someone’s kitchen or doctor’s office. I delivered those packages with a face like stone and heart like fire fueled by my hatred for Jeff Bezos.
My first route left me hungry, fatigued, and mildly dizzy. The rain began just as I was finishing it.
After my first route I returned to the truck to receive my second (we always get two). This one was a load just as heavy as the first. However, I wasn’t as fresh as I was at first.
I loaded my cart again as my coworkers spoke about what they hate about the job. One particular comment struck a chord. A coworker said there are good people who do the job but burn out because Amazon takes advantage of them by giving walkers (delivery people) more than they could handle, while paying them beans.
He said that this potential is wasted because the job is too hard on the workers, too low in pay, and offered no chance to make real money without breaking your back for it. He was a veteran of the job and says it has been like this since he started. Turnover is so bad that work veterans have only been there one to two years, while others leave within months or even days.
I added that people call off all the time because the compensation isn’t worth the conditions, which in turn makes it harder because there are fewer people available to empty the truck. The conditions Amazon provides have a downward spiral effect that makes things even harder for workers on top of the conditions.
After our small impromptu meeting, I did my route. I wished all the receptionists, doormen, and USPS workers I saw a happy New Year as we set out to keep the world moving, coerced by precarity to act against our desires to be home or with those we love to honor the ending year and embrace the new one.