Why Amazon’s Delivery Network Is Vulnerable to Labor Strife

Is there a more familiar sign of corporate dominance than the Amazon delivery van?

As recently as four years ago, the blue-gray vehicle with the smiley arrow was a relative novelty among fleets of brown and blue-and-white delivery trucks clogging the streets. Today, the Amazon vans are almost inescapable. Between 2020 and 2022, their numbers more than doubled, to roughly 100,000.

But this symbol of Amazon’s strength may hint at something else: an underappreciated vulnerability.

The vans are just the most visible piece of ‌the company’s vast delivery network. When you place an order for cat toys or razor blades or vacuum bags, Amazon employees typically pluck them off a shelf in a warehouse, then ship them to a succession of buildings, known as sort centers and delivery stations, where they are grouped by destination and loaded onto vans.

The system, which also includes planes and air hubs, has enabled ever-faster delivery, according to data from NIQ (NielsenIQ). It has also made Amazon susceptible to a potent form of labor organizing — choke point organizing — in which workers threaten to hobble a company’s operations by shutting down key sites, known as choke points.

In September 2019, workers at an Amazon delivery station in Sacramento began campaigning for paid personal time off, which many part-time employees in such buildings lacked. With no progress on their demands, the workers walked off their shifts just before Christmas, and the campaign gained momentum at delivery stations in Chicago and New York. In March 2020, Amazon announced that it was providing a paid-time-off benefit that affected more than 10,000 part-time employees at buildings nationwide.

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