STUDIO CITY, CA—Before the pandemic, people like delivery workers weren’t considered to have very important jobs. Now, they are “essential workers” and even “heroes” and thanked for their service. I spoke with some of these people to see what it’s like to have such an important job that wasn’t thought to be nearly as important before the pandemic.
“Obviously, I wear a mask when I make deliveries. Our temperature is taken at Amazon. I do wash my hands more often now and I take a shower when I come home from work. We also use alcohol wipes to wipe things like door handles and steering wheels,” says Maurice, an Amazon delivery worker.
When the pandemic started, we were all terrified, and all of the safety precautions like wearing a mask and constantly washing your hands were new. Now, more than three months after the pandemic started, these safety precautions have become second nature to us. The same goes for the essential workers. They have to be extra careful since they are coming in contact with their clients. There are a lot of risks with this kind of job. However, Maurice says that he’s gotten used to it. “I think in the beginning we thought more about [the risks] but now it’s just something that we know about, but it’s in the back of our minds.”
Maurice also told a funny story. He said that before the pandemic, he would train people to be delivery workers by riding along with them and teaching them, but now he has to follow them on the road in his van to train them! He hasn’t really thought about what it means to be called an essential worker. “Usually at Amazon we’re not delivering essential goods, but when the pandemic came, they stopped all non-essential deliveries. Now we deliver mostly water, masks and cleaning supplies. It’s good that we’re able to get things to people so they don’t have to go out.”
Maurice has been an Amazon delivery worker since before the pandemic. However, I also spoke with Stu Stein, who is only a delivery worker for this summer, and he had very different things to say.
“Working for Amazon is a five day a week commitment, 11 hours a day. We’re out of the house from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m. all for the princely sum of $1,000. That works out to 52K a year before taxes if you work year round.” While for Maurice, delivering for Amazon is a normal thing, Stein is spending a summer “in their shoes.”
He thinks that delivery workers are underpaid for their hard work, whereas Maurice seems accustomed to it. These are two very different opinions. It is not just that Amazon workers are underpaid, but also that the owner of Amazon earns a tremendous amount of money in comparison. “Meanwhile Jeff Bezos (our boss) made $13 billion dollars yesterday,” Stein exclaims. Some have speculated that Jeff Bezos will become a trillionaire by 2026.
Delivery workers are not superhumans and they’re clearly not paid as if they are, despite their hard work!