Illustration: Nick Sheeran

If Jeff Bezos Was Smart, He’d Get Ahead of the Worker Revolution

Instead of trying to colonize space, Jeff Bezos could reward workers on the pandemic’s front lines

Rob Walker
Published in
8 min readApr 7, 2020

--

InIn a job market defined by swift and merciless brutality, the delivery economy right now offers something resembling a rare bright spot. Amazon, for example, announced it is hiring 100,000 workers to bolster its everything-to-your-door infrastructure. And Instacart, specializing in grocery home-deliveries in thousands of U.S. cities, said it wants to bring on 300,000 more (contract) “shoppers.” It’s easy to understand this niche labor demand: In the Covid-19 era, people are being urged to avoid the store and have their food delivered.

But instead of enjoying a wave of huzzahs for announcing hiring sprees, Amazon and Instacart and others have been greeted with strikes and walkouts by delivery-infrastructure workers who feel underpaid and endangered. The actions captured tons of press attentionglaringly spotlighting the concerns, fears, and challenges facing a category of worker that’s become increasingly vital. And that has also become increasingly vulnerable and exposed to health risks.

They could get ahead of the revolution with bold gestures that reframe the entire conversation around labor.

There is, however, a real opportunity here for these cutthroat delivery-centered businesses that could alter the trajectory of their company and their image. Rather than swat away the perils and complaints shaping a brewing gig-worker rebellion, they could take a very different position: They could get ahead of the revolution with bold gestures that reframe the entire conversation around labor.

An Amazon employee wears a mask outside of the Staten Island warehouse during a walkout over lack of employee protection.
Amazon employees at the Staten Island warehouse held a protest and walkout over lack of protections for employees amidst the coronavirus pandemic on March 30, 2020. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In short, one brave tech/retail/delivery company — like Amazon or Instacart or Shipt or maybe even Domino’s — could unveil and commit to radically and definitively improving the work lives of their delivery infrastructure employees and contractors. After all, the most celebrated figures in business, from Larry Page and Sergey Brin to…

--

--