In October 2017, Amazon warehouses in the Toronto area were buzzing. The company was bracing for its busiest season, the “peak” months leading up to Christmas. Black Friday and Cyber Monday—the company’s biggest sales days of the year—were still weeks away, but package volumes had been ticking up for months, and the drivers hired to deliver them were feeling pinched.
Though it’s on the verge of becoming the largest delivery service in the United States—it delivered 4.2 billion packages in the U.S. in 2020 alone—Amazon does not actually employ delivery drivers. Instead, it relies on a network of contracted delivery companies—the often-unmarked vans, rental trucks and private vehicles that pull up to your house to bring you toothpaste, non-stick frying pans and nearly anything else you need within 48 hours. By late 2017, unrest among this workforce had been building for months, with chatter about unionization growing loud enough to escape the warehouse walls in suburban Toronto.