Watch out, Uber: Amazon wants a piece of the gig economy.
The e-commerce giant plans on paying independent contractors between $18 and $25 an hour to deliver packages around Seattle. Those who participate can “choose any available 2, 4, and 8 hour blocks of time to work the same day,” according to the Website for the program, “or set availability for up to 12 hours per day for the future.” They will need a car, valid driver’s license, and an Android phone.
The program, known as Amazon Flex, will expand “soon” to New York, Baltimore, Miami, Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta, and Portland.
Independent contractors could give Amazon the flexibility necessary to execute on its plans for Amazon Prime Now, which pledges to deliver packages to customers within two hours. If Amazon Flex takes off, however, the company could find itself embroiled in some of the same labor disputes as Uber, which spent the summer battling the California Labor Commission over whether third-party contractors should be treated as full-time employees.
(For its part, Uber, which became famous as a ride-sharing app, has expanded its services to local food delivery and experiments with courier services. If trends continue, the two tech giants are clearly on some sort of collision course.)
Independent contractors aren’t Amazon’s only innovative method of package delivery; the company is testing airborne drones as a means of dropping boxes at customers’ doors. If any of these methods take off, and Amazon proves itself capable of frictionless “last mile” delivery to customers, it could allow the company to further threaten traditional retailers—and become a major player in the “gig” market.