Amazon’s currently struggling with a severe shortage of delivery drivers in the US. But when it comes to next-day delivery, we all know Jeff Bezos isn’t kidding around, which is why the e-commerce giant has already found a solution, one that is surprising to say the least: it’s now recruiting marijuana users.
According to communications obtained by Bloomberg, Amazon has told its delivery partners to prominently state they don’t screen applicants for weed use. Doing so can boost the number of job applicants by as much as 400 per cent, Amazon told the publication in one message, without explaining how exactly it came up with the statistic.
Conversely, the company says, screening for marijuana cuts the prospective worker pool by up to 30 per cent. One delivery partner, who’s now stopped screening applicants after Amazon’s request, said that marijuana was the prevailing reason most people failed drug tests. Now that she’s only testing for drugs like opiates and amphetamines, more drivers pass.
While some of Amazon’s independent delivery partners are fine with simplifying their screening process, others aren’t too thrilled about its newly found stoner-friendly attitude. Understandably, there are concerns when it comes to the insurance and liability implications in the many states where marijuana use remains illegal. “They also worry that ending drug testing might prompt some drivers to toke up before going out on a route,” added Bloomberg.
“If one of my drivers crashes and kills someone and tests positive for marijuana, that’s my problem, not Amazon’s,” explained one delivery company owner, who requested anonymity because—would you look at that—Amazon discourages partners from speaking to the media.
In June, Amazon announced it would no longer screen applicants for the drug. It wasn’t long before the company began urging its delivery partners to do the same. And it looks like the company is not the only one coming up with creative ways to recruit more employees. Target announced this month that it would pay college tuition for its employees while Applebee’s offered free appetisers to applicants in its push to recruit 10,000 workers. Side note: cheers for the snacks Applebee’s but Target wins without a doubt.
Whether it truly means it or not, Amazon justified its pro-weed approach in a statement that said that marijuana testing has disproportionately affected communities of colour, stalling job growth. The company’s spokesperson also said that Amazon has zero tolerance for employees working while impaired. “If a delivery associate is impaired at work and tests positive post-accident or due to reasonable suspicion, that person would no longer be permitted to perform services for Amazon.”
According to Bloomberg, Amazon delivery contractors are often outbid by school bus companies, where drivers can make more than $20 an hour and are home for dinner. Amazon contract drivers typically earn $17 an hour and often work late into the night to keep up with demand. One solution against the delivery driver shortage would be to raise their wages. But it’s Amazon we’re talking about here.
They did it, everyone. Billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos both made it to space on their respective companies’ spacecraft—although I’m sure the former would like for it to be precised that ‘he did it first’. Since then, space tourism has been on everyone’s lips. But not every person who goes to space is officially considered an astronaut. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has tightened its rules for how it awards astronaut wings to those riding on private space flights, making it harder to become an official commercial astronaut.
In the US, there are three agencies that designate people as astronauts: the US military, NASA, and the FAA. The former two only give wings to their own employees, so the only way to be officially recognised as an astronaut after a flight on a commercial spacecraft is to be awarded wings from the FAA. They don’t come with any particular privileges beyond bragging rights.
For the FAA to award wings, an astronaut must be employed by the company performing the launch—so tourists that have bought tickets are out. They must also go through training to be certified by the FAA as an astronaut and fly higher than 80 kilometres. And they must have “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety,” according to the new order providing the guidelines.
With private space ventures such as Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic making advances in space tourism, the revised rules restrict who are eligible for astronaut wings. So, what counts as a ‘contribution’ then? Whether a crew member has made a contribution to space flight safety is up to the discretion of FAA officials. Over the last decade, the agency has awarded astronaut wings only to the pilots of spacecraft—“the one exception was Beth Moses, a Virgin Galactic executive who flew aboard the company’s SpaceShipTwo craft in 2019,” writes New Scientist.
The main criteria seems to be that the astronauts must be designated as crew members performing some task aboard their flights, not simply passengers. Keeping that in mind, when it comes to Richard Branson’s 11 July flight, Virgin Galactic designated him and the other three passengers on the flight as crew members testing the spacecraft, but it’s not clear whether they “contributed to human space flight safety” in general.
Things are clearer in the case of the 20 July Blue Origin flight: the spacecraft was entirely controlled from the ground, not by Jeff Bezos or any of the other three passengers, so all they had to do was enjoy the ride. “This is an autonomous vehicle. There’s really nothing for a crew member to go do,” Blue Origin Chief Executive Bob Smith said at a media briefing before the launch. That means that they don’t qualify for astronaut wings under the FAA’s new rules. Sorry, Bezos.
However, the new order also notes that individuals who demonstrate “extraordinary contribution or beneficial service to the commercial human space flight industry” merit special recognition. “These individuals receiving an honorary award may not be required to satisfy all eligibility requirements,” FAA noted in the revised rules.
This means that Wally Funk, a passenger on the Blue Origin flight, who trained to be a NASA astronaut in the 1960s but did not get to go to space then, may still get her astronaut wings.