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It’s not just workers who are upset. Here are Attorneys-general from 14 states speaking out. Here’s the New York State Attorney-general with more detailed complaints. Here’s Amazon losing in French courts, twice.
It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential.
Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.
Amazon is exceptionally well-managed and has demonstrated great skill at spotting opportunities and building repeatable processes for exploiting them.
It has a corresponding lack of vision about the human costs of the relentless growth and accumulation of wealth and power.
If we don’t like certain things Amazon is doing, we need to put legal guardrails in place to stop those things.
We don’t need to invent anything new; a combination of antitrust and living-wage and worker-empowerment legislation, rigorously enforced, offers a clear path forward.
Don’t say it can’t be done, because France is doing it.
Poison · Firing whistleblowers isn’t just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets. It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison. ¶
What about AWS? · Amazon Web Services (the “Cloud Computing” arm of the company), where I worked, is a different story. It treats its workers humanely, strives for work/life balance, struggles to move the diversity needle (and mostly fails, but so does everyone else), and is by and large an ethical organization. I genuinely admire its leadership. ¶
Of course, its workers have power. The average pay is very high, and anyone who’s unhappy can walk across the street and get another job paying the same or better.
Spot a pattern? · At the end of the day, it’s all about power balances. The warehouse workers are weak and getting weaker, what with mass unemployment and (in the US) job-linked health insurance. So they’re gonna get treated like crap, because capitalism. Any plausible solution has to start with increasing their collective strength. ¶
What’s next? · For me? I don’t know, genuinely haven’t taken time to think about it. I’m sad, but I’m breathing more freely. ¶