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View Diary: No one wants to drive out to Walmart stores anymore (325 comments)

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  •  Story in Salon lays it bare... (18+ / 0-)

    Salon link here.

    Short excerpt:

    Amazon’s system of employee monitoring is the most oppressive I have ever come across and combines state-of-the-art surveillance technology with the system of “functional foreman,” introduced by Taylor in the workshops of the Pennsylvania machine-tool industry in the 1890s. In a fine piece of investigative reporting for the London Financial Times, economics correspondent Sarah O’Connor describes how, at Amazon’s center at Rugeley, England, Amazon tags its employees with personal sat-nav (satellite navigation) computers that tell them the route they must travel to shelve consignments of goods, but also set target times for their warehouse journeys and then measure whether targets are met.

    All this information is available to management in real time, and if an employee is behind schedule she will receive a text message pointing this out and telling her to reach her targets or suffer the consequences. At Amazon’s depot in Allentown, Pennsylvania (of which more later), Kate Salasky worked shifts of up to eleven hours a day, mostly spent walking the length and breadth of the warehouse. In March 2011 she received a warning message from her manager, saying that she had been found unproductive during several minutes of her shift, and she was eventually fired. This employee tagging is now in operation at Amazon centers worldwide.

    •  I don't shop Amazon.com (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      EJP in Maine, merrylib

      They are just as bad as Wal Mart and their whining about having to collect and remit online sales tax pissed me off.

      •  I agree. I'm in WA State, Amazon's headquarters. (0+ / 0-)

        We've heard all the negatives about Amazon.  

        I check reviews of items I may want to buy from other retail stores or online direct from the vendor.  I've purchased two things from them over the years.

        However, my relatives love to get Amazon gift cards!

    •  Certainly... (0+ / 0-)

      ...employes should be expected to do their job and it's hard to figure out how to determine how well employees are doing that without some form of monitoring - formal or informal. Objective monitoring and evaluation for jobs such as this which require no creativity, insight, or special training or education are generally going to be superior to subjective views of supervisors who have biases and "bad days" and personality clashes unrelated to the job at hand. The described job is one of moving the correct product from point A to point B efficiently as directed by plans generated by a computer - either you do that, or you don't.

      Amazon certainly eventually wants to replace most of these jobs with automation - just as most minimum or low wage jobs at fixed locations will be replaced over time with automation in all industries surprisingly (to some) soon - decades, not centuries.

      Really, it's ludicrous in 2014 to have humans running around a big warehouse picking most items that Amazon handles. About the only humans in the main warehousing area should be mechanics fixing/removing broken robots that the "retrieval robot" couldn't retrieve for some reason.

      However, as long as humans are cheaper than "robots" and computers, the absurdity will continue. Automation is only getting cheaper and more efficient/flexible so that curve is inescapable. The other curve that matters a lot is total cost of labor - if that goes up (more benefits, wages, etc), the two curves will intersect sooner than otherwise.

      •  Read the link. Surveillance is tip of the iceberg. (3+ / 0-)

        nt

        •  I do agree... (0+ / 0-)

          ...that Amazon is a horrible place to work (by the way, it's horrible for many higher skill professionals to work as well -- it's not just warehouse workers).

          I believe some of the things in the article (previously reported elsewhere as well) are inappropriate.

          For example, employees should clock in BEFORE standing in line for security screening after a break and AFTER security screening is complete at the start of a break. Time spent standing in line waiting for screening is company not personal time.

          As well, the temperatures in warehouses should not be allowed to rise to the point where healthy people are collapsing and obviously Amazon has overstepped here. However, it is likely reasonable for Amazon to only hire people who are able to tolerate somewhat elevated heat levels if the cost of conditioning the space is high.

          I can't judge the "ill fitting boots" problem in the UK as I don't understand why Amazon is buying their employees boots and recognize that any new shoe, used extensively, is going to initially create some pressure points and some unhappy wearers.

          On the other hand...

          I've got no problem with quotas, and when discovering a better way to work, expecting workers to follow those better ways and increasing quotas. If they are pushing all workers beyond their capabilities Amazon will spend more money hiring/training equally unproductive workers to replace the ones they fired. Amazon is not stupid -- they would not waste money with the firing/hiring/training cycle if there were not people able to do the work.

          Consider if one was running a ditch digging service in the old days (before such unskilled jobs were mostly replaced by just a few skilled workers operating capital intensive machines - trackhoes, backhoes etc). If the top 1/3 of your workers could excavate X cubic feet of dirt a day and the bottom 1/3 could only excavate X/2 cubic feet of dirt a day, wouldn't you try to get the slower workers to increase their productivity and, if they couldn't, replace them with a new crop of ditch diggers of which you would expect 1/3 to do much better, 1/3 to do a little better, and 1/3 to do about the same as the workers they replaced (of course, the last group would, if unable to adapt, be replaced). Yes, obviously, older/weaker workers are likely to be replaced -- but that's true of NFL linebackers also and I rarely hear complaints about that. It's a physical job, some people are more physically capable than others -- just as success as a structural engineer benefits from intellectual strengths and I don't hear many complaints that we should have buildings designed by structural engineers who are not competent (in fact, at least in some areas, the government insures this won't happen by licensing structural engineers and requires that they sign off on plans - the government does the dirty work in that case by excluding the less competent).

          I've also got no problem with "no talking on the line" (assuming, of course, that work talk is not required to do one's job). That's for breaks, lunch, before/after work.

          Obviously, Amazon is mostly using workers in the warehouses as robots. They will continue to replace the humans with automation over time and the workers won't have to tolerate the conditions they don't like (unfortunately, some will almost certainly become chronically unemployed). There's a reason that Amazon bought Kiva Systems a couple of years ago and that Foxconn is reportedly working with Google on industrial robotics and is expected to build hundreds of thousands of robots to replace workers on their assembly lines in the near future.

          •  Spoken like a true friend of the people! (0+ / 0-)

            You must have mad progressive credentials, to speak in such glowing terms of the ability of companies to treat employees like robots, and approve so highly of replacing basic laborers with automation when their bodies are too decrepit to function any longer.

            We should totally push to have these views added to the Democratic platform. I'm sure workers everywhere will be thankful.

    •  The NSAification (0+ / 0-)

      of America's serfs and serfs everywhere. I am a nurse and it is being done to us.

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