Published at 22:32 on 19 August 2015
In case you’ve been living under a rock the past week, it’s here. Basically, it’s nothing I don’t already know.
I actually applied for a few Amazon jobs once, and got phone-screened. It was clear from the phone screen it was basically the sort of place described in the article, and that was the end of my interest in working there.
Moreover, I live in Seattle and work in the high-tech field (when not between jobs, as presently). As such, I’ve had the chance to meet many ex-Amazon employees. They’ve all described it as basically the sort of place the NYT described.
There’s been some talk that like it or not, this makes Amazon the workplace of the future. Maybe. First, nothing is set in stone. Many people hate workplaces like that. It’s therefore likely that persisting in treating people that way will produce some sort of blowback.
Maybe it will be legal, via the political system (stricter overtime and leave laws). Maybe it will be via private actors legally exerting their pressure (e.g. worker choosing to organize a union). Maybe it will involve illegal but nonviolent actions, like sick-outs, blockades, or sabotage. Maybe it will be both violent and illegal (a workplace shooting or three). Maybe one or more of the above.
Second, the more it happens, and the more unstoppable it at first appears, the more it will radicalize people, because the more it will prove the old claim that capitalism cannot be reformed and naturally wants to revert to its sweatshop ways. I.e., the longer the blowback takes to appear, and the more frustrated it initially is, the more likely it is to become vigorous and militant.
Requiring people to give up their lives for a company that doesn’t much care about them and is set on mercilessly weeding them out is fundamentally inhuman and degrades the worth of the individual. It is at variance with centuries of post-Enlightenment progress in the other direction, towards greater valuation of individual worth.
Amazon should, in other words, expect resistance.