You set up 15 Twitter accounts claiming to be employees of your warehouses. You make sure the accounts are laughably bad at concealing the fact that they are shills, with cookie-cutter bios and responses that are obviously canned talking points. This ensures that the accounts are discovered and written up by various publications, and the articles widely shared.
The articles, while laughing at how transparently phony the accounts are, inevitably mention that you are now offering tours of your warehouses (which makes you sound trustworthy since you're not hiding anything), and embed the Tweets that say you pay more than other companies in your industry and offer medical benefits. (Since this information is falsifiable (capable of being proven false, but not necessarily false) it's credible even though it's coming from a shill account.)
You've probably not made anyone's opinion of you worse (you look more stupid than malevolent), but you've gotten your message in front of eyeballs and it might make some people think better of you.
One thing that makes propaganda like this so effective is that journalists generally do not bother to verify any propaganda claims (eg. does Amazon really pay 30% more?), so even if they write articles making fun of you they still repeat your message.
What I got out of it was that Amazon had previously been dehumanizing their workers to the point that the PR drones have to now overtly brag about complying with OSHA laws.
Does Amazon actually pay ~30% better now than their competitors (or anything close to that)? Do they offer dental, vision and healthcare coverage for all employees?
If those things are true, then I think better of Amazon because of it. I would have guessed none of those things were true otherwise. The media and essentially all comments online proclaim that Amazon employees are being tortured horrifically on a daily basis and paid absolute bottom tier wages across the board. Those articles and opinions have, to one degree or another, tilted my opinion of Amazon in a negative manner.
Can anyone here speak to if those positive things are true and or mostly true? I have no idea. I'd think better of Amazon if they were.
I will say that from what I've seen my station managers take safety very seriously. Some of this must extend up the corporate ladder because I had a friend who was injured on the job here and Amazon did a very good job of making sure he got the care he required. He actually wanted to come back to work much earlier than Amazon would allow, he missed his coworkers, but they wanted to make sure he was completely healed and made it clear that he shouldn't rush things. He was being paid worker's comp during this time. This certainly made a good impression on me.
I also really appreciated how straight forward the hiring process was. I was unemployed and homeless, I actually lived on an empty lot behind our warehouse for a while, when I was hired and out of all the jobs I applied to Amazon had the most streamlined hiring process. This might not seem like a huge deal but when you're already struggling it was nice to not have too many hoops to jump through to try and land a job.
Obviously due to my background I'm probably viewing my work overly positively, it feels pretty great to finally have a little bit of savings, I've saved up around $1500 over the past year and this is the most money I've had in my entire life, but overall I've enjoyed my time at Amazon. But again, from the reporting I've seen there are still some pretty glaring systemic problems within the company.
Edit: I saw a poster comment under this post asserting that I was being paid to post here in defense of Amazon, the post has since been deleted after receiving some downvotes, for the record I did not downvote the poster, but I will address their concerns. I can certainly understand why my post might raise suspicions. To give some background I have another account on HN that I've been active on for approximately three years and have a bit over 2000 karma. I post a few times a month, and by post I mean I usually just ask tons of questions about topics I have a limited understanding of and the kind people here try their best to explain things to me. I wanted to keep this account separate form that one since I don't post anything Amazon related using my normal account. I hope I don't sound like too much of a shill but I'm somewhat excited to finally be able to contribute to a topic I have some understanding of.
Just to be clear here: this is required by law, not something that the company is doing out of the goodness of its heart. It's also a fraction of what one's normal wages would be, which I would say is a more likely explanation for the injured person's eagerness to return than that "he missed his coworkers".
> they wanted to make sure he was completely healed and made it clear that he shouldn't rush things
I won't fault them for this, as I don't have details like what/how serious the injury was. But often a better alternative to no work at all is to temporarily reassign the person to another role where their injury is not an issue (desk job of some kind, generally). This way the employee continues to get full or near-full wages.
EDIT: Also, forgot to point out that work restrictions are defined by a doctor who treated the injured person, not by the employer. They can get in serious trouble for forcing someone to work in excess of those restrictions. So again, not really a sign of benevolence.
While I didn't mention it in my post my coworker was reassigned to less labor intensive duties once he returned to work. And from my understanding the doctor who treated him ok'd him to return to his normal duties but our direct manager had no problem with him taking longer in this less physical role.
I'm just adding this detail to paint a better picture but I think you've done a good job illustrating that this is the minimum that Amazon in required to do and they shouldn't be praised for doing what the law requires. I'm certainly not here to try and do PR for Amazon, just sharing my personal experiences.
I must admit the first thing I did was look at your comment history as your post sounded suspicious. If it was mixed in with other posts I'd have been inclined to take it more seriously than I can now.
On Amazon worker treatment generally it's hard to tell whether it is propaganda or maltreatment. Jeff Bezos is obviously a powerful man with a lot of people under him and that attracts all sorts of interest/enemies. It is also not unusual for companies to treat workers poorly - but my instinct is skeptical of media because it's difficult not to notice some Californians are notorious for drama development. I've done a lot of not-by-the-book stuff on building sites - we just didn't keep records and convert them into issues because we used common sense to be safe and it's good work but we could have easily made it sound dire and hit our employer with all sorts of costs that ultimately would have made us less valuable.
If Amazon warehouses were that bad, people wouldn't work there. I'm sure people get hurt, it's physical work. It's not a job you're going to enjoy if, like most adults, you are overweight and out of shape.
Not just in California but media today dramatize everything to get readers. The goal of almost any news story is to "go viral" to get clicks/views.
I don't know how the conditions at Amazon warehouses truly are, but this statement doesn't sound correct to me. I can think of countless examples of workers that accept from sub-optimal conditions to outright modern slavery simply because they can't find an exit to the system of cheap labor exploitation.
Maybe this can be scoped down to some developed countries or some cities in developed countries, but certainly doesn't hold true for most developing countries and certainly not for past history in basically anywhere.
I still don't understand. If you have no idea whether the things they claim are true, why has your opinion of Amazon's treatment of workers improved?
Is it that you don't think Amazon would be having their employees claim things that are misleading? We already have myriad claims of Amazon pressuring workers not to use the bathroom outside of breaks. And the same article mentions that the workers have to sign NDAs.
It works especially well for information that does not affect you personally, because you're less likely to go through the extra effort to verify whether something is true.
If your boss tells you that your salary is $100k/year, you're going to check that on your paycheck!
If your boss tells you that garbage collectors make $100k a year, you might not believe it, but you might also not bother to put in the effort to check. But if you remember it later on, the very act of bringing it out of your memory will reinforce it to you.
And if you don't go specifically check on the accuracy, you're also more likely to rely on social signals like, who is telling me this? Is this a person who I identify with? Does it seem like a person or an institution I should trust?
In this case, you are reading a news article from TechCrunch, a well-known, successful, and long-running news site. Any information you read there comes wrapped in however much trust you associate with TechCrunch. So if a claim is passed on in an article, it comes with some level of default trust.
And even if you don't like TechCrunch, the default level of trust is affected just by the act of reading the article. By default we tend to trust ourselves, so when we do something (like read an article), the default trust is pushed above zero, just because we're the one who read it! This effect is why most people think they are above average drivers, for example.
So: reading an article about an ad campaign, that contains the ad and its claims, can affect how you feel about the advertised product... even though you know it's an article about an ad campaign!
In marketing this is called "earned media" and it is valuable because it hijacks your trust for the media source to support the ad claim. A spectacular example was the "Swift Boat Truth" ad against John Kerry, which barely ran on late night TV, but was widely covered by the news media. It had a huge impact on Kerry's campaign for president.
I wish I had a debating technique named after me.
I've not looked into it since high school, so I sometimes wonder if I misjudged, but links like that wikipedia one make me think I correctly avoided it.
It's really fastinating to see all of these strategies played out in the real world.
I use these strategies to identify what they are doing and cut through the sophistry and attempt to reach the truth.
The nice thing about online debating is that you have time to think about and analyze the others argument vs on the spot debate where emotions get involved.
Note that, as you say, the information may be completely fabricated (or it may be "technically true", but attached to a lot of catches and conditions that the "ambassadors" conveniently didn't mention)
Also, while the article didn't research the claims, it did put them next to the (vastly better verified) claims of the ex-workers who reported absolutely undesirable working conditions. Even if they beat the pay for industry average, would that matter so much if they in turn offer vastly below-average working conditions?
I’m a manager in a Scandinavian municipality, and because I work with lean and efficiency I get to see all sides of our operation. I’ve seen departments run so badly that employees were crying every day, and it took HR a year to fix it. I’ve seen departments where sleeping with the boss was the main road to a pay-raise. Hell one of our senior managers who sleeps with employees at the Christmas party, still works for us because nobody wants to step up in public. Some departments have 30% sickleave while others have 2%.
That doesn’t mean the overall working conditions are bad at the municipality. In fact we score 9/10 in employment satisfaction. This in itself is a bit of a problem though, because it’s higher than it should be, but that’s another story.
when you employ hundreds of thousands, you’re bound to have some really bad stories among them. Amazon may be all bad, and I could easily have missed the story that actually did the research, but I simply haven’t seen one.
And if they don't mind abusing their highly paid, highly skilled knowledge workers, I would be amazed if they gave a single fuck about their unskilled laborers.
None of them love working at Amazon, and only a few like it there, but most are pretty miserable.
I think the stock performance is keeping most of them there with how Amazon’s vesting schedule tends to be heavily backloaded. One guy did comment that he loves the scale of the things he’s working on, which I guess I get, but he always complains about the overall culture.
One of our UK folks moved to the Seattle office, and noticed a serious difference in culture: much more pressure, more expectation that you would work any number of extra hours to get things done by the deadline, much higher rates of burnout and turnover.
For what it's worth, in eight years I never saw anybody cry at their desk.
If Jeff Bezos cries at his desk, into his apparently meaningless kabillions of dollars, because he just CAN'T quite keep up with what he expects of himself, that would be the final piece of the puzzle. I would suggest that's not impossible: it'd fit the pattern.
At that point the question you ask isn't 'is this fair or are the people getting exploited'. Instead you ask 'are all these people crazy? Do we need to have some kind of intervention?'
The key point here is that you can't assume the situation is designed to abuse lowly workers and coddle management. I think a key innovation at Amazon is, everyone cries at work and/or dies in harness, no exceptions.
It's fair to talk about whether that's acceptable. From all the horror stories, and from my understanding of business, they manage to extend the abuse as high up as possible, and it might go a lot higher than you think. The goal is to make a company full of desperate, last-ditch warriors that try to destroy all competition to their last dying frothing breaths: again, no exceptions.
Should all society work like this? I think that's debatable, but allow an Amazon to do it and they'll steadily kill everything else, and that's the intention.
The Amazon stories are pretty consistent in their awfulness. The people doing more clerical/support stuff seem to have a better time than especially engineers. People usually bail in less than a year, even those who are indentured for moving expenses. There was an especially sad case where a new Amazon employee moved in next door after relocating his family from another part of the country - initially enthused, but it all went to hell and they fled.
Microsoft is much more a hodgepodge. Certainly from the top down it's become so much better post-Ballmer. Actual experiences depend on your group even more so than Amazon, but at least the top is pretty benevolent. I know creative people who truly love their Microsoft lives (and I'm envious), but I've had the occasional interviews with them, all dysfunctional in unpleasant ways (e.g. having someone blow cigarette smoke in your face while making a personally dismissive statement). I keep trying because they are in fact a decent employer in the greater scheme of things.
Edit: in fact, it’s available here on YouTube: https://youtu.be/UQATFbLvIHk
Panorama isn't a "reality-based" programme. It's an undercover investigative programme.
The problem with "reality-based" programming is that some scenes are completely falsified or exaggerated (with the knowing assistance of the show 'participants'). Most of them even have to put a disclaimer at the end of the show saying as much.
Notwithstanding that every produced show is going to have some slant to a point, to classify the linked video as "reality-based" is completely and utterly disingenuous.
Besides, this has made it to the press more than once, so it's not like even the most disconnected senior management team wouldn't know about it. It's known, it's been known for years, and since nothing appears to have happened for years, it's a pretty safe bet that this is just how the company is ran. That's the kind of rot that spreads easily.
Sure, see https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-... for one example.
That's not another story at all, it completely undermines your point. "We can't be doing so bad because we score well on this metric (oh BTW this metric is obviously being gamed somehow)" does not convince me that you're actually doing okay at all.
Amazon's a storefront. They have to serve two masters, one of which is the customer. The other is their reputation among capitalists and rivals.
On the one hand they must promise to deliver better prices and choices than other storefronts, all while assuring customers that they have happy workers and aren't doing anything horrifying.
On the other, they must continue to convince Wall Street and possible rivals that they're the most brutal tyrants on the block and will inevitably kill and devour ALL competitors, all the more because they don't pay dividends and earn people money based on their expansion alone.
Amazon's designed to use psychology to get all employees working like Spartans. If you see this behavior in a sports team, or in open source, typically you go 'hey, cool' and approve of the fierce eagerness to strive. It's part of the human experience and can be used in many ways.
If it's used to condition warehouse workers to accept a situation where they're compensated, but driven to efficiencies that kill a percentage of them, that raises the question of what's the responsibility of those managers. To run a group of humans at those levels of output requires coddling them to some extent, and 'giving them the choice' to walk away (but if you're compensating them even a little better than usual they'll get used to it and resist walking away, even at their own peril: especially if they're thinking Spartan)
This desire to perform and be part of a team isn't something imposed on humans by evil corporations. It's a natural human tendency, which is why Amazon's strategies work. What Amazon does is exploit that as hard as they're allowed to do.
Offering the chance to shill for part of your shift, and offering this only to an elite who're able to do it effectively, is a really clever social exploit. Will it continue to be allowed? Maybe. It's very much the kind of thing that's bending 'the rules' for their benefit, and to do it properly you kind of have to be Amazon. Remember that the whole purpose of the exercise is to further crush any competitors, including those who might have marginally better labor practices… or buy and destroy anything that might have better labor practices, for instance Whole Foods.
It's fair to argue that turning employment into a monoculture in which everything out there works this way (thus foul and no fouler, we hope) is a bad thing to do.
That strategy or similar has been going on for a long time, Amazon isn't doing something unseen before and they are probably just copying it from what they've seen. I've seen a local utility run an ad featuring claimed employees talking about their employer/company in a positive on television.
I've also seen similar ads from an oil industry company, and others.
> Look, we want you to express yourself, okay? Now if you feel that the bare minimum is enough, then okay. But some people choose to wear more and we encourage that, okay? You do want to express yourself, don't you?
-- Office Space, 1999
I can almost feel the soul leeching sensation behind the forced cheerfulness. Though that could be a bit of projection if these are PR people pretending to be workers instead of workers acting as PR people.
But it's still disturbing in a more direct way than news reports about workers peeing in bottles to help shave time to hit performance targets.
/apropos of nothing
Also, in case there is confusion with the term "ambassador", from my understanding this is mostly an internal title for associates who lead some training sessions for new hires. It doesn't come with any pay or benefit increases, it's just a nice thing to do if you like training new hires and want an occasional break from your normal duties. These aren't really meant to be outward facing brand ambassadors, at least that's been my understanding.
Disclosure: I work at an Amazon warehouse.
> People get bathroom breaks, but those count against your rate, and people do sometimes get written up for taking them, although that's as much a matter of Amazon encouraging ruthlessness in management as anything. I know of one anecdotal story of a worker who was apparently written up for the time it took them to clean up after their own nosebleed.
Does this ring true to you?
There are two main reasons why it's possible that I've never run across such cases, the most logical one being that I've worked primarily in a Delivery Station and not a Fulfillment Center. From what I've experienced the Delivery Stations are, for lack of a better term, not run as "efficiently" as the FC's, so the metrics that are used to track employee performance aren't quite as well quantified. There is still obviously a lot of performance tracking with regards to rates, but due to the less efficient and structured layout of the DS, there seems to be a bit more leeway given.
Also, I think I've been extremely fortunate with the management that I work under and they seem to take worker safety and the overall work environment very seriously. I can't imagine any managers at my station writing anyone up for taking bathroom breaks, and definitely not for handling a bloody nose. Again, just to be clear, I'm not at all refuting the accuracy of those reports, issues like that have definitely occurred in Amazon warehouses, but the environment at my warehouse seems to be significantly more worker friendly. I think this is probably due to our station managers' oversight.
Also, I've only been working at Amazon for slightly over one year, so it's possible that they have been making genuine progress on these issues.
Some workers do wind up camping in their cars and peeing in bottles to make rate, most don't. What people wind up complaining about tend to be exceptions rather than the rule, but those exceptions do exist.
Progress is a loaded word. If you said that Amazon has been doing serious optimization on that stuff, I'd call that more accurate. Bear in mind that part of the pressure is 'don't get PR-worthy nosebleeds or have to pee all the time'; in no way is this an effort to make workers comfortable or complacent.
It's just that having people fall over dead, or getting punished for nosebleeds, or pissing in bottles to make quota, are such bad PR that they have to be optimized away. You can't go THAT hard. There's a limit to how hard you can push before it starts to look bad, so you end up having to be just as grimly competitive about the details of work environment.
Anyone thinking Amazon is trying to maximize worker suffering is a fool: there's a point where it becomes a liability, and they will optimize until it's just on the safe side of 'horror story'.
What exactly is the policy on bathroom breaks?
The policy at our station is that if you need to go to the bathroom when not on break or lunch, you need to tell either a line lead, shift assistant, or the people working next to you so that they can cover your post while you're gone so things don't get backed up or packages don't end up spilling on the ground. That's pretty much it. I've worked the night shift before and drink large amounts of water so I could rarely make it through a shift without using the bathroom one or two times in addition to the times I went while on break and lunch. It was never a problem, we would just cover for each other.
Most functions in FCs are "direct": they have rate expectations that are automatically tracked. Every minute you're in a direct function counts toward your rate. You can go to the bathroom whenever you need to, but it'll lower your rate. (Some functions are "indirect", meaning that they don't involve use of any digital tools and so can't be tracked.)
"Time off task" is also automatically tracked. If you go some amount of time without scanning anything -- I think it's five minutes -- that'll show up on your time. Managers know that people have to go to the bathroom and usually won't make a big deal out of it, but if you take an unusually long time in the bathroom you might get written up. TOT writeups are supposed to be automatic but I think managers have some discretion.
I think I was written up for a bathroom break before -- I'm not sure, since my FC isn't very good at delivering feedback -- but I was in there for half an hour, so it was sort of understandable.
There haven't been issues with bathroom breaks where I am, but there's only one floor. The site in the story with associates peeing in bottles apparently had multiple floors, with bathrooms only on the bottom floor. It'd be difficult to take a bathroom break while maintaining the expected rate and low TOT at sites like that.
I think rate expectations are consistent across the network, meaning that managers, or even site leads, can't adjust them to account for things like distance to the bathroom.
In short: you won't get written up for taking a bathroom break, and you can just go to the bathroom when you need to, but you might get written up for low rates or high time off task, and you might end up with low rates or high time off task for going to the bathroom if it's far away or you take a long time.
If you have to go down four stories to get to the bathroom, on the other hand, it'd be pretty hard to maintain the rate, and if you don't maintain the rate you'll probably get written up for that.
I suppose the reason I was so invested was the idea that if I had that job on my resume, I could get a job anywhere. Doesn't seem like a good reason to do something.
Grand Tour is my weak point though...
Blink twice if you need help
It's a different kind of demanding, more like being a commercial writer, probably more open to people who are damn good commercial writers and happen to be working as a picker in an Amazon warehouse. It'd be like getting paid as a picker but being paid to have breaks and worker rights.
I don't think it's illegal to do this, but it is as manipulative as it's possible to be. Therefore that's probably just what's happening there: if you can write and shill effectively on Twitter there's a chance that you get to do that and pretend to yourself that it's a break or rest period.
They probably wouldn't let you sit down, unless you were shilling on your lunch break. Amazon has a policy against their warehouse workers sitting down while on the job, not even HR is allowed to sit when they're staffing the front.
You can squat though, and I've tried to get around it by sitting seiza.
I am surprised there's no workplace shootings in Amazon warehouses a la USPS.
Is it real and does it work? Undoubtedly, there are people who believe it works and invest a lot of resources in it, from businesses to political movements to governments (Russia and China, for example). We can see that disinformation can be effectively spread, and it seems hatred and other things as well. Arguably, we can see it to a degree in Facebook's and Google's (and others') valuations. We discuss it, from a different perspective, on HN regularly. But what are the technical details of this new tool: In what situations does it work and in what does it not? How powerful is it? How much does it cost? How does it work on a detailed level? What are the key components of this machine? Is anyone talking - we know it's done widely, so it seems that information about this technology should be available. (I'm not asking for speculation - we have heard plenty of that - I'm looking for actual technical knowledge.)
Another way of looking at it: Perhaps it's analogous to the Creel Commission - innovations in manipulation via a new communication technology.
For example, how did Amazon and others turn around Seattle's new tax so quickly and effectively? IIRC, it was widely supported and then public opinion reversed itself in a matter of months.
1. Care about tweeting about their company.
2. Talk like that.
However, I think this could be real if:
1. Amazon has some incentive program that basically allows workers to take on a "marketing assignment" for some sort of bonus. If so, how is this different than contriving good reviews about your restaurant on Yelp?
2. Amazon has developed or is paying for third party software that lets their PR people quickly manage and create activity on multiple Twitter accounts from a central interface.
I feel the same way. I know a lot of warehouse associates are active on some of the Amazon Instagram pages, but that's mostly just silly pictures and activities. I don't think anyone would post such detailed responses on their own when they aren't being paid.
I haven't heard of any such program, but if it existed, I guarantee Amazon wouldn't offer a bonus for it.
(IME, most FC associates never check their Amazon email accounts, so they wouldn't see that.)
And I'm fairly certain most associates at my station aren't even aware they have an @amazon email address so they definitely aren't checking it. Nice to see another L1 around here.
I feel like this would be infinitely cheaper, more quantifiable and easier to set concrete milestones/targets for their campaigns than telling employees to tweet on Amazon's behalf and hoping for the best.
All it takes is for one of these ambassadors to get fired/quit and their pro-Amazon platform becomes an anti-Amazon soapbox.
All the people centric PR that companies dish out is simply another strategy to make more money without employee revolt.
Having said this, it's not completely company's fault. The financial system judges companies solely on their profits and future outlook, not employee happiness and well being.
Just the bio alone seems to give it away:
Maybe only this one is satire? Hard to tell which level of galaxy brain this is.
I don't understand all of this press. If you don't like your job working at Amazon, quit. If the conditions are terrible, release proof to the public, so other people don't even start working there.
Wash, rinse, repeat, and Amazon will either change the supposed working conditions or hopefully fail.
Why do we need so much press on both sides for such a non-issue?
The python of capitalism has cinched itself around their neck.
This is like 50% of America too believe it or not.
However (and I’m bracing for impact here), I don’t quite understand why everyone hates on Amazon that much for this. They don’t force anyone to work there. Indeed my brother found a new job after two years. It’s a bit like getting mad at San Francisco landlords for charging so much: you can get mad at them, but it’s really our fault for agreeing to pay. Or people getting mad at how much athletes get paid. They get paid a lot because we agree we pay to watch them. Amazon have shit working conditions because people agree to work there for what they pay. All of these things are literally just trades. If we don’t like it, don’t trade with them.
There's the added irony of Mr. Bezos publicly the richest man in the world having his workers hold their pee.
Amazon will not care about its least protected workers until Amazon feels the backlash in lowered sales.
If your locality has Amazon warehouse as the largest employer your options are quite limited.
It is similar to having a coal mine in 19th century(or recycling center in 21st century China) being the largest employer. Nice to have a job at first, but black lung is not so nice after a while.
The conditions do not have to be that bad, Costco has proven that.
Other FAANGs get less flack in this regard because they outsource all the menial/routine jobs(Facebook and Google outsource a lot of horrible MTurk like jobs) and they do not need as many of them.
PS I had 2 friends who worked at the Amazon UK Warehouse a few years back. They only lasted 6 months before the repetitive injuries took their toll. And it was pretty much impossible to have a day off.
As the only employer, right? (Of the kind that doesn't ask for much different qualifications ofc.) Not largest. And in practice I'm skeptical of how often this is the really case. My brother isn't particularly specifically qualified in any trade but even he had options once he started working. And even then in this hypothetical town where Amazon is the only employer, you could say well, of all the rich companies at least Amazon is giving jobs to people. What's everyone else doing? Aren't they more morally culpable? Does any company even owe anyone a job anyways? It seems to me that the government should do more to help these people have more of a fighting chance of bargaining in the world by training them in schools, etc.
> Other FAANGs get less flack in this regard because they outsource all the menial/routine jobs(Facebook and Google outsource a lot of horrible MTurk like jobs)
> Amazon will not care about its least protected workers until Amazon feels the backlash in lowered sales.
The labor we're talking about is literally moving boxes. How much should a box mover get paid? The US GDP per capita is currently around $53k. Our box movers get about $13/hour which is $26k in wages alone. Imagine we went to some sort of dystopic economy where we took every single penny anybody made producing anything in this country and split it up according to what some person or group felt was 'fair'. How much should a box mover get? That they already get a 50% share is phenomenal in my opinion.
The mine analogy fails to consider that we're inching ever closer to a 0% unemployment rate. We're currently in a labor market, which is probably a big part of the reason why you can get $13/hour for moving boxes. And moving boxes isn't going to hurt you. Give me two people - one that moves boxes 8 hours a day and one that sits in a chair staring at a screen for 8 hours a day, and I'd give you big odds that 20 years out that box mover is going to be in far better shape, all other things being equal. Those first months and maybe even years though are going to be tough, especially for people with soft bodies.
The thing is, there is the value of a job to the employer, and the value of employment to the employee.
I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a full time employee, at the very least, to be paid a living wage. Someone willing to commit that much of their life to a company should be compensated enough to allow them to house and feed themselves. Even if they're just "moving boxes."
That's why I bring up the GDP and what it actually means. GDP is literally the market rate of every single good and service produced in this nation. And that only equals out to $50k per person. Our wealth really is in complete spite of our economy -- that's without even getting into the fact that the GDP is currently at record levels.
Various areas have tried now increasing the minimum wage to a level approaching $15 with results that have been, at best, 'mixed'. The point is that you cannot simply ignore economic realities when trying to create a better life for people. This is specifically why social economic systems have been tried numerous times, yet they seem to invariably result in literal starvation. They're well intentioned, but out of touch with reality - and the consequences for putting homily above reality tend to be a brief period of feel good, followed by devastation.
Wages are not objectively determined on the basis of worker productivity. If that were the case, wages would rise with productivity, but they tend not to. Wages are a cost that employers want to keep as low as possible in all cases - indeed, lower in cases of higher productivity, for a greater return on investment.
A stower at Amazon can make their monthly salary for the company in minutes by stowing a couple of XBoxes, yet they'll make the same 12.00/hr over a ten hour shift regardless. The value that an employee brings to a company is always less than their compensation. Never more, and certainly never equal.
I'm not certain the actual workforce bears out the premise that a minimum wage definitely prices workers out, since if it did, one would expect none of those jobs to be filled, since no employer should want to pay a minimum wage to fill them.
As for minimum wage, businesses aren't identical -- even when they are. For instance a McDonald's franchise in one area of a mostly homogenous part of town can end up having a substantially different overall performance than one in a different area in our mostly homogenous town. There's a large number of variables that can be difficult to account for. And of course reality is different businesses operating in different areas in heterogeneous towns. So you don't eliminate all jobs of a given wage level - you just reduce the demand for them by removing all companies that can't afford to pay those wages.
Expectation of no isolated incidents is equivalent to expectation of never hiring bad apples -- and that's just impossible. It's impossible even at much smaller companies. The only difference is when Amazon screws up, it makes front page international news, and when e.g. you or I screw up, the response is much more isolated.
I wouldn't. To explain why, why do you think it is that most of all politicians give non-answers or the most banal safe, focus tested, and inane answers to everything? I mean we elect these people. Do we like that behavior? Well ostensibly no, but consider how we react when a politician does or says anything that might outrage any possible group or segment of society. It spreads like wildfire and we collectively freak out and ensure they're replaced in rapid order by somebody better. Who's that "better" politician? The one who doesn't tell you anything. So while we complain to no end about having lying, duplicitous politicians who never give a straight answer - we ensure that they're the only people that can make it in to office.
Back to Amazon. You admit some weakness and acknowledge a problem and assure people you're going to try to focus on doing better. Are people going to positively receive this message, appreciate your forthrightness, and look forward to future developments. Or are they going to focus on the fact that you just acknowledged a very major issue and utilize that to try to generate even more outrage? And should something, completely outside of Amazon's control, some freak incident occur again - will society understand that they can't stop every single thing? Or will people instead use that as "proof" that Amazon was lying all along and use it generate even greater outrage. You see, since one bad happened - they must have been lying all along...
And on top of this all, we have no attention span. Remember Equifax? Of course you do, but they've probably already started to slip from your mind and become just another blur in the history of things we were fumingly angry at for a week or two, before something else caught our attention. Amazon acknowledging the issue not only stands to turn against them, but makes even less sense given that the issue will disappear from the public mind imminently - especially with elections just around the corner. Our online behavior is shaping the optimal way for companies to treat us. And I think that we're doing exactly what we do in politics - ensuring nobody but demons can survive, and then complaining when all we have are demons.
If your going to force people to live like that, and it definitely is not a choice anyone makes you might as well give them a little dignity and not treat them like a machine. Don't put insane pressures on them leading them to pee in bottles. The rate thing is evil lets be honest. If you had to program every day certain lines of code and your performance was judged based on that and how long you went to the bathroom you would go nuts too.
...and it might just be my unfamiliarity, but "FC Ambassador" just reminds me of football more than anything else. That part of their branding isn't working, if they're trying to get into the minds of people who aren't familiar with the company.
There is no signal in that noise.
2) does or does not bezos oppose collective bargaining and unions?
3) is it true that German and possibly Italian state and federal labour laws were successfully used to secure improved working conditions including the right to collective bargaining?
4) has Amazon at any time, including the present used "fire the bottom two" forms of ranked performance management?
Everything was manual.
And zero air conditioning in the first early generation distribution(now fulfilment) centres.
Hiring, even in distribution(fulfilment) operations, had quite a high hiring bar.
This was done to help develop the near future Human Resources capacity of the company.
So we had an inordinately high % of Amazon Associate stock pickers with undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Quite an eclectic and quirky bunch of quite over educated folks doing a lot of manual labor trying to get the orders out the door and not drown in them.
It was a much much smaller company back then.
We were just trying to survive the never ending need to get customer orders out te door and “average up” with each new hire.
Intellectual capacity per person was quite high, but our operational execution would be far lower than what is achieved today.
We were failing/learning as we were going.
More exploration, less exploitation(in the process sense).
Exploitation as an employee wasn’t a problem in the early days from my perspective.
We all knew what we were getting into. 100% commitment and acting like an owner.
As headcount exploded, individual understanding of Amazon’s mission, ethos, etc declined as it become more job-like, and less purposeful.
Growth rate compelled hiring more specialists and less multi-purpose generalists....who could write non Borg Collective like Tweets.
I guess what I’m saying is the culture in the early days was more like a pirate ship full of idiosyncratic individualist buccaneers than Borg.
I see NO correlation between that and intelligence, verbal proficiency, articulateness: indeed, if you're smart enough to recognize the obvious purpose of the exercise you'll self-edit until you sound even more like a PR agency, lest you have to return to picking boxes full-time rather than getting to compose tweets for part of your time.
One caveat: if you're poor and desperate, your bandwidth will be taxed (see 'Scarcity: a talk for people too busy to attend talks'). That doesn't compromise people so badly that they appear unintelligent and uneducated, though, and if it's your job to seem glib and intelligent you'll work at it.
tl:dr; do you seriously assert that poor people are too stupid to write and speak well? I sure hope not.
Anybody doing this is already a good speaker and writer, and understands what's expected of them. Otherwise they wouldn't be allowed to do it. Again, I know large numbers of poor people who are perfectly capable of this erudition.
If you've got a masters in English Literature, it's probably this or Wal-Mart or death.
Are there similar PR initiatives within Amazon engineering aimed at us?
My contract also explicitly forbid me from talking about any technologies in use within the company, up to and including programming languages. That might just be an artifact of the time and place that I was hired, though, as the company definitely grew much more open over the years.
I've been out of Amazon for nearly three years (after working there for eight) and I still find myself reflexively being nervous about what I say!
In other words, they took a list of everything everyone complains about, and just decided to refute them point by point in the most condescendingly Orwellian way possible, rather than fixing them, because "disagree and commit" and I guess "frugality uber alles."
Sounds about like Amazon, yep.
Kind of to a point.
People get bathroom breaks, but those count against your rate, and people do sometimes get written up for taking them, although that's as much a matter of Amazon encouraging ruthlessness in management as anything. I know of one anecdotal story of a worker who was apparently written up for the time it took them to clean up after their own nosebleed.
In the FC where I work, the temperatures are definitely not pleasant, but HR insists we simply aren't aware of how perfect the climate control is.
I think it's one of those things that depends on where you work and who you work under.
* What is it, Voice of the Associates? Something like that. It's a big whiteboard in the breakroom. You write down your login and a message for management/IT/HR and they write a response.
On what basis? All we have is PR talking points presented, deceptively, as genuine opinions of real employees. That doesn't seem like evidence.
I didn't say the words you quoted.
This is in the site guidelines btw: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
Are there two sets of rules here?
Nothing to see here.
> "I can safely say that none of MY ideas have panned out anywhere near what Jeff Bezos has accomplished."
The most one can hope is that this is a bona fide Tweet from an employee who-- for whatever reason-- desires to self-deprecate in a completely voluntary, unremunerated defense of the company they work for during their off time.
Because if this is a PR drone posting self-deprecating statements in the name of an actual employee that's pretty humiliating behavior.
Some questions I'd start asking are:
-Have they ever been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or some type of high functioning autism?
-Are they from a third world country? Do they lack social norms we'd typically associate with people's attitudes about working in a factory?
-This this real life?
It's such a damaged artifact of modern de-industrialization. I really need to know why this is a thing...
For the poor, you are free to choose your boss (and agree to obey thus sign away your freedom) or sink deeper into poverty and eventually starve to death...
Though there is no gun involved, I would not call this freedom.
But a kind of freedom which (thankfully) still exists is the freedom to reach out to others. So why would you oppose people that use their freedom to push back against obvious mistreatment (in this case by spreading the word)?
Why not ensure work isn't too hard, nor life, nor going to the doctor. And then not just for you, but for everyone.
> But it can be rewarding too, so long as you stop playing the victim.
That's blaming people for the situation they are in without knowing what caused it. Maybe the causes should be addressed.