For that matter my father earned the money for the engagement ring he gave my mother by working evening hours as a holiday-season mail handler for the United States Post Office. That would have been about 1952. He may have been on break from graduate school, or he may have been employed by the Geological Survey.
I don't object to there being seasonal jobs. I do object to them being the model for employment in general.
[edit: corrected typo]
Everyone puts off auto work until they need to go somewhere over the holidays and either relents to the shop time (and the shop rate) or is towed off the highways after an accident or breakdown during holiday travel. holidays and post-holiday are our most stressful and busy time in the shop. You need to tune out the Michael Bublé in the front office, pay extra close attention to detail, and try to stay sane.
What people forget about places like Amazon is they are a shop floor. You might not have tire mounting machines and drill presses, but you have fork trucks and conveyors. You are in an industrial setting, and if you'd like to keep your fingers and toes, you should never rush the work.
In my professional opinion there should never be room for a seasonal worker in a shipping warehouse. You either have enough capacity to perform safely or you do not.
Honest question, in this situation if you need 1000 workers during the holiday season but only 200 during the rest of the year, what do you do with those 800 extra workers for 11 months? Retail is inherently seasonal, that's why Black Friday exists and why during Christmas my packages are delivered from a U-Haul truck instead of a UPS truck. So if you're not using seasonal workers, do you over-book your warehouse for 11 months, or under-book your warehouse during your most profitable season?
> In Final Holiday Push, UPS Grabs Its Accountants to Deliver Packages
> Parcel giant works to clear problems caused by surge of e-commerce orders coupled with tight market for seasonal workers
Not much choice in the matter when unemployment is at historic lows. If you can avoid the AMZN fulfillment sweatshop as a seasonal contract worker, you're going to.
As well as holidays there are sales. Do sales increase total yearly spend for the industry as a whole? Otherise, couldn't retailers just agree to stop doing them?
These systems are interdependent. Because there many are people who worry about how they'll get to work, the demand for these services during extended holidays goes up, which the industry is happy to accommodate by hiring temporary labor into a setting that's hardly fit for it.
I once spent weeks packing donated children's toys and also spent a while in an auto plant. And there's this awful feeling I had at both. I would describe it as the place being contaminated by depression and if you stay too long you'll succumb to it.
These fulfillment centres are like Chernobyl in that sense. It all looks normal: there's merchandise we see at home, there's other people, there's music, there's employment. But it also just feels like you've entered a foreign environment that isn't capable of sustaining healthy human life.
I felt it again just reading this story. That urge to fight and cry is a sign that you're being exposed to too much contamination.
We need to get the humans out of there and send in robots to do that work.
Agree. Everyone has some version of their own hell. Somewhere out there.
First, it seems like they have optimized every last detail to the point where people are robbed of their individuality. If your wrist watch tells you when to pee, that leaves traces not just in your underwear, but in your psyche.
Second, traditional blue-collar work came with a social support network, build-in. There was a sense of belonging that can be described as anything from “class consciousness” to just the typical camaraderie of working a job, any job, with the same team for years. Amazon actively works against this when, for example, working against the formation of unions. They also inadvertently prevent it through their reliance on temporary work, and rapidly changing assignments, work procedures, etc.
I kinda feel like you are comparing highly paid, often unionized factories with Amazon. Of course Amazon will come up short.
But when I read, say, about how modern chicken processing plants work, Amazon doesn't sound so horrible.
Here's the 2017 list of worst OSHA violations; Amazon doesn't appear on it.
Frederick Taylor's The Principles of Scientific Management was very popular 100 years ago, and included things like time and motion studies which served to optimize processes as much as possible and remove individual variations as much as possible. The whole point was pretty much to make every worker a replaceable cog in the industrial machine.
I'd argue that this is actually pretty much what happened - and as the abilities of robots and other forms of automation grew, it was easy to replace humans because so much of the work had already been precisely measured and systematized.
What I basically found out trying to "retire early" is that there are the "high" paying career jobs in offices and everything else is $10-$15/hr. crap work. There is barely anything in between, mirroring what is happening to the middle class--it is being hollowed out so that there will only be rich and poor and nothing else. Places like Mexico are already like this. It is sad and completely avoidable, but oligarchs and autocrats don't want it that way.
So revolution it will be. Only a matter of time and hunger.
There is a bleakness to physical labor jobs that can't be understood by someone working mental labor jobs. It's not just the low pay, the early/long hours, the dangerous environment, the constant barking of orders, the hustle and bustle of being pushed to work 10% faster than is sustainable, the staff of ex-military and ex-cons (some of the most disciplined, hardest working and nicest people I've ever met - as long as you don't cross them).
It's the fact that you have to do this tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.. as far forward into the future as you care to speculate. Knowing that 100% of the money you make goes to living expenses, children and debts. That any portion you spend on basic recreation like beer will be frowned upon by people who don't have the willpower to work as hard as you do. You have to develop a tough skin and shut down your conscious mind, going into another place in yourself in order to make it. I watched dozens of people try to do it over the years and most of them never made it more than 2 weeks.
By the end of it, I learned that the only winning move is not to play. By working there, I had taken someone's job who needed the money more than I did. What's worse, is I had lowered everyone's pay by increasing the size of the labor pool. I had squandered my own potential.
The only good thing to come from that job is it made me realize that I must dedicate my life to ending labor as we know it. We need to automate these jobs and use the free capital to fund a moonshot reeducation program. Give everyone the opportunity to use their minds - not their bodies - for income and move to a UBI to liberate the unlimited human potential that we steal through wage slavery.
Its not the same kind of repetitive mind numbing work that this article describes, but it was just as full of unexplained pitfalls, with the added benefit of being on a freezing cold active runway. I ended up losing that job, after a few months, which in retrospect, was probably a good thing for my education.
This is the book that led to food safety reforms after the dangers of meat packing plants were revealed to the public. With the loss of unions in the US and around the world, social darwinism is back in full force. Unions may or may not be the answer to the problems facing humanity today, but the discussion about how to form a more equitable economy is long overdue. And the irony of listing the Amazon link for this book is not lost on me!
Edit: I remembered another required short read:
But I do know what it was like 20 years ago.
A genuine mixture of chaos, frustration, hard work, and passion trying to build what’s next.
Chaos was ever present with a large team of dedicated Problem Solvers. Associates who understood the system well enough to solve anomalies.
Frustration largely came from the incongruence of trying to keep customers happy while trying to hire new associates that allowed us to “average up”(each hire improving the overall average).
Hard work was constant, but it was achievable for anyone in mediocre health or better. The biggest issue was the overtime. We did run mandatory overtime for all associates that was challenging, but doable. Exempt management just worked silly hours, it’s part of why I eventually departed on good terms post Holiday madness.
Seasonal Associates were referred to as temps back then.
They were all sourced from a single temping agency Integrity.
Often times just a mob of warm bodies, numerous temps discovered to be intoxicated, and a few times armed.
Shifting from paper pick lists to handheld scanners was a big change.
I guess you could call it early human/computer interaction that allowed individual metric measurement to be scaled.
An earlier poster’s reference to Taylor’s Scientific Management is interesting.
Amazon’s reputation in Operations being harsh originated 20 years ago when it scaled from a small team of true believers to a large enterprise of regular human beings.
We fired people quickly and decisively like an assembly line.
Amazon Operations then, and I presume now, is not suitable for someone who is physically unfit or unhealthy.
Which when looking at the unsuitability of such a high percentage of young people being unfit for military service(obesity epidemic), leads me to believe that many who choose to work at Amazon are physically unsuitable due to lifestyle choice.
Where is it all going?
I would love to see a flattening of consumer spending to avoid the need for seasonal hiring, but that’s unlikely, especially, with the introduction of Amazon’s truly artificial holiday stress test Prime Day.
The very early folks like myself benefitted enormously from the low wage gamble we took in exchange for Amazon stock options.
More recently, the upside in compensation and stock units is far more limited, although promotion prospects within the company are considerable.
There just isn’t the profit per employee with Amazon as there is with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Netflix that is often confused and conflated by labour advocates.
I just remember us all making fun of Walmart and being like the Rebel Alliance. Now it’s portrayed as the Galactic Empire a mere 20 years later.
With all the great humour/satire around “Red Shirts” and evil minions in Venture Brothers, I wonder if we will see any satire around Amazon inspired by dystopian stories like THX1138.
Happy Holidays to all, especially those seasonal workers moving all of our Chinese made consumer goods from A to B.