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On responses to “Bye, Amazon” (tbray.org)
344 points by chmaynard on May 8, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 193 comments



> Yeah, the story is about firing whistleblowers, not about a random Canadian Distinguished Engineer’s reaction to it. So news organizations should follow the primary sources, not me.

Yes and no. I appreciate where he's coming from, but "mega-corporation exploits and mistreats blue-collar workers" isn't new. That happens every day, and has since corporations have existed.

"White-collar worker quits over own company's treatment of blue-collar workers" is news. It points to a shift: even the people profiting off this are starting to think it's getting ridiculous.

I'm having trouble thinking of any other cases where this has occurred. The only thing that comes to mind is Gates and Buffet saying they should pay higher taxes, but that has much less personal impact on them.


Yes.

This incident shows AWS engineers have significantly more leverage than their coworkers in warehouses. If you are an engineer who works for Amazon and you want to see real changes here's a suggestion:

In an ideal world, you will not have to look for another job, to encourage change, but considering the circumstances, the most impactful way to encourage change is to follow Tim Bray's footsteps.

If a significant amount of critical engineers leave AWS and they make it clear that it was because of the poor treatment of Fulfillment Center teammates, Amazon will change. AWS who want to have a major impact, and are willing & able, should find a new employer. Secure new positions, resign then write to all the journalists covering Tim Bray's story, about why this group decided to leave. Warehouse workers as a group have significantly less leverage because they are easier to replace, especially now when there are so many people who are unemployed that can quickly take their position. AWS engineers as a group have far more leverage because they are harder to replace, even now, during the pandemic.

As for me, this will be the last year I shop for products on Amazon for the foreseeable future, and I may never come back, and I will be encouraging others to do the same. I'm one of those people who love shopping on Amazon, well not anymore.


I know it’s not much, but every time Amazon’s recruiters send me an invitation to apply for a position with them, I respond saying that I won’t consider working for them until they treat their warehouse workers better. Of course it helps that I am happily employed and not looking for a new job.


Big change is made up of a bunch of small deeds that are each individually not much. Good for you!


yes, our brains are evolutionarily wired to magnify adverse phenomena from very little data.

if a given recruiter hears that message just 3 or 4 times, they're likely to start believing it's prevalent across the labor pool.


Off topic but I enjoy blowing off Oracle recruiters in similar fashion.


> who want to have a major impact, and are willing & able, should find a new employer

(These views are my own and I don't in any way represent Amazon, my employer. I wasn't paid to say them either.)

It's easier said than done. There's a pandemic on and most of us are just glad to not be in the ~20% unemployment rate. We have mortgages to pay, children to feed, etc. Many of us just became single-income households. Taking on risks now is hard.

I truly respect Tim's actions. I hope it sparks change.


Yes, which is why I said willing & able. Able in this context means: you have the resources and circumstances to do so. Moreover, you will only resign once you have secured the job.


I’m not sure leaving is the best thing though, unless it’s high profile or a large group. If people leave in a trickle then others will replace them that won’t have that conscience.


> If a significant amount of critical engineers leave AWS and they make it clear that it was because of the poor treatment of Fulfillment Center teammates,

It seems unlikely not just because a lot of engineers like to close their eyes towards others suffering but they really believe "People should be paid according to the value they create". And it is just code that they should be paid more and lower rung can be paid next to nothing else robots will take their jobs.


> As for me, this will be the last year I shop for products on Amazon for the foreseeable future

+1 because of my own same position. Though, obviously this needs to happen at larger scale to have any impact.


Where do you intend to shop that treats their warehouse staff better?


I wonder why none of the socially minded white collar workers are pushing for unionisation across Amazon? Have the AWS engineers strike in solidarity of the warehouse workers...


> This is incident shows AWS engineers have significantly more leverage than their coworkers in warehouses.

I disagree. He had leverage because of his title, and probably because he has a Wikipedia page about him (i.e. he's a noteworthy engineer). If a random anonymous AWS engineer quit tomorrow, it won't make the news. If a significant number of them do, then Amazon might start panicking...

In that topic, is Facebook still toxic to SWEs?


As a former AWS engineer, I'm going to disagree. Teams and products at AWS are set up to weather most any individual leaving, but they are fairly lean and would certainly feel the pain of an engineer quitting in protest.

Obviously, Tim Bray has a lot more leverage than most engineers at AWS or Amazon. It takes someone at the senior principal or distinguished engineer level to really shock the upper echelons of management. But there are droves of SDE IIs and SDE IIIs who've been with the company for a few years and whose leaving the company in protest would have a noticeable, immediate impact on their team and larger org.


>In that topic, is Facebook still toxic to SWEs?

Better phrased would be is Facebook still toxic? If a company is toxic to one group, it is toxic for all even if they don't suffer directly, they are definitely enabling.


Ex googler had a sudden public crisis of conscience and was/is running for office.

https://medium.com/@rossformaine/i-was-googles-head-of-inter...

Ex-facebook VP is on an anti-social media crusade.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/12/12...

Most famously, Roger McNamee.

https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/05/famed-investor-roger-mcnam...

Because the people who irresponsibly helped destroy the concept of personal privacy should get all the credit for trying to fix it.


Insiders who turn against their companies or industries are extremely valuable, because they can suggest respectable solutions.

Your opinion reminds me of purity-testing Bernie fanatics I stumble upon on Twitter.


In past times priests wore sackcloth and flogged themselves in public while living in opulent luxury. Our current oracles are having a minor crisis of faith. Might we have a modern Martin Luther situation brewing here?


s/is profiting/has profited.

He is a multi millionaire close to retirement. It wasn’t actually a great sacrifice.

It’s like all of the former Google and Facebook employees “bravely” speaking out after they have already cashed in their lucrative RSUs


"Wasn't a great sacrifice", what do you know of his personal situation?

It's funny how some can be more critical of the employees that dare to speak out, than the actual companies that have enacted policies that put thousands of workers at risk across the globe.


So his “personal situation” after making a million a year at Amazon is dire?

Amazon is always issuing employees RSUs that vest at dome future date. No matter when he leaves he would have “lost” money.


So what? Tim already said he doesn’t want to be a martyr, he’s just saying that he couldn’t continue to look himself in the mirror if he kept cashing the cheque.

I could see your point if Tim didn’t point out his own privilege but he does _in both articles._


Then why is HN acting like he took such a bold stand?


As others pointed out: this caused it to hit the news whereas “blue collar workers abused by corporate giant” never does.


It only made the news in tech circles. The same people who already know.


Bloomberg, CNN and CBC are “only tech circles?”


> It wasn’t actually a great sacrifice.

The direct personal cost was mentioned in the original public letter:

>> What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars, not to mention the best job I’ve ever had, working with awfully good people.

Even though it's unlikely to put the author in the poorhouse, that's not a trivial cost.


Share vesting in big tech means everyone who works in a white collar job is “losing money” when they leave.


Maybe it wasn't a great sacrifice. But how many powerful and well-off people do nothing at all? Maybe if more people like him took action, even if the personal cost is relatively modest, more things would change for the better.


I don't understand the point of this comment.


I think the comment is trying to indirectly say that existing Amazon employees shouldn't be expect to follow the standard he's setting, because they haven't made their millions yet.


The point is to try to make him out as a hypocrite who should be ignored, as if being a hypocrite has anything to do with being right or wrong.


Rich people can never do anything good, right? Purity-testing Bernie fanatic, right?


No but just like tech workers virtue signaling that people are stupid for wanting to go back to work so they can pay their bills while we sit at home because we can work remotely...


Super glad to see Tim pointing media organizations to the actual impacted folks. Emily Cunningham, for instance, is a good speaker with an important story to tell and a passion for change.

It's nice to see someone with Tim's position handing the megaphone off.


That may be true, but she doesn't have the presence that Bray does. It's understandable that he doesn't want to be the face of it, but I feel he's doing the movement a disservice by quitting in protest and then _not_ working it. Whether he likes it or not, he's had a significant, long-term impact on the world and has been in the public eye for decades. Being able to put a graphic on the screen that says "Tim Bray: Internet pioneer quit in protest of Amazon workplace environment and worker treatment" is far more likely to gain traction with the average person, who is who they need to attract, than you can do with Cunningham. Even if Bray isn't as well spoken as she is.

It's unfortunate, but that's the way it works. One comes across as a person who saw something wrong and wanted to be part of the change, even at their own expense. The other comes across as a disgruntled fired employee (whether that's true or not is irrelevant when you have seconds to convince someone just to pay attention to your cause).

I don't think he's wrong to want to stay out of it and let others directly involved lead it, but I feel he hurt things a bit by shining the spotlight on himself (which was unintentional, to be sure) and then turning his back on it.


>It's unfortunate, but that's the way it works

If this is the way it works, why are we in this situation? This kind of thing happens every few years. Some renegade upper-class guy quits and throws in his or her lot with the common folk. It's so stereotypical it's literally the plot for about a third of Hollywood movies.

What he's doing is right. He's exactly saying that this isn't performance art, it's not a media story about him. Talk to the people who are affected, working people, and give them a voice.


Is it really this way? "The average person" has never heard of either of these people.


You don't need to have heard of everyone in an interview. An interviewer being able to introduce you as someone of authority (which Bray surely is) who wasn't fired, but quit in protest should (keyword, of course) give the layman enough information about you to at least listen to what you're saying. And given that the spotlight was put very squarely on him in the last week already, there's a chance that people have already seen news reports about his resignation, which would help with that a little more.

That's all hypothetical, though. I'm curious if there is any studies/hard data on the effectiveness of the two situations in reaching the public. Maybe I'll try to do some digging this weekend.


Sadly I can't find a single television interview with Emily Cunningham or Maren Costa.


Someone in the PR department and part of the response team just smiled in appreciation of your comment. "Job well done" they think to themselves.


There was an interview reported Wednesday evening in a story published yesterday, but I only found this after lots of Googling and transcript searching, and it did not mention the “Tim Bray” story: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/07/technology/amazon-coronav...

The only coverage I saw that mentioned their words cited a thank you tweet. The story remained on Tim Bray until the above story happened, which likely received less coverage because it was political.

I don’t want to say it’s one of those “people only listen to white guys” stories but it does kind of feel that way. I found only one photo published of any of the folks who were previously laid off for said “chickensh*t” reasons and it wasn’t a nice photo.

I can understand though. Tim Bray has been blogging for ages and controlled the story’s timing. He didn’t promote the tweets or work with others to make sure they were available for interviews the way, presumably, Warren’s team did. And everyone is laid off, they can’t go have professional headshots taken, covid makes any TV interview harder, nobody had B-roll or PR people to help coordinate on the side of the whistleblowers. So... it happens then that the personal stories fall through the cracks. It’s possible folks have NDAs too, of course.


Brad Porters response is really disappointing.

It’s possible that he and his team are doing everything in their power but that Amazon completely fails it’s warehouse workers nonetheless.


Completely agree. I saw this on LinkedIn where some of my ex-colleagues gave it a bunch of "Well said!" platitudes (side note: comments on LinkedIn posts must be the largest collection on useless banal drivel that humanity has ever produced, and in a world of ubiquitous social media, that's saying a lot).

It was so disappointing not because it was wrong - all of the points Brad made about Amazon going to great lengths to protect workers and rejigger processes rang true. But it missed the point and completely did not address at all Amazon's culture WRT responding to whistleblowers. Furthermore, all the other "yeah, that's right!" comments from other very highly paid white collar Amazonians (with barely a peep from Amazon's factory workers, though not unexpected given the medium) came across as extremely tone deaf and the equivalent of the aristocracy congratulating each other over how well they treat the servants.


I think the problem with LinkedIn is that it is exhibitionist by its very nature. Your audience is not just your co-workers, but potential employers, so most people say the things that are accepted within that group ( though it could be argued many groups are like that -- even HN to an extent ) and/or please prospective recruiters.

I agree about one thing though. LinkedIn was the only place when I was straight up 'attacked' by random people, who did not agree with my opinion. All of a sudden, all my posts started talking about coke I do and whatnot. It was a weird experience for me, but I immediately stopped all actual conversations on LinkedIn based on that.

The risks are not worth it.


Well, also, Upton Sinclair applies: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”


You could apply the same quote to diminish Tim Bray's "sacrifice" as well. They can both feel they are doing the right thing and be at odds.


Bray sacrificed $1mm+, while Porter continues to collect his salary from Amazon. The quote definitely applies to Porter, and definitely not to Bray.


To me, Brad Porter responded like an engineer, that is, his total focus was on technology and process (valuable, to be sure), but had no human focus. Tim, otoh, did, and that is what struck a chord.


It really is. Especially when there are constant radio ads here for warehouse workers which, I do not exaggerate:

"Apply online. No interview required. Start tomorrow."

That's the very definition of interchangeable pieces you're not overly concerned with. "Can you pass a literacy test? Background check? Have a pulse? Start tomorrow" shows absolutely no deep abiding connection.


[flagged]


Seems you're getting steamrolled by the anti-amazon public opinion that's so popular these days, but I feel you are at least partially correct with the moral positioning. They can both feel they are working for good at the same time even from opposite sides without either being wrong.

I'm not sure Tim is grandstanding, as much as suffering from the (IMO weak and easy to accuse) burden of campaigning for the little guy from a position of power. We shouldn't always require that change come from the bottom up or the very top; he can possibly ignite it far faster and meaingful than either.


Note: Tim Bray is Canadian. He’s not doing anything with this for anyone in America _qua America_, much less what you’re calling a “publicity stunt”. The affected workers he’s resigned in protest against the firing of may be in America, but this isn’t a publicity stunt.


Hard to make someone see something they've gotten rich deliberately ignoring.


The "bye, amazon" post made me think about my consumer habits. I'm building a gaming rig now, I decided to avoid amazon and ebay as much as I ca to let shops avoid paying selling and advertising fees.


This is the year I canceled Prime, and I'm trying to act in solidarity with worker actions (eg no purchases on May 1st).

We can debate the merits of individual choices, but collective actions have impact. I wouldn't be surprised to see an anti prime day or cancel prime day organized to coincide with Amazon's retail holiday "Prime Day".


I'm curious what the reason for avoiding eBay is?

They don't seem to be engaging in any of the more egregious behaviors that earn Amazon flak simply by virtue of not having their own product lines and warehouse/distribution system.


> I'm curious what the reason for avoiding eBay is?

Super low quality customer support, eBay is on sellers side as they bring profits, sellers purposely adversative products to sell more then refuse refunds, when I made complaint to eBay eBay got on their side. I have humidifier that not suitable for my needs and has super-low quality filter that's not HEPA as it was described. When I want to buy something cheap of questionable/unidentified quality, I go to aliexpress.

I have motorcycle cover that was supposed be XL and fit my motorbike, but got S that covers only top half... seller sent be back 20% of cost, but I still have cover I can't use.

GPS tracker that for some reason doesn't work with Orange (and others) SIM cards in the UK, but works in Poland (with Orange SIM).

Arduino WiFi that came in original(?) packaging, but was rusted. I can keep going like this...

It's been like this since I ever use eBay (~2010), I always lie to myself "this time it won't happen" and it keeps happening.


> eBay is on sellers side as they bring profits

Amazing how perspective is. I'm 99% a buyer (hundreds of items bought, and three items sold, and never again).

I sold a Mavic 2 Pro drone with 5 batteries. The whole process was a mess. Buyer complained that it didn't come with the CrystalSky tablet in one picture (that was added after they started bidding, to show Flight Logs, was explicitly disclaimed as being a part of the package, and was not in the receipts I sent the buyer). After that, three weeks later:

"The batteries don't work."

"Any of them?"

"Nope. I want a refund."

Note that two of the batteries were less than 4 months old, still in warranty.

He then stated he wanted a refund of $800. Bear in mind, 5 brand new batteries would be $670.

No evidence was shown. I stated I'd like to get the original batteries back, as I'd be able to get them replaced under warranty or possibly repaired and recoup some of my money (I was skeptical there was any issue, but still). He agreed. I asked him to send me an eBay message acknowledging that the partial refund was contingent on him sending me the batteries back and that he accepts me disputing the refund if not.

He does so.

Refund is sent (for about $700, to include his return shipping costs).

Less than an hour later I get a message, "USPS says they won't ship damaged batteries so I will not be returning them".

I then suggest we meet in person to exchange them (I live a few hours away, not convenient, but still, $700...). He umms and ahhs, "How will I be able to prove that I gave them to you in person?". I suggest we do it in a police station (his local PD suggests people do this for CL, etc.). More umm and ahh. "I need to contact eBay support to see if they recommend this." (eBay has a FAQ page describing how they recommend doing in person sales, and refunds, and documenting it). "I never heard back from them so I'm not sure what to do". I point this out, and he goes silent.

I open a dispute. No evidence provided for damage/faulty goods. Multiple instances of the buyer trying to show something/anything was problematic with the listing. Not abiding by agreement, refusing/avoiding any method of returning damage.

"We have closed your dispute. Based on our review, the buyer is entitled to a partial refund for damage. He is not required to return the batteries".

So he ended up with a Mavic 2 Pro, with less than 20 hours flight time, 5 batteries, for in the order of $950, all told.

eBay is on the side of least resistance, damage or liability, financial responsibility to eBay, no-one else.


While true, there's an alarming amount of products on eBay that are just drop-shipped from Amazon. By avoiding Amazon, you have to avoid eBay as well, at least in terms of buying items that are new.


And if you want to get byzantine, I've had several Amazon orders that were drop-shipped from Walmart.com, which has at least reminded me that I should comparison shop.


Amazon is also a pretty terrible place to buy computer hardware, especially with their track record of shipping terribly-packed hard drives.


The benefit of Amazon, at least in the UK, is they will take a return for basically any reason regardless of whether its been opened or not.


> The benefit of Amazon, at least in the UK, is they will take a return for basically any reason regardless of whether its been opened or not.

Then they package the returned drive correctly and send to you, where it dies 5 months after warranty ended.


And outright counterfeits.


I have been a fan of NewEgg if ordering computer gear online. I personally like the fact that they stand up to patent troll law suits and spend the money to actually go to court.


As of 2016, NewEgg has been owned by Hangzhou Liaison Interactive Information Technology Co., Ltd. Some people have said the customer service has worsened, though I haven't noticed anything myself. I don't like Chinese companies buying out American companies for brand recognition though.

B&H Photo Video has a surprisingly large selection of computer components and the filtering options seem comparable to NewEgg, so I may start buying more parts from there.


Does that mean that since 2016, they have started to feed the trolls instead of fighting? I honestly don't know who owned them before, so not sure the significance of this ownership change.


Who can say. Different owners may have different priorities.


Wow, the linked response to his initial post from Brad Porter is actually the single slimiest business communication I think I've ever read. Snake.

What is it about corporations that strips your personhood?

EDIT: On further inspection, the other post (by Anton Okmyanskiy) is actually worse. The undercurrent of "Yes, we're being evil. No, we're not going to change in meaningful ways. I don't even feel bad about the ways we're currently being evil. Why? Ideology!" within it is somehow slimier: with Porter, he's at least lacking self-awareness (or public-facing self-awareness), but in Okmyanskiy's case, it's definitely there, he just doesn't care.


It was a surprisingly typical PR piece. The issue is firing whistleblowers, the whole response is about working real hard and saying the truly offensive thing was a comment in the other’s article. I guess people internalize this way of presenting things when they get to this level.


Having done a bit of time at Amazon, I'm so perplexed by some of the news coming out around them now.

* Amazon.jobs || https://www.amazon.jobs/en/principles

Ownership, Insist on the Highest Standards, Earn Trust, Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit...

Their response to whistle blowers should have been, "Hey thanks for bringing this up internally, that's what the internal communication tools were for. We're trying, but clearly these are unprecedented times and we need to do better. Thanks for bringing your voice and your data to the table so we can improve."

I don't love the idea of airing dirty laundry without going through internal channels first... but assuming these people did that first, they should never have been shown the door. Amazon is a startup at scale, and if you take away the ability for people to openly raise concerns, you ruin the culture.

It shouldn't just be about the stock price, y'know? Amazon was a great place to work, and grew, because people challenged authority and found better ways of doing things. It's a mistake, and hugely damaging to the brand, to lose sight of that.


Ex Amazon here.

I agree with most of the principles and find them meaningful rather than "deliver excellence" platitudes.

But some some principles clearly apply only to the workers and not management. Earn Trust, Have backbone and Frugality especially.

> Amazon is a startup at scale

That's a PR slogan.

> It shouldn't just be about the stock price, y'know?

Amazon is a for-profit company. Workers engage in frugality, stockholders enjoy the billions.

> because people challenged authority

Amazon is quite data-driven when it comes to engineering but very vertical and disciplinarian. Try challenging Bezos, or talking about unions, for example. Remember point 6 of the SOA memo?

---

5) All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions. 6) Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired. 7) Thank you; have a nice day!

---

The company is well know for firing easily, both directly and through stack ranking.


Well, yes... but anyone who doesn't use service-oriented architecture should be fired, right? (=

I mean... we've all seen some of the shit Amazon put out back in the day, the one-offs, the impossible to maintain or integrate with shit some team in a silo built... easy to have silos when every team has to be small. I don't know, I really feel like the SOA memo wasn't so much a threat as just a joke to bring home the point that not using SOA is dumb and impossible to work with.

And I honestly felt like Amazon was a startup at scale. Man, I really loved my time there. Met some of the best people I ever worked with.


I largely agree on using SOA (although Amazon sometimes goes too far) but this thread is not about design.


It’s almost as if company values are empty words.


And they wonder why employee loyalty is a thing of the past. In previous generations, it was not uncommon for people to start and end a career with one company. Companies respected that loyalty, and the employees worked hard to earn it. Now, a 2-3 year stint at the same company start to look weird on your resume.


> they wonder why employee loyalty is a thing of the past

I think that line stopped applying 20 years ago, dude.

> a 2-3 year stint at the same company start to look weird on your resume.

I wish I could be as disinhibited as you are, about changing jobs. I've had 3 jobs in 15 years...


Not sure why you're getting downvoted and I 100% agree. And furthermore, I would be very surprised if your point is not eventually echoed by senior leadership, at least internally. This is the only correct course of action, and based on leaked documents, senior leadership made a reactionary misstep in the opposite direction (that ostensibly they regret, once it was leaked) and doubled down on it. The fact that said member of senior leadership even publicly recanted his original idea indicates that folks understand that mistakes were made. The question is how the company is going to respond and rectify them going forward.


> Not sure why you're getting downvoted

The person you responded to is getting downvoted for being blindingly naive about corporations.


"Amazon is a startup at scale"

What does this mean?


It’s part of the Amazon mythos: “it’s still day one.” It’s intended to keep the company flexible and responsive to new opportunities.


> Like most myths, it’s both false and true.

That doesn't _mean_ anything.


I removed this sentence from my comment 30s after posting, but here's what I meant by it:

Myths, despite being wholly or partially fictional, can contain some elements of truth. They can also provide insight into the values, aspirations, tropes and path to power within a group.

In Amazon's case, I think it is much more startup-like than peer companies. It's been willing to pivot, to give up margin, to place serious bets on new businesses, to focus intensely on growth, etc.

Also, obviously, Amazon is a 500k-employee megacorp, with all of the institutional dynamics that go with that.

It's clearly not day one, but just as clearly people within Amazon take the idea seriously. So yeah, false and true.

I should mention that I worked there for over 5 years, but that was a while ago. The whole "day one" thing has been around the whole time.


Well, yes. We increasingly live in a world where people would rather say the right thing than do the right thing. And why not? Talk is cheap.

The entire time I've been in this industry, tech companies talked a big game about being a force for good but made all their decisions based on cold, hard statistics.

It's weird that this is being downvoted, because it raises a real point:

There wouldn't be whistleblowers if you could get anything done from inside.


It's uncomfortable to think about, but the companies that serve us are largely reflections of what we value as a society. Right now people value low-cost and convenience. If consumers were willing to pay more for the same goods because a retailer treated employees well, retailers would follow suit.

Don't blame Amazon, they're just giving us exactly what we want, and I say that as someone who buys from Amazon, feels bad about it, but keeps buying because I just can't give up the low cost and convenience.

Instead of asking Amazon to do better, we should be asking ourselves why we are so unwilling to pay anything but the absolute lowest cost for something in spite of all the negative consequences for others.


Willing isn't equivalent to able. For tech workers, sure, they can afford expensive products. When you've got a household income of $44,097 (literally West Virginia's median household income), it stops being "willing" and becomes "able."

Don't blame consumers when the problem is companies and law itself.


I just cannot see any response on LinkedIn as anything other than exhibitionism.

It’s always the Directors/VPs that I see doing this. Is it just their in-group doesn’t have time for personal blogs any more?


Did they ever...?

Most "personal" blogs from VP-and-over personalities have always read like carefully-scripted PR.


No. I'm not a director or VP. I have time for neither a personal blog nor LinkedIn.


I still don't understand in what way Amazon warehouse workers are being treated worse than an average American warehouse worker working for someone other than Amazon.


I've had friends who worked in Amazon warehouses. They've all been puzzled by the news stories about bathroom break issues and unreasonable performance targets, because it doesn't match their experience at all. When a company reaches Amazon's scale, I have no problem believing that someone, somewhere, was mismanaging a team. I don't believe it's the norm though.

As for recent events, the complaints seem to be that Amazon didn't implement enough COVID-19 countermeasures early enough, and that their implementation of COVID-19 policies hasn't had perfect coverage. From https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/10/21216172/amazon-coronavir...

> Smalls, 31 years old and father of three, had worked at JFK8 since it opened in 2018 and Amazon warehouses in New Jersey and Connecticut before that. It’s a good job, he says, with good benefits, and he hadn’t had any complaints. But in early March, he became concerned about what would happen when the virus reached the warehouse with its 5,000 employees.

You can read more anecdotes in the article. I fully believe the managers involved in those incidents should be fired, but I'm still not convinced that those negative anecdotes are the norm across all of Amazon.


And then you hear story after story about mass infections at meat processing pants where the employee conditions sound far worse, but that doesn’t make the news like this ️


There’s a lot of heterogeneity because of contractors. Many of the egregious violations known were are contracting facilities, often in depressed towns where the line to get a job is long and the workers feel powerless.


I still don't understand why people keep bringing this up as if it matters. Other companies doing the wrong thing doesn't make it okay for Amazon to do the wrong thing.

Also, it's worth noting that Amazon is the industry leader here. If Amazon cuts cost at workers' expense, then other companies have to cut costs as well, and it's probably going to be in the same way. To some extent, other companies mistreat warehouse workers because Amazon mistreats warehouse workers.


Amazon has a $15 minimum wage, right? Do other companies follow them?

Clearly, it's fun to pick on Amazon and not as fun to pick on <insert company name you've never heard of here>.


Amazon is a target for the same reason multinational corporations are targets for lawsuits - money.

Amazon has lots of it and meat packing plants don't.


First, let's not pretend that Amazon is somehow doing a great thing by paying their workers $15/hour when Jeff Bezos is making almost $9,000,000/hour[1]. You're proposing that workers should be grateful that Amazon lets them eat their table scraps.

Second, just because Amazon does one thing slightly better than its competitors, does not excuse them mistreating their workers in other ways.

Third, you didn't address the point of my previous post, which is that other companies doing the wrong thing doesn't excuse Amazon doing the wrong thing.

Fourth, before you continue your ad hominem attack where you accuse me of singling out Amazon unfairly because "it's fun", you should know that I've personally been involved in a (unsuccessful) political campaign to prevent a Walmart from being built in my early 20s, for similar reasons. This isn't me picking on poor little Amazon, it's a consistent stance on protecting worker rights against any employer, which I've held for decades.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/what-amazon-ceo-jeff-bezos-m...


>when Jeff Bezos is making almost $9,000,000/hour[1]

Please leave this type of intellectual dishonesty at the door. Hacker News is smarter than this. Jeff Bezos also loses $9,000,000/hour some months. He lost billions in minutes after the earnings report a few days ago. That's what happens when you have equity in something. He bore the risk when the company made nothing and was nothing and he continues to bear that risk and reap the rewards.

Amazon is attacked because it's an easy target. Warehouses have abused workers long before Amazon and continue to do so while flying under the radar despite being significantly worse than Amazon. If someone is unemployed and another person is employed but wants to get a raise with a new job, you help the unemployed person first. Your argument amounts to "well, just because this person is employed doesn't mean they don't deserve a raise". Sure, you're technically correct, but the net result of your efforts is less than if you find a job for the second person first. It's why a lot of people not in the line of fire don't take these initiatives seriously. It's also why workers from other warehouses flock to Amazon by the 100,000s despite these alleged poor conditions.


Bezos' current estimated net worth (143B, per Forbes) averaged over the entire 25-year history of Amazon still comes out to well over half a million an hour. Why quibble over a measly one or two orders of magnitude when the amount we're dealing with is so outsized?

Also, in what sense does Bezos still bear any financial risk for anything at all? All of Amazon could crash and burn tomorrow and he'd still have enough tucked away under his mattress to last the rest of his life. A few billion at the margins either way is completely meaningless to him.

Amazon is an "easy target" because it is incredibly powerful and pervasive. It's reasonable to hold powerful parties to a higher standard because they have more ability to enact both positive and negative change. And most labor activists want worker protections to be not just company policies, but laws, which would also affect all those under-the-radar companies.


>Why quibble over a measly one or two orders of magnitude when the amount we're dealing with is so outsized?

I am not quibbling over the exact figure. I am quibbling over the fact that he only "makes" that much by having most of his eggs in the Amazon basket, the basket that he founded and therefore owns the majority. If Amazon had failed and gone bankrupt, say, 10 years in, should all of his employees at that point have paid back their wages from over the years? It's only fair since Bezos lost everything, right? Tell me, if Bezos liquidated all but the minimum amount of equity required to remain CEO, would you still hate him just as much? Who would you hold at fault then? Or is he just your punching bag regardless?

>It's reasonable to hold powerful parties to a higher standard because they have more ability to enact both positive and negative change.

It's more reasonable to hold everyone to the same standard. If not, then where is the line when you go from "anything goes" to "we expect better from you"? It's only reasonable to go after the biggest one because it has the most cash to bleed. That's not noble, that's just greedy. If you actually cared about the cause of helping people that are treated the worst, you would go after much smaller and dirtier entities. And if you want them to be laws, then why the protests against Amazon specifically? Go to your congresspeople that are supposed to represent your views and make them change the laws. Amazon has zero obligation to you but your representatives do and yet Amazon is at fault here? Maybe you should start wondering why politicians you keep voting for keep getting bought out by big money.

For the record, I don't even like Bezos or Amazon.


Every hour that you work for $15/hour is a loss. It's an hour that you don't get back, in exchange for a pittance. It's only not a risk in the sense there was never any real chance of reward.

Bezos did take some meaningful risks, but at some point, any sense of risk is meaningless. $10 million is enough for anyone to live out a more financially comfortable life than a $15/hour worker without ever working again. Jeff Bezos has more than 10,000 times that. What exactly has Bezos risked since he made is first $10 million? A slightly less comfortable life, with a smaller number next to his name?

Maybe you think $10 million is too low a number, but whatever number you think is more money than anyone could reasonably make use of, I don't think you can honestly disagree that Bezos passed that long ago, and has not taken a meaningful risk since.

For me, this isn't about hating Bezos or Amazon. It's about loving normal people who have to struggle just to get by when there is so much excess available. I don't always succeed, but I try very hard to base my ideology in love.


There is no line, and there is no reason to choose between lobbying Amazon and lobbying politicians. People can do more than one thing!

We're focusing on Amazon right now because we're in an HN thread about Amazon. I'm not going into the Intel and Uber threads and telling folks they're wasting their energy because Bezos is so much more punchable.


> Please leave this type of intellectual dishonesty at the door. Hacker News is smarter than this. Jeff Bezos also loses $9,000,000/hour some months. He lost billions in minutes after the earnings report a few days ago. That's what happens when you have equity in something. He bore the risk when the company made nothing and was nothing and he continues to bear that risk and reap the rewards.

Haggling over the exact number Jeff Bezos makes hourly misses the point very intentionally, and that's certainly not honest. Can we agree that whatever Jeff Bezos' hourly income is, it's many, many orders of magnitude more than $15/hour?

> Amazon is attacked because it's an easy target.

Tell me another company that's mistreating their workers, in any industry, and I'll happily condemn their actions too.

We need to talk about specific companies and specific abuses, because if we don't, then there's no action that can be taken which addresses the specific problem.

And incidentally, it's not like people are pushing for laws that are going to be written to only apply to Amazon. Workers don't have realistic ability to use the bathroom at Amazon: so we should have a law that says workers (at any company) have a right to use the bathroom.

> Warehouses have abused workers long before Amazon and continue to do so while flying under the radar despite being significantly worse than Amazon. If someone is unemployed and another person is employed but wants to get a raise with a new job, you help the unemployed person first. Your argument amounts to "well, just because this person is employed doesn't mean they don't deserve a raise". Sure, you're technically correct, but the net result of your efforts is less than if you find a job for the second person first.

Ah yes, the "we're only allowed to talk about one thing so it shouldn't be this" argument. Why can't we talk about Amazon and the other companies?

What's the net result of your effort? You want to talk about the entire warehouse industry? Why stop there? Aren't there even more employers in other industries? Are you just picking on the warehouse industry? Is talking about the entire warehouse industry really going to result in a larger net improvement than talking about Amazon?

> It's why a lot of people not in the line of fire don't take these initiatives seriously. It's also why workers from other warehouses flock to Amazon by the 100,000s despite these alleged poor conditions.

Please leave this type of intellectual dishonesty at the door. Hacker News is smarter than this. Amazon also loses some workers some months.

Or that's what I would say if I were trying to sidestep your point. Instead, I'll say that there are other explanations for why people go to work at Amazon--namely, a lack of other employment options. If my options were become homeless or work at Amazon, I'd work at Amazon too. That doesn't suddenly mean Amazon gets a free pass for everything they do.


>Can we agree that whatever Jeff Bezos' hourly income is, it's many, many orders of magnitude more than $15/hour?

Irrelevant, as they don't perform the same duty nor did they share the same risk. They're free to start their own companies if they think it's such a surefire way to guaranteed wealth.

>Tell me another company that's mistreating their workers, in any industry, and I'll happily condemn their actions too.

You're assuming that I think Amazon is mistreating their workers as a rule. I believe it happens. I also believe anything can happen when you have almost 800,000 employees.

>And incidentally, it's not like people are pushing for laws that are going to be written to only apply to Amazon. Workers don't have realistic ability to use the bathroom at Amazon: so we should have a law that says workers (at any company) have a right to use the bathroom.

I'm all for this. I don't agree that the bathroom situation is anywhere close to what has been reported but it doesn't matter because we are in agreement on the laws governing all companies part.

>Ah yes, the "we're only allowed to talk about one thing so it shouldn't be this" argument. Why can't we talk about Amazon and the other companies?

I didn't say this, in fact, I said exactly what you said. I'm seeing talk that is 99% Amazon and 1%... everyone else. And that's being generous. I can't remember the last time I saw a headline that talked about these issues elsewhere even though the comments always bring up plenty of alternative examples. How come we're okay with people that stock grocery stores to make $8? Is their job any less hard than boxing things up in an Amazon warehouse? There are way more grocery stores across the country than Amazon warehouses.

>What's the net result of your effort?

Stop right there. I don't pat myself on the back for how noble I am. If it were up to me, I would be directing all this effort to getting Congress to actually pass laws that force these companies to act right rather than begging Bezos to hand out a couple more biscuits. You know, that one tiny thing that representatives are supposed to do for their constituents: pass laws.

>Amazon also loses some workers some months.

Swing and a miss.

>Instead, I'll say that there are other explanations for why people go to work at Amazon--namely, a lack of other employment options. If my options were become homeless or work at Amazon, I'd work at Amazon too.

There you go. The alternative is living on the street. Thank you, Amazon, for lifting people out of homelessness. For that noble deed, we're going to target you for not doing enough while everyone else gets a pass for not doing anything.


> > Can we agree that whatever Jeff Bezos' hourly income is, it's many, many orders of magnitude more than $15/hour?

> Irrelevant, as they don't perform the same duty nor did they share the same risk. They're free to start their own companies if they think it's such a surefire way to guaranteed wealth.

Let's address this one part at a time:

1. No duty is worth what Bezos makes.

2. A surefire way to guaranteed wealth is to start with so much wealth that even if you lose all your investments, you're still wealthy and will continue to be for the rest of your life even if you never make money again. That's where Bezos was decades ago.

3. And while we're at it, yeah, let's empower poor people to start their own businesses. I.e. give people a standard of living where they might have money to risk to begin with. I.e. not $15/hour.

> I didn't say this, in fact, I said exactly what you said. I'm seeing talk that is 99% Amazon and 1%... everyone else. And that's being generous. I can't remember the last time I saw a headline that talked about these issues elsewhere even though the comments always bring up plenty of alternative examples. How come we're okay with people that stock grocery stores to make $8? Is their job any less hard than boxing things up in an Amazon warehouse? There are way more grocery stores across the country than Amazon warehouses.

So basically, you agree with me except that you had to jump in to defend a poor defenseless multibillion dollar international company?

> If it were up to me, I would be directing all this effort to getting Congress to actually pass laws that force these companies to act right rather than begging Bezos to hand out a couple more biscuits. You know, that one tiny thing that representatives are supposed to do for their constituents: pass laws.

Great: why don't you do that instead of derailing any effort by jumping in to defend Amazon?

> There you go. The alternative is living on the street. Thank you, Amazon, for lifting people out of homelessness. For that noble deed, we're going to target you for not doing enough while everyone else gets a pass for not doing anything.

Dude, you're so set on diverting focus away from Amazon's wrong doing if Amazon literally stabbed someone you'd comment how it alleviated their high blood pressure.

Slave wage jobs are arguably better than homelessness, but you know what's even better than that? A society with an income distribution that makes a vague pretense of being proportionally meritocratic, and where are alternatives are better than homelessness and working for what pittances the rich deign to give us.


>1. No duty is worth what Bezos makes.

Says who? You? You know how I know it's worth that much? Because he already has that much. The free market has decided.

>That's where Bezos was decades ago.

Nope.

>So basically, you agree with me except that you had to jump in to defend a poor defenseless multibillion dollar international company?

My principles don't discriminate by dollar figure or other arbitrary measures. That's what makes them principles.

>Great: why don't you do that instead of derailing any effort by jumping in to defend Amazon?

I can do both? Isn't that what you were preaching before?

>Dude, you're so set on diverting focus away from Amazon's wrong doing if Amazon literally stabbed someone you'd comment how it alleviated their high blood pressure.

Great strawman. We're done here.


> Says who? You? You know how I know it's worth that much? Because he already has that much. The free market has decided.

Which only goes to show that the free market is absolutely terrible at deciding things.

> > That's where Bezos was decades ago.

> Nope.

Well, actually, Bezos did surpass the $10 million in wealth mark at least two decades ago, so I'm really not sure what you're on about.

> My principles don't discriminate by dollar figure or other arbitrary measures. That's what makes them principles.

What principle are you applying here exactly?

> I can do both? Isn't that what you were preaching before?

But you aren't doing both. You're just defending Amazon. You claim to care about worker's rights and not like Amazon and Bezos, but all I see you doing here is saying Amazon and Bezos deserve what they get and the workers deserve what they get, including subsistence-level wages and unsafe working conditions. If this is how you treat people you like and people you're defending, I hope to always stay on your bad side!


They're not. I worked in warehouses when I was younger. It's awful work regardless of the individual employer. Similar to how MacDonald's was in the hot seat many years ago for basically the same practices as every other fast food place under the sun.

Whether or not it makes sense to single out the leader in a given industry, I don't know, but that always seems to be what happens.


With big companies should we (as in the world) not be singling out the actual people who make the shitty decisions in these big organisations. From the previous thread I got the impression that not all Amazon warehouses are equal. I have been in corporate companies where senior management make really rubbish decisions and hide behind the PR company releases. In the end it reflects badly on the whole company but it really is a few bad apples. Disclaimer I know nothing about how the whole PR world works.


I choose to stay with Amazon, but I have a lot of respect for people who do what their heart tells them to do. It's not my fight to fight though.


The thing is, that’s totally alright too! I don’t think we should realistically expect everyone bothered by it to quit.. our current environment doesn’t support this ideology.

The disgusting thing is when Brad posted a PR piece that avoided the issue Tim raised. Brad could be the best person in the world but that action was not good or fair.


If I search these comments for the word "union", there are no relevant results. Why don't we unionize tech workers?


[flagged]


The same reasons a vast number of HN works in either adtech, or companies which don't employ or give benefits to their janitors but have them as contractors, or have very poor privacy, or have a huge rent seeking mindset due to their monopolistic position, and several other unethical companies.

It's because it gives them challenging problems, and money to continue their current lifestyle as is.

If people here are working in companies whose behaviour they find totally ethical in all regards, please give your employer a shout. It will help widen the perspective of others.


“ totally ethical in all regards“ is a high bar. But at least try building real products for real people, not scummy adtech spyware.

Despite its flaws (eg drug prices) working in biotech is pretty awesome. I get to support work in treating cancer, figuring out covid, stopping rare diseases.

Give it a look y’all. Working in ad “tech” is trading your soul for $$. Get out.



Obviously ethics are on a spectrum. I'm pretty happy with my employer - a science-driven NGO using tech that's cheap to scale (telephony) with the aim of reducing poverty. Not perfect, but among other things I've been quite impressed by how the COVID crisis has been handled.


>It's because it gives them challenging problems, and money to continue their current lifestyle as is.

Chasing resume prestige belongs on that list.


For folks insecure enough to chase resume prestige, the money part is much more important enough than challenging problems part. The problems part is more important for people who have already enough cash in the bank to be financially secure enough to stop working for a long time.


Probably some big event had to happen to put a giant spot light, though if you read the comments in the previous HN thread there are many that still don't see any problem with Amazon, as long as someone gets paid 1 cent and can quit then you can exploit the person to the limit the laws allow you.


Who is getting paid 1 cent though? Or are you unaware of the fact that Amazon pays in the top percentile for warehouse work?


I am referring to the people that promote the idea that there should not be a minimum salary , that free market and freedom is always the solution, I am referring to people that say "you don't like it don't work there, nothing is forcing you"

About Amazon the issue did not appear to be the money but the working conditions and now with the virus this people are exposing themselves and family to risk Amazon should focus on reducing that risk and not on exploiting the situation to make the biggest profits ever.


> exploiting the situation to make the biggest profits ever.

But what makes you think they are trying to exploit the situation to make the biggest profit ever? On the contrary, their quarterly guidance say they expect all of Q2 profits to be spent on COVID19 related expenditure.


>Or are you unaware of the fact that Amazon pays in the top percentile for warehouse work?

That's like saying, "For a slave owner, X was quite generous with his subjects" - the bar is quite low to begin with...


I imagine if you were earning a million a year at your really nice job that you'd worked your ass off for 20 years to acquire, you'd overlook quite a lot of not-really-nice-but-that's-business-isn't-it treatment of some of the peripheral staff who probably don't even work in your city let alone your building.


Hero of our own story bias? The incentives are lined up to make naivete very comfortable for some people.


> and my only question is why did it take these people so long to realize they were working for Evil Corp?

Everyone has a different tolerance on how much bullshit they'll tolerate near them.

As for "overpaid": I'd wish more employees, not just across the IT industry but everywhere, were paid according to the value they create for the business with their work. At the moment, many see labor costs as a "race to the bottom" with most value going to shareholders - unsustainable for society in the long term, as all the stuff that companies are selling needs buyers, and it will get really nasty if the only ones able to afford more than absolutely necessary items such as food and clothing without going deep in debt are a couple of rich elites.


Going deep into debt is the point. What do you think stabilisation by interest rate requires? Lots of people terrified of foreclosure.


Which company isn't Evil Corp? I can argue for most every company small and large out there being "evil" in some tangible way.


No. Don’t fall for this. Just because every company has some aspect that is bad, it doesn’t mean they are the same.

You can differentiate. It is not hard. Some extremes: Patagonia vs. Outbrain. Gates Foundaton vs. Juul. Same?

By that same rationale all humans are evil, so there is no point in differentiating.


I don't know man, I think Juul is pretty questionable too.


I never said they were the same but rather that from someone's perspective your employer is also evil. Yet you are fine working there. That same feeling and justification and reasoning applies to someone working at a company that you view as evil. The line in the sand you chose is fairly arbitrary and you shouldn't view yourself as a paragon of ethics versus someone who chose a line slightly further away.


Both these things are true. 1. A line in the sand is arbitrary. 2. There are huge differences in the ethical behavior of companies (as there are among people)

2 is the one that is important to recognize and where we in tech should have conversations. 1 is a semantic distraction and an excuse to avoid responsibility.


Worker coops?


> Two things can be true at once: You work hard to preserve your employees’ health, and your administrative culture treats them as fungible units.

This is some pretty agile dancing. :)


Why? A farmer works hard to preserve his cows' health (every cow that gets sick is lost money), yet they are fungible units on their way to the meet grinder.

The two things are perfectly compatible.


Sick cows don't always mean lost money, and farmers don't work hard to preserve the aspects of the cow's health that doesn't cost them money. For example, it's actually cheaper to keep cows in conditions that would cause any animal to suffer from depression, than to care for their mental health.

It may seem weird to talk about the mental health of beef cattle, but we're not talking about beef cattle, we're talking about workers, whose mental health absolutely does matter.


It is reality at many organizations largely down to competing and mutually exclusive metrics and objectives that are being reviewed separately

For example one Team may review and be responsible for Production Metrics and standards, and a completely separate team is responsible for reviewing Safety standards, and often the 2 groups create directives that impact the other with out giving a shit how the people that have to implement and follow them actually go about doing that


This happens often in large enterprises. A way to optimize your internal meritocracy is to have competing interests. “Reduce our cost to serve” and “improve our customer service” are very often competing parallel tasks. For IT, “improve our effectiveness” and “improve our efficiency”. On one hand your internal apps and policies need to satisfy your “internal customers”. On the other hand, your total costs per FTE need to be the lowest in your industry peer group.


Not necessarily. You can work hard on something and still not cover all the bases, leaving the door open for abuse somewhere else. A corporation is not a single unit. Some are working hard on one avenue, some on another. It just happens that one avenue is squeezing more profit and if this comes at the price of treating employees as fungible units and firing "inconvenient" ones so be it.


Amazon is a very problematic mega-corporation in many respects, not the least of which being worker exploitation. It really needs to be either broken up or socialized.


I honestly don't understand how Amazon could be socialized, or why it would need to be socialized.

Breaking it up, sure. I believe Amazon has profited in the way many tech companies have - in that law makers don't understand the inter-connectedness of technology and how an advantage in one area will lead to an advantage in other areas.

But socialization of Amazon? Why? We already have a publicly funded package delivery service. . . .


Package delivery is actually a good comparison. Socialising amazon would simply add a warehousing portion to it.


Exactly.

By the way - in some world states, mail delivery is being privatized, or becomes under-funded, starved - and then privatized. Overall, this process results in postal service quality deteriorating significantly, letters getting lost etc.


Fair enough. Let's just turn Amazon off, then.


It amazes me how unself aware some HN users are when it comes to giving Government more power. I wonder do they know how much bad tech regulation has been both passed and stopped.

The government would love to have more power over tech to both gather information on people and to control the narrative.

Did anyone not see how Tim Cook was kissing up to the President and how much he enjoyed it? Do you really prefer to have a potential abusive government With the power of the state with more power.


I'm definitely not pro-government. I want power to be in the hands of individuals, not any centralized entity.

The problem is, if you don't have a powerful government, you get something worse: powerful corporations. At least government (in a democracy) has to maintain some pretense of serving individuals. The only times corporations have to pretend to serve individuals is if their customers are individuals, and even then they can just lie about it: the whole field of advertising is devoted to that. Governments can (and do) lie about serving people too, but they have it a bit harder: consider the difference in connotation between the words "advertising" and "propaganda". And in an ideal government, there's a great deal of transparency, which makes it harder to lie. In contrast, corporations have largely unquestioned active protections over their internal secrets, and corporate transparency is practically oxymoronic.

The role of government is to protect the weak from the strong, and in order to do that, unfortunately, government has to be strong. In this context, that means regulating corporations so that they can't trample individuals. Ideally, government also has checks and balances so that government also protects individuals from government. Obviously that's hard to do, and no government I know of has implemented it perfectly, but it's the best idea we have--if you have a better idea feel free to share it. And so we're clear: having an anemic government isn't a better idea: that just gives you rule by corporations.


> The role of government is to protect the weak from the strong

The role of government is to maintain the social order, the basic social relations w.r.t. ownership of property, particularly capital like land, production facilities, access to natural resources etc.

This means mostly protecting the interests of the strong few against the weak many. In some cases of misconduct by powerful individuals or companies - outside the bounds of the acceptable and resulting in potential jeopardy of the social order - it may protect the weak against the powerful as well.


How has the government protecting the weak and minorities worked out - during the entire history of the US?

In the US “it’s not the strong few”. The majority can and does use the government to impose its will.


That's like saying the wind imposes its will on a sailing ship. It's not entirely false, in the sense that the ship only goes in a direction that's not upwind, but - the ship uses the sail angle to take angled directions to that of the wind, or just furls up the sails - and eventually goes where the people sailing it want to.

I hope the simile is clear enough...

Specifically - persecution of minorities is not a "natural" social phenomenon, it is very much an acquired tendency on the personal level and encouraged and stoked by social, economical, and political institutions.


It doesn’t matter why it happens. The fact is it does happen by the same political institutions that people want to give more power to.


Do you actually want to go back to the days of companies beating workers when they collapse partway through a 13 hour day and paying them in store credit? Or can you agree that giving government the power to make those things illegal was a good idea?


Assault has always been against the law. But you expect the same government to “protect workers” when they just made people go back to work in the meat industry by invoking a law meant to be used in times of war?


> Assault has always been against the law. But you expect the same government to “protect workers” when they just made people go back to work in the meat industry by invoking a law meant to be used in times of war?

Well, obviously I'd prefer the government used their powers for good, i.e. actually protect workers.


Well, it has been a discovery process, but we have the Bill of Rights, the Thirteenth Amendment, The Meat Inspection Act, The Pure Food and Drug Act, The Fifteenth Amendment, The Civil Rights Act, HIPAA, The Americans with Disabilities Act... the list goes on.

And that's not to mention the basic places where government protects the weak from the strong, like arresting murderers and rapists.

So, I'd say, while it certainly could be working better, it's working out a lot better than you're giving it credit for.


Okay, I should have been clearer in my previous post. I want the role of government to be protecting the weak from the strong.


The role of government is to protect the weak from the strong, and in order to do that, unfortunately, government has to be strong.

Have you read about the history of the US? Segregation? Laws against interracial marriage? “Sodomy” laws to persecute homosexuality? The Mulliford Act?

Historically the US has only “protected” the majority. The same is true today if you look where the “War on Drugs” is taking place compared to “treating drug addiction like a disease” is taking place.

“Powerful corporations” can’t take away your liberty or your property.


> > The role of government is to protect the weak from the strong, and in order to do that, unfortunately, government has to be strong.

> Have you read about the history of the US? Segregation? Laws against interracial marriage? “Sodomy” laws to persecute homosexuality? The Mulliford Act?

Government often does terrible things outside their role, a fact which I clearly acknowledged as a problem in my post.

> Historically the US has only “protected” the majority. The same is true today if you look where the “War on Drugs” is taking place compared to “treating drug addiction like a disease” is taking place.

The US is also one of the worst examples of a government.

I think if you look at where addiction is being treated as a disease in other parts of the world, you'll find that those places have pretty powerful governments.

> “Powerful corporations” can’t take away your liberty or your property.

They can't take your liberty away because government says kidnapping is illegal. Corporations absolutely take away people's liberty when it's legal to do so: corporate prisons, mercenary corps, etc. In the past, when slavery was legal, it was corporations who obtained, sold, and often kept slaves.

I would argue that buying up all the property, paying you a pittance, and forcing you to pay rent, so that you can't obtain property in the first place, isn't meaningfully different from taking away your property.


The US is also one of the worst examples of a government.

Since Amazon is a US based corporation it should be controlled by the “worst example of government”?


Yes, I want the US government to improve and stop being one of the worst examples of government. Is there something controversial about that?

Part of that improvement is fulfilling their role, and refocusing on protecting individuals from corporations, which includes protecting workers at Amazon.


Why are you assuming "socialization" means "government control"? I would rather have various social systems be run through a cooperative, distributed-power, federated organizational model.

"The government would love to have more power over tech" - the government fawns over big tech anyway. And the love is returned - with large tech companies helping the US government's military endeavors, and performing mass surveillance and feeding the subjects slanted pro-regime news.


The current administration definitely doesn’t fawn over Amazon, Google or Apple until Cook gave him a photo op.


Trump is playing hard to get :-P

And despite the lovers' quarrel, he has been considering a $10 Billion deal to do some shady evil computing work:

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/18/trump-says-seriously-looking...

and Amazon might still get some of it:

https://www.geekwire.com/2020/dod-likely-split-jedi-contract...


Perhaps you should consider that the commenter is fully self aware, but just disagrees with you at an ideological level? Conversational tone on HN would be better if we didn't make assumptions or statements about people's self-awareness, intelligence, and just debated the substance of the issues.


> It amazes me how unself aware some HN users are when it comes to giving Government more power.

Completely anecdotally, I can feel a pretty big shift taking place. At least that's what it feels like online, which may not be at all representative of the overall population. A new generation has come of age, and they are far more comfortable with concepts like socialism and even totalitarianism than the previous generations are. It was evident before COVID19, but since the pandemic began it has become even more pronounced.

It's fascinating, really. Maybe scary. It's weird to get a little older (I'm Gen X) and feel like the culture of your society is shifting out from underneath you. No wonder old people seem to trend conservative.

Edit: And the hive mind does not care to recognize it. Welcome to the new world, introspection not welcome.


I wouldn't call your comment a call for introspection. It's a bit more of an ad hominem attack, really. I'm also Gen X. And thoroughly socialist. And also thoroughly anti-authoritarian. I don't fit the mould of your comment, but my opinions are a target of it, and so I take umbrage with its rather denigrating tone.


If you feel attacked by that comment, it may say more about you than the comment itself.

Socialism and authoritarianism are very linked. They're not the same, and you can have a socialist society that isn't authoritarian, but many socialist countries are centrally authoritarian and that's held true historically.


I don't feel "attacked" by the comment, I find it crude. And its tone is not one of polite debate. So it's not a surprise the "hive mind" (really?) is downvoting it [which they didn't really]. Complaining about being downvoted is also not really good HN form.

Socialism and authoritarianism are linked -- in the default North American political education. That is not the case worldwide, or for all of us.

Before there was ever a socialist political party or government there were regimes all through the 19th century with capitalist market economies and highly highly authoritarian governments. But that link is not made by many.

Corporate structures are highly controlling in ways that governments could never get away with -- controlling their employees time and expression as well as their access to basic services such as health care. But, again, in the default (small-l) liberal concensus in North America, this is not identified as authoritarian because the classical liberal concept of individual agents participating in a free market is assumed and enshrined.

If one makes broad and reductionist statements about people who don't agree with you philosophically, and do so with the tone the commenter had, I don't see why one should be expecting not to be downvoted.


Corporate structures are highly controlling in ways that governments could never get away with -- controlling their employees time and expression as well as their access to basic services such as health care

Tell that to all of the people locked up because of the “War on Drugs”, civil forfeiture without a trial, and government using eminent domain to take property and give it to a corporation.

A corporation doesn’t have the force of law - and military weapons (SWAT) - to enforce compliance.


Those of us of the radical left consider corporations to have the force of law because they control the state.

This is one of the fundamental philosophical points of confusion in discussion between radical socialists and libertarians or classical liberals: we, too, have a problem with the state and its control. _But_ we consider the state to be the _creation_ of the market economy. It exists to enforce property rights, to negotiate between different corporate entities, to use its diplomatic or military power to expand markets and market influence abroad, and in extremis it uses its coercive powers to subdue labour disruptions and political dissent that hurts the market.

This is why we bristle when we see comments like the one here that associate directly the concept of socialism with one of government/state control. Because for us the government _is_ capitalism. Without its intervention the market could never exist. And it's why we see right wing libertarianism as either naive or authoritarian itself: because it ignores the coercive nature of the origin of the market: in the historical destruction of the feudal commons, the removal of the very minor security that the peasantry had, its privatzation of agricultural land, and then the establishment of the industrial economy on the basis of those so disposessed.

The state which right wing "anti-statists" so despise is an agent of the market which they glorify. That market couldn't exist without it and its coercive power.

You even touch on it above: eminent domain to take property and give it to a corporation. This doesn't surprise us at all. Such actions are intrinsic, from our point of view, to _capitalism_.

Marxism, and even Leninism -- before the word became marred with its association with authoritarian Stalinist regimes -- wants to destroy the existing capitalist state, and replace it with a system controlled by the majority of the population, the working class. Marx's term for this is very 19th century, and very unfortunate because it is easily misinterpreted: "dictatorship of the working class"; what he meant was not dictatorship in the form of a Stalinist, single, Communist Party, cult. He meant majority control. To some, "mob rule." It's just... we like this "mob"

Anyways, this is all very much a tangent. But I'm trying here to point to some of the fundamental points of confusion in these discussions. To most North Americans, "socialist" has become synonymous in their language with "government control", to the point where things like the 2008 bailout were called by many "socialist" interventions. In my mind this is an absurd misinterpration of the concept caused by 100 years of propaganda in political education and language.


and replace it with a system controlled by the majority of the population, the working class

The “majority” being in control is fine if you are part of the majority. The majority wouldn’t have a problem with laws that suppressed the minority.


This is a good and clear outline of your positions, and thank you for that.

Anytime we discuss systems of government, we have to deal with the reality of those systems. You can design a utopia on paper, but it doesn't usually play out that way. Governments also take some time to have observable effects, and so often times our discussion of forms of government have to rely on history as an element of that.

> In my mind this is an absurd misinterpration of the concept caused by 100 years of propaganda in political education and language.

But it's historically perfectly holistic in frame of the Stalinist regimes you mention. Supporters of full socialism and communism both like to reject every historical example and claim they don't count.


Except we could just as easily turn it around and point to the genocides and failures of societies with "market systems" as well.

The reality is the whole notion of talking about "government systems" like they're replaceable components that we can evaluate like scientific experiments is delusional. Societies and especially economic systems develop their characteristics organically over hundreds of years. Bolsheviks slapping a "socialist" label on their society after their revolution has little bearing on the fact that in many ways Stalin's Russia was contiguous with Tsarist practice [and in fact many top members of his bureauracy were ex-Tsarist bureaucrats, and by the 30s pretty much every leading Bolshevik from 1917 was murdered or exiled...]. Minus the drastic influence of the orthodox church, of course


> Except we could just as easily turn it around and point to the genocides and failures of societies with "market systems" as well.

Holodomor is a clear example that genocides belong to socialists and communists too.

You're right that we can't talk about government systems strictly in the abstract which is why we use history, and while history has different context in each instance it consistently shows us that pure socialism ends at authoritarianism, whether that's the Bolsheviks, the Maoists, or the PCV.


> Complaining about being downvoted is also not really good HN form.

True, and I generally try to avoid it. But sometimes pique gets the better of us.

> who don't agree with you philosophically

That's a pretty big leap you made. I tried (and continue to try) to keep my philosophy from being the focus of my comments. Perhaps you might be surprised to find yourself to my right, you never know.

As to whether the comment was broad and reductionist, who knows, it was a short comment on a huge topic on a niche web site. I wasn't trying to have a formal debate :). It also sounds like you took the comment a lot more personally than I ever intended.


Authoritarianism is a specific thing. It doesn't mean just "very controlling", but to have a single centralized center of government that can abridge political freedoms. As an example, an early post-Roman Brittanic king would have been classed Authoritarian because they are a centralized point of control with no senate or alderman structure.

Yes there was a small period in the 19th century where we had kings who had market economies but they typically had senates which contained most of the power and were generally just figureheads.

A corporation can't keep you from voting. It doesn't prevent you from donating money to your favorite political candidate, or telling your neighbors about it.

On the other hand as an example of authoritarianism, Xi Jinping has literally removed the ability for Chinese people to select someone else as their leader. Even their ability to elect non-CCP parties depends on his approval.

Socialism depends on cohesion. You can't have 40% of the country riot because you won't be able to maintain services, whereas capitalist economies tend to survive such upsets quite well. You don't usually see mass political actions shut towns down in the US. That's part of why authoriarianism is attractive to socialist countries because it's one way of maintaining cohesion. Unfortuntely, it works because you remove the rights of people.


It cuts both ways. Yes, there has been horrendous tech legislation that has been passed before. On the other hand, there is a lengthy list of serious abuses by individual companies and entire industries, both in and out of tech, that have been enabled due to weak or non-existent legislation that would have prevented it.

At this point, both the hyper-capitalist trust in the free market, as well as the hyper-socialist belief that labor/the state are always better than private corporations are both closer to dogmatic religious beliefs than actual reality. There are certainly instances when the government will do a much worse job at running an economy than free enterprises. And there are instances when clearly government intervention and regulation is needed to protect society from bad actors (as what seems to increasingly be the case for certain megacorporations in tech, finance, the insurance industry). A balanced, case by case approach is necessary.

Unfortunately, more simplistic, easy to digest platforms based on worthless platitudes get more traction, probably because those fit on a bumper sticker or in a tweet more easily.


It's also questionable whether we can really call Amazon a "tech" company. Yes, AWS and the foundations of their website are "tech". But the massive beast that is Amazon is mostly now a distributor/retailer/warehouser/logistics behemoth that is operating very much in meatspace. It's no more a tech company than Wal-Mart. And if we extend "tech" to include that, then pretty much any corp is "tech."

So we're on much more familiar territory here -- a large semi-monopoly corporate entity with an industrial workforce.

There's not a lot of Alvin Toffler here, and more of Henry Ford.


Amazon has 5% of retail and 30% of online commerce - neither is a monopoly.


30% of online commerce is rather large for one single entity wouldn't you say?


So now we should break up any company that has a 30% share of a share of the market? The definition of a “monopoly” is not 30% even if you define the “market” as online retail not retail in general.


Semantics. When a few big players dominate any market its called a Trust or a Monopoly. Choose Trust if that makes us feel better.


Wow so now the law is “semantics”. “Words Mean Things”. The minute we allow people’s feelings to control how the law is enforced we are all in trouble.

A trust is when multiple companies are in collusion. Are you claiming that Amazon is in conclusion with its competitors?


Oh! This was a law being discussed? I thought it read pedantic wordsmithing.

To call 'online sales' a single market is silly. Because other companies use the internet changes nothing. Amazon owns their segment.


FWIW, I never argued for breaking anything up. I don't think anti-monopoly laws really accomplish much. I think this kind of thing is instrinsic to capitalism; and some bigger shark will eventually come around to eat this one.

But I still disagree with the notion that somehow because Amazon is "tech" this is different.

No, my solution is far more radical and is more along the lines of the socialization line above. And almost nobody here will agree with it :-)


I just purchased from Amazon but they gave me $100 to open a new credit card that I will disable in 1 month. (edit: actually, I think that I will disable it today so that I can re-apply more quickly)


Someone gets to FIRE built on the backs of the workers then gets praise for doing so. A more meaningful response would be better to donate the millions of Amazon stock he had to the workers on the front line.


You and I have diametrically opposed views on what "meaningful" means.

Donating a few million dollars to a few hundred thousand workers makes close to 0 difference.

Taking a public stand in the hopes of making a systemic difference in the long term could change a lot.


He lost a lot of money (circa 1m according to original story) in salary and stock vesting taking the decision to quit.

Although you make a good point that he can FIRE due to previous income. Something nigh impossible on a warehouse picker wage.


After he made a million a year from Amazon for six years. No matter when you leave Amazon you’re leaving money on the table since they are always giving employees RSUs that will vest at some later date.


So what?

I don't understand this attempt to discredit the person because they previously made some money at amazon.

A million dollars is still a lot of money. They still had to make a decision to turn down that easy money and speak up about it. They could have just as easily continued to work at amazon and save up 10+ million, etc.


He didn’t “leave” money on the table anymore than anyone else who works for big tech, is always getting RSU’s that vest over time.


just a grumpy old one-percenter white-guy engineer

This caught my eye! A one-percenter? More like a 0.01%er.




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