Amazon more threat than China to US
For most consumers, especially those enrolled with Amazon Prime, Amazon.com represents unimaginable convenience. Books, drugs, clothing, electronics, and now even grocery are delivered within one-day with the click of a button.
What can be wrong with that?
Many things if we are to believe independent analysts and think-tanks. Here is how the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) describes the phenomenon in a report, Amazon’s Stranglehold:
In effect, Amazon is supplanting an open, public marketplace, governed by democratic rules that facilitate competition and fair play, with a privately controlled market in which entrepreneurs have to abide by Amazon’s rules and pay tribute to it.
The effects of Amazon’s e-business boom are difficult for the public to ascertain, making it nearly impossible for the grassroots to organize a response, unlike how communities have been able to organize and hold rallies in the past to block big-box mega-stores (such as Walmart) construction.
Amazon will kill more jobs than China
According to Marketwatch, Amazon is going to kill more jobs than China, hinting that the enemy is within only we don’t realize it yet.
What Amazon AMZN, -0.56% won’t tell us is that every job created at Amazon destroys one or two or three others. What Jeff Bezos doesn’t want you to know is that Amazon is going to destroy more American jobs than China ever did.
Already Amazon gobbles up almost half of all online purchases, to the dismay of well-established national brick-and-mortar retailers such as Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, and Barnes & Noble. While these national chains already have a reputation for taking a larger chunk of money out of the local economy than small, locally-owned businesses, Amazon.com is a real jobs destroyer especially in the retail sector. According to Investopedia, companies like J.C. Penney are going bankrupt because they have taken on so much debt; for instance, J.C. Penney has accrued over $5 billion worth of debt in recent years but must make over $400 million in interest payments a year to stay afloat.
Of course, there are many more factors besides the growth of online business threatening the retail sector. One example is the shrinking middle-class. According to ZeroHedge.com, at least 102 million Americans do not have jobs right now, with the real unemployment rate estimated as 21.1%. Graphs by Haver/BLS published at Marketwatch.com show that since the 1970s, a gap has opened up between gains in productivity and pay increases for American workers. With the recession and more graduates applying for part-time jobs, obtaining a full-time career job with paid benefits is becoming elusive. Another factor is increased automation or roboticization of jobs in manufacturing, distribution, or sales—all of which Amazon is already using or investing heavily in.
According to Marketwatch, since 2017 at least 10,100 retail workers have lost their jobs at Macy’s; 4000 retail workers have lost their jobs at The Limited (Women’s Clothing & Apparel); Sears and Kmart have laid off thousands of workers as hundreds of stores have closed. Over the period 2015-2017, 125,000 retail workers were laid off. Additional jobs are lost when shopping malls are affected by lost business after the anchor department store closes.
Evidence in ILSR‘s report indicates that Amazon warehouses weaken community resiliency when local governments cannot collect property taxes, and states do not collect sales taxes. Furthermore a certain vitality within the community is lost because shopping becomes a solitary activity; there is less community engagement. Dollars are not spent and reinvested back locally, as much as in communities which are self-sustaining and filled with locally owned businesses.
The ILSR‘s report describes a rising tide of vacant stores costing taxpayers extra money due to the “broken windows” theory (beyond the heavy tax subsidies and public incentives offered by local governments for new Amazon fulfillment centers). Increased crime and drops in nearby property values furthers the domino-effect of more job losses. The idea that Amazon will create many jobs and bolster the local economy—a concept that politicians embrace because of Amazon lobbyists and political score-keeping—is shown to be a fallacy because most warehouse jobs are part-time, non-union, and come with few benefits.
According to various sources, Amazon warehouse workers often don’t even last long enough to collect any benefits. The health insurance that Amazon offers is equivalent to reporting to a medical station where health practitioners are practically encouraged to under-diagnose any workplace injuries.
Forcing people to work themselves crazy
Horror stories abound of injured workers unable to collect unemployment insurance, workers made to feel dehumanized, workers unable to receive adequate rest or lunch breaks, warehouses without air-conditioning or adequate ventilation, unfair dismissals, workplace surveillance, being spied upon after hours, and even a rash of suicides.
International Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV) started to help tell the truth about what working and living conditions for Amazon workers is really like.
John, who works at a Tracy, California warehouse and works as a “picker” described the polluted air workers were subjected to during the Camp Fire of 2018, California’s most deadly and destructive wildfire.
We don’t have real air conditioning in there, and some of the stations don’t even have fans. I’ve seen people pass out from the heat and dehydration. If you don’t have money then you have to drink water from the fountains, because if you bought water every hour you would spend $10 each day. There’s only two fountains where people go to get water, because it’s less tainted and won’t make you sick.
John claims that the air quality is inadequately unfiltered and the water quality is poor. He also stated that managers didn’t care about accommodating pregnant women:
When I first started working at Tracy, I saw at least three pregnant women picking heavy items. I’ve heard from multiple pregnant women that have had these same problems of being overworked, picking up heavy packages, working 10-12-hour shifts, and even longer during peak season. I’ve met women past six months pregnant picking sports drinks and items up to 40 pounds heavy. Most of the time, the heavier items are on the bottom of the crates, so they have to bend over very far to pick them up.
Why would workers push themselves to levels comparable to robots?
According to Sputnik, workers are ruthlessly surveilled, monitored, and fired by automated software systems if they do not work fast enough. Workers are assigned picking rates which are arbitrarily increased; when they do not meet the rates they are fired. Workers rushing to meet picking rates suffer more workplace injuries that often go unreported or are minimized. ILSR reports how flex workers are used to keep direct hires in line in anything from asking for pay increases to forming labor unions.
As workers become conditioned to harsh work conditions, even harsher expectations are imposed such as being forced to work changing shifts, forced overtime, 60-hour work shifts, punishments for small errors such as deductions in counts. Workers even skip rest breaks to make up for lower picking rates. Workers develop such anxiety about meeting their rates and such depression over their grueling work conditions that an uncommon number of suicides have occurred.
Ms. Allen, an Amazon worker who was injured on the job, tells International Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV):
In a 10-hour shift, workers are permitted two 15-minute breaks and one 30-minute break for lunch. To go outside on a break, workers must submit to the search and go through the security line. ‘The lines to get outside on your 15-minute break are 20 to 30 deep on each line, and there are only two lines.’ Meanwhile, the breaks are timed from ‘scan to scan’ at a worker’s station, and workers are admonished, ‘Not one second more.’
Furthermore, due to sweltering heat, temperatures may exceed 90 degrees inside the warehouse. Ms. Allen:
July and August are the absolute worst…It was nothing to see an ambulance up at Amazon four to five times a night…On my shift…We were picking people up from heat exhaustion.
Whether workers suffer heart attacks or workplace injuries or high turnover, it is routinely downplayed by the establishment media. In contrast, Amazon warehouse center construction is frequently hailed as a job creator, even when small businesses and malls are eventually forced to close.