Amazon – A Modern Capitalist Microcosm

There has been a great deal of focus on Amazon’s global operations recently. As we write workers in Germany are on strike over pay and conditions, and there have been exposées in several countries of the nature of Amazon’s working operations both in evading tax and in the gloriously named “fulfilment centres”. The latter sound like places to realise your dreams, a veritable cornucopia of desirable goodies accessed at a click of a button. We used to call them “warehouses” but in Amazon’s brave new world (which has its own lexicon) they have been repackaged and redefined to fit our global internet economy.

Amazon employs 100,000 permanent people in 89 of these warehouses around the world. Starting off as an internet bookselling business, Amazon has expanded into almost every commodity area of the personal consumer. It was floated on the stock market in 1997, since when its turnover has gone up 420 times to $62 billion in 2012. And to the continuing surprise of most commentators it continues to register an ever higher share price (at over $400 it has increased ten times since the launch). The surprise about its rapidly rising share price is that Amazon has yet to register an annual profit. For those who argued in the 1980s that only the bottom line (i.e. the profit) counted, this is a surprise, but Amazon has risen at a time when speculation is the name of the game. According to its supporters its shares are being bought not because Amazon is currently profitable but because it is expanding so rapidly all the profits are ploughed back into new warehouses[1] (sorry, “fulfilment centres”) which in their time will give Amazon such a global retail monopoly that it will be able to name its price for everything and thus become immensely profitable. Not bad for a company that actually produces nothing itself. The argument for investor confidence is a bit like that used by European imperialists during the scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century. The actual colonies that were acquired were never profitable but they were acquired on the basis that one day they would be (and if one country did not grab them than another would).

Benefitting from State Subsidies

Amazon is also not just a single firm. Aside from its own internal divisions (which allow its boss Jeff Bezos to switch profits to loss-making sections as part of the tax avoidance strategy) Amazon allows other retailers to offer their products for sale on their websites through its Marketplace scheme. This is clever monopolist move. It increases turnover and leaves the rivals to deal with the various orders for low-demand products which Amazon does not want to fill its shelves with. It also means Amazon get to police their rivals’ pricing. They can then charge less (check it out for yourself on their site) and over time they ultimately destroy the sales of their smaller rivals. One Devon bookseller interviewed on the BBC’s Panorama programme recently said that he got virtually nothing in sales from being on Amazon. The French Booksellers Association reckons that 18 times more people are employed by bookshops in like for like selling compared to Amazon whilst the American Booksellers Association reckoned that 42,000 jobs in retailing were lost in 2012 alone due to Amazon. According to them every $10 million of Amazon turnover represent 33 jobs in local bookshops. Amazon is doing for retail generally what the supermarkets did for the high street and corner shop three decades back. The Amazon claim is that it creates jobs but this does not stand up to examination

The Amazon model has been commented on by many although none in more detail than Jean-Baptiste Malet:

Irrespective of their location, Amazon’s distribution centres have similar architecture and working practices. They are near motorway junctions in areas where the unemployment rate is above the national average and assiduously surveilled [sic] by security firms. The giant metal boxes sometimes extend over more than 100,000 square metres, nearly 14 football pitches. Trucks come and go constantly: every three minutes Amazon fills an articulated lorry with packages. In the US, the company sold 300 items every second during the 2012 Christmas season.[2]

Let’s start with the location of warehouses in areas of higher unemployment. This is critical to all Amazon’s operations. Not only do they have a pool of desperate people to pick from, they can also auction their arrival to local authorities. Amazon just ask what incentives they can be offered to locate warehouses in this or that area. Local authorities desperate for headline good news which they can use to their political advantage (“new jobs created”) will do almost anything to fall over to get Amazon retail centres. In Swansea the Welsh Assembly agreed to build a new road to the warehouse at a cost of £4.9 million. In Bad Hersfeld near Frankfurt the same thing happened (similar cost to the local government at €7 million) with the addition that the road has been called “Amazon Strasse”.[3] In France the Socialist-run Government, the Burgundy regional government and the department of Saone-et-Loire have all given Amazon subsidies. Burgundy region gave €1.125 m for Amazon to employ 250 people on open-ended contracts thus paying for Amazon’s selection process. Opening the facility in Swansea, First Minister Rhodri Morgan gave us the predictable soundbites.

“Amazon is an iconic global company right at the forefront of the e-economy.

“Amazon is one of only a handful of truly world brands that have emerged since the internet changed the way we live our lives.

“This is one of the biggest investments announced in Wales since devolution began nine years ago.

“It is a powerful shot in the arm for the Welsh economy and the Swansea Bay area in particular.

“I am proud of the role that the Assembly Government has played in attracting Amazon to Wales.”[4]

The Nationalist government in Scotland bent over even further to get Amazon to locate two warehouses there. At least £3 million in grants has been handed out to create the Dunfermline warehouse which is the biggest in the UK. There is some debate about the total incentive package but it is thought to be in the region of £10 million when the second warehouse is set up. This could yet turn out to be an own goal for the SNP. As well as the well-documented nature of work at Amazon there are also powerful voices being raised about the overall economic impact of Amazon on employment in Scotland. Hugh Andrew, a bookseller and publisher fired the following broadside in The Scotsman.

Let us stand back and look at Amazon. It is a retailer, pure and simple. In a time of flat retail expenditure, its market share expands in only one way: at the expense of others. Those others are the high street and town centres across the UK, those others are independent businesses struggling to survive in an ever bleaker environment. It is a company that has paid minimal UK tax (apart from National Insurance) in at least the past three years. It is a company that has specialised in minimum-wage labour under no contractual protection whatsoever (last year it was censured for its behaviour in Greenock where, when the work finished in the small hours, workers were left unpaid and with no means of getting home). It is a company whose market share has grown to a great extent by predatory pricing and elimination of rivals through purchase. In a completely deregulated market it has proved a remarkably successful strategy.[5]

Amazon is however beloved by most European publishers who can cut their own costs through using Amazon distribution rather than the messy servicing of hundreds of retail outlets.

But Not Paying Much Back

Whilst receiving all these grants, Amazon pays back a pittance in taxation in countries where its sales are measured in billions. The dodge is to invoice the sales to spurious offices in a low tax area. This is not strictly illegal and was a practice widely tolerated by all states until the financial bubble burst and getting down the deficit became a priority. Then questions started to be asked. In the UK Amazon sold £7.6 billion in goods in 2012[6] but paid not a single drop of corporation tax as all the sales were invoiced to Dublin (where Irish corporation tax is lower) but a recent Amazon whistleblower has revealed the dodge so this has further put the spotlight on Amazon’s claims to be good for local economies. In the nine years 2003-11 Amazon only paid £3 million in tax on transactions which should have yielded £360 million. Today the same thing happens in all the countries Amazon operates in and it is under investigation in China, Japan, the US, Germany, France, and even Luxemburg where it has no warehouses. This is because Amazon’s European operations are nominally based in Luxemburg where the firm set up Amazon Europe Holding Technologies SCS and to where all profits are invoiced. At the end of 2011 it had reserves of €1.9 billion yet did not have a single employee there.[7]

The whole business of inducements and tax evasion, which states have colluded in until, now raises the question of the nature of the state in a capitalism which is fundamentally racked by new contradictions (and the old ones have not gone away as we shall see below). The state was originally drawn beyond its original role of acting as a framework for the defence of private property by the process of concentration and centralisation of capital identified by Marx in Capital Volume III. It became more deeply involved in the economic management of capitalism when imperialist expansion took competition beyond the level of individual firms within each nation state on to an international level. It is a process which has never stopped since the late nineteenth century but it has gone through many phases. Initially the state supported national monopoly producers expanding abroad (by military means when all else failed) but as the process developed and as defence of the national capital was seen as essential the state was forced to take over or at least heavily subsidise the “commanding heights of the economy”.

It is no accident that in the wake of the First World War we got new forms of state capitalism, ranging from Fascism and Stalinism, to the mixed economy of the Keynesian model. The aim was to keep heavy industry (the basis of armaments production) functioning, despite the fact that these were increasingly the least profitable sectors of the economy. Two world wars converted this into an absolute must for any respectable imperialist power. Throughout the post-war boom a combination of transference of tax revenues and deficit-financing enabled all the leading national capitals to maintain their basic industries. But the onset of the end of the cycle of accumulation at the end of the sixties and beginning of the seventies turned the “commanding heights” into “lame ducks”. At first there were attempts to actually extend state control in the face of the crisis but the consequent costs of this led to further deficit financing which led to threatening hyper-inflation. In the days of “sound money” some states like Britain and Italy were driven nearly bankrupt by this in the 1970s.

However one other event which signalled the new crisis of accumulation was the US abandonment of the Bretton Woods Agreement which fixed 35 US dollars as worth an ounce of gold. The US deficit too was so great that it had to abandon Bretton Woods in order to devalue the dollar. Floating currencies was the beginning of a gradual shift into financialisation, deregulation and speculation. Capital now flowed out of the major capitalist countries to less developed areas, principally in Asia, where labour was cheap and investment conditions in “Special Enterprise Zones” favourable. The crisis also helped to fuel the microprocessor revolution as the cheap semi-conductors could be put together in China (in those very Special Enterprise Zones”) to put workers on the dole in the advanced capitalist world. In capitalist history it was the first technological revolution which destroyed jobs rather than created them.

At the same time deregulation allowed banks to speculate more and more. Clinton dumped the Glass-Steagall Act brought in during the Depression to prevent retail banking from getting involved in speculation. In other words in the face of a long profits crisis which led to financialisation and globalisation the balance between capital and the state changed. Whereas the states had set the legal framework for capitalists for much of the twentieth century by the end they now were rolling back laws in order to make their patch attractive to global capital.

And with deregulation of finance the financial institutions, backed by neo-liberals like Greenspan, began the orgy of debt-fuelled speculation which ended so calamitously (but predictably) in 2007-8. By giving housing loans principally to those who could only afford them if house prices continually rose they created a world of so-called “toxic assets” which was hidden amongst the various financial derivatives and other instruments which were supposed to ensure no financial failures. It is a story that is now well-known and we have written about it many times over the years. But Amazon is not unconnected with this story. It is a child of all the trends highlighted above. And in the final analysis its rise still depends on the backwash from the speculative bubble. In fact some have commented that both modern capitalism and Amazon seem like giant Ponzi schemes where the whole thing depends on fuelling expansion through debt, both corporate and individual. Amazon could not function without credit cards, and modern information technology. To maintain its share price it has to maintain its reputation as the retailer of first resort. It uses complex algorithms to track consumer patterns on purchasers’ computers and relentlessly bombards anyone who has bought from them with suggestions for further purchases. It also rents this information to third parties via the Amazon Web Service business.[8] Volume and speed of delivery have become the twin obsessions for this globalised retail outfit.

Working for Amazon

Following some high profile exposées about working conditions in Amazon warehouses in the US, in France and most recently in Germany there has been a rash of reporters going undercover in Amazon to report on what it is like to work there.[9] Their stories paint a graphic picture of the world of work today. Each warehouse is very like the next. All are monstrously huge, generally in excess of the size of ten football pitches. To step into one is to enter an Orwellian world of double-speak. Workers are “associates” in “fulfilment centres” where the walls are emblazoned with the slogan “Work hard, have fun, make history”.

And Big Brother is watching you. It comes in the shape of a handheld wi-fi device. This uses barcodes and GPS to tell “pickers” where they can find stuff in Amazon’s “chaotic storage” system. The device also tracks the worker and even, as the Panorama programme shows, verbally counts them down in seconds to try to make them pick up the order in a designated time. Workers are not allowed to talk to each other but managers can talk to workers through this device to egg them on. Perhaps it’s more like “Modern Times” than “1984”. Bezos aim is to get each item picked within 20 minutes of the computer order. Why? The only answer for this insane obsession is to keep ahead of the competition in a capitalist market-driven system.

Management techniques have been borrowed from Japanese car firms like Toyota called “5S”.[10]

Every warehouse has its own “continuous improvement manager” who uses “kaizen” techniques pioneered by Japanese car company Toyota to improve prod­uctivity. Marc Onetto, the senior vice-president of worldwide operations, told a business school class at the University of Virginia a few years ago: “We use a bunch of Japanese guys, they are not consultants, they are insultants, they are really not nice … They’re samurais, the real last samurais, the guys from the Toyota plants.”[11]

The system involves monitoring real time performance of workers and demanding that they beat their previous speeds, or organising competitions between individual workers. Pickers have to walk more than 17 kilometres (11 miles) a night wearing poor quality plastic safety boots[12] rather than trainers, so blisters are a serious problem. All productivity details are recorded and sent to Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle.

The “have fun” bit of the strategy is the organising of raffles during your half hour break (in your 10 and half hour shift) as well as handouts of chocolates and sweets. Management also encourages workers to come to work in fancy dress based on themes chosen by management. Unloading a lorry dressed as a clown is not to everyone’s taste but it is somehow symbolic of “Amazonia”. Recently pre-shift stretching and warm-up exercises have been organised by management (presumably whilst you wait your turn for the security check before you can clock in or out[13]). The basic Amazon attitude is that all workers are potential thieves. Security can even demand to search you during your shift. So its cheery attempts at paternalistic “we-are-all-hands together” management have withered over the demeaning nature of the way workers are treated the rest of the time.

Add to that the conditions in the warehouses. Unbearably hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. In Montélimar in France workers had to work in parkas with hats and gloves in 2011’s sub-zero temperatures until a dozen of them went on strike and got the heating turned on. The opposite problem is more generally the case as temperatures in summer can reach 40 degrees. In the Bad Hersfeld warehouse Sonia Rudolf,

… came across a girl lying on the floor throwing up. Her face was blue. I really though she was going to die. Because we did not have a stretcher the manager told us to go and get a wooden pallet so we could carry her to the ambulance.[14]

There are many more examples of workers collapsing from heat exhaustion in the Louisiana and Tennessee operations.

And then there is the points system Amazon operates. It is basically three strikes and you are out. A minute late is half a point, an hour is one point and any day of illness is another point. They are not allowed to talk to each other during work and are encouraged to report any workers so doing (with the promise of promotion or more job security). Workers’ contracts include a gagging order which Amazon claim is to stop commercial secrets being leaked. But, as one worker noted, since they are not privy to such information the real purpose has to be to stop workers telling about conditions in the warehouses.

Continually not walking fast enough leads to more disciplinary action. Amazon is not alone here. The points system it employs has been in use in US warehousing for some time and Amazon is not the worst in the business.[15] What they are doing is reducing the worker to an automaton. In fact workers are better than robots – for the moment. We know this because Amazon says so[16]. In 2012 Amazon bought (for $775 million) a robotics firm called Kiva Systems. This has developed a robot which can slide under a one foot high shelf and pick up weights up to 1,300 kg. Mighty powerful but it still lacks that little bit extra flexibility you get from relentlessly pushed human beings. But the robots are coming[17] even if we can dismiss Amazon propaganda about drone deliveries in the near future as just another headline grabbing gimmick to keep the bad news stories about working conditions off the front pages. For the time being Amazon is basically concentrating on “robotising” its workforce. In the 60s at the height of Fordism they used to talk of the monotony of production line work in the car factories but then labour was scarce so absenteeism, strikes and even sabotage were escape valves from the dreariness of that existence. Car assembly pay was high compared to most jobs at the time and certainly compared to the few pence above the minimum wage rate that Amazon now pays to its workers.

And of course the final factor on which Amazon depends is the existence of high rates of unemployment in its locations. Only the desperate work at Amazon and they know it. You can tell that by the locations they choose. South Wales, Central Scotland, Rugeley all have higher than average unemployment rates. In Poland Amazon is locating in deregulated “Special Economic Zones” which were so attractive to Western capital in China 25 years or so ago. And just to add to the insecurity Amazon use employment agencies for recruitment. This is useful in several ways. Agency workers have fewer rights, are easily got rid of and don’t come with all the on-costs of full-time workers. At this time of year (Q4 when Amazon gets 70% of its annual turnover) Amazon will take on thousands of temporary staff (reaching as many as 15,000 per warehouse) who outnumber the permanent staff several times over. They are told in training videos that they might get a permanent job after Christmas and from there promotion to management is rapid. It is all hogwash but designed to make workers flog themselves to death to get that permanent job. Even when they do get kept on they are not really permanent as Amazon have a hierarchy of statuses (denoted by the colour badge you wear). Getting a blue badge means you finally made it and you get better pay and conditions but the more general rule is for you to get laid off and taken on successively. Once again we see Amazon typifying the modern labour conditions of the entire capitalist world. Low pay, job insecurity, poor working conditions and gruelling schedules are not just for Cambodian and Bangladeshi textile workers.

Strikes in Germany

At Bad Hersfeld though, the worst of Amazon’s practices in areas of high unemployment has been revealed. Germany has one of the most regulated labour markets in the world and has a relatively low rate of unemployment. Nowhere are the unions more integrated into management. This has enormous advantages for German capitalism. In return for rolling over and accepting draconian cuts in welfare in the past (the Hartz IV agreement they signed with the last SPD Chancellor Schroder) the unions have maintained some bargaining rights in some sectors of the economy but not ones that favour workers. There is a myth (amongst workers outside Germany) that German union organisation means more employment and better conditions. This is not true. Hartz IV was introduced to compel workers to take low paid part-time work (which accounts for the fall in German unemployment) or face penury. A quarter of all German workers earn less than two thirds of the median wage. The EU classes nearly twice as many German workers as low paid (17%) compared to France. This was largely because Schroder’s eventual deal with the unions,

made it easier for companies to use temporary workers.[See “German meat industry stirs debate on low pay” Financial Times 28 December 2013]

And haven’t Amazon been quick to pick up on this. They opened their first store in 2000 and are now on the verge of opening their ninth there. The possibilities offered by the EU and German labour laws means that they can ship in temporary workers from all over Europe. At Bad Hersfeld one employee said that 44 different nationalities were taken on in 2012’s Q4 season. And they needed to be housed. A German IT worker who lost his job tells what it was like.

I spent three months with five foreigners in a bungalow used for summer lets. It had no heating. I have never been so cold in my life. We were all adults and we had to take it in turns to sleep in a child’s bed.[18]

Many of these workers were bussed in from crisis zones like Spain, Greece, Poland, Ukraine and Portugal.

Some of them were very highly qualified: there was a historian, sociologists, dentists, lawyers, doctors. They were out of work so they came here on short term contracts.[19]

Amazon boasts about the “international” character of its workforce but at bad Hersfeld they were policed both at work and in the stinking “accommodation” provided by Amazon by a literally fascist security firm whose agents wore neo-Nazi uniforms and had HESS as its acronym. The brutality of the treatment of these migrant workers by HESS caused such a scandal when it became known Amazon terminated their contract. This was not out of humanitarian consideration for the workers but because it was one bad news story that resonated and could have damaged the turnover Amazon depends on.

Workers’ only weapon lies in their collective strength and in uniting together. Part-time, precarious workers on short-term contracts though are not in the best position to fight back. When they have done so in the past it has been spontaneous and out of desperation, involving relatively small numbers (often with remarkable success it has to be said). In Germany and to a lesser extent in France workers are now turning to the established unions. In Germany the Ver.di union has been the most successful in penetrating Amazon’s anti-union policy and is behind the wave of strikes at Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig since the beginning of November. The main demand is for the nationally agreed wage rate for delivery workers of €12.18 an hour as Amazon only pays €9.83 (and temporary staff get less). It is a demand which unites union and workers but they have different agendas. For the workers it is a question of getting a better wage with which to survive. The unions however are fighting for their traditional right to be part of the management of German capitalism, a role which in the past allowed them to play a part in negotiating the conditions which Amazon now takes advantage of. And in these days where the bosses have the unions on the back foot they are not much use to workers. Any collective organisation which accepts the legal framework of the state is accepting that little can be done. Sending a delegation to Seattle to picket Amazon’s HQ (as Ver.di did) isn’t class struggle but begging to be taken into the system. To have any real weight workers will have to break with capitalist legality through actions like creating flying pickets and blockading distribution. The strikes in Amazon’s German operation were timed to coincide with the Christmas rush when Amazon has 70% of its annual turnover. Sounds a good idea until you realise that the normal workforce is outnumbered 3 or 4 times over by the temporary staff who are desperately compelled to work. Ver.di in fact could call out other workers in logistics (including in 7 other Amazon warehouses) to give real concrete support to the Amazon workers but will not do it as that would damage their “responsible” position in the labour management system. What they are really doing is using the misery of the workers for their own image-building and as a recruitment exercise. Amazon thus seems to have ridden out this particular challenge.

Some have guiltily stated that they use Amazon all the time (who does not?) and that the solution is a consumer boycott, but as one German journalist (a supporter of Ver.di) put it

It is not possible to fight this business individually. It’s a multinational organised according to a well-defined ideology. Its system doesn’t just pose a neutral question about whether we want to shop on its site or not: it raises political questions about what sort of society we want to belong to.[20]

So true, but the questions go deeper than ones posed by social democrats about “neo-liberal” capitalism. The Amazon experience is far from untypical and goes to the very heart of capitalist exploitation today. It epitomises the massive contradiction at the heart of the system. Capitalism has created the technology to ensure that the every single human being on the planet can live without fear of famine or homelessness and all their needs satisfied for a minimum of labour. However capitalism’s antagonistic social relations demand that this technology is used to enslave the many for the profit of a few. And it is this class which is obliged to work for a wage which is constantly being re-shaped by the system through technological change and capitalist restructuring. This is nothing new in capitalist history but in the last few years the contradiction has become more acute.

A decade or so ago there was much talk of “job polarisation” as relatively well-paid manual jobs disappeared in the face of the new technology so that you either got a university education or you were condemned to a low-paid service sector job (exemplified by the term “burger-flippers”). Now even a university education does not guarantee that you will not end up in low-paid work in the service sector (look at the examples of the highly educated migrant workers in Amazon’s Bad Hersfeld facility highlighted above). The increase in a highly educated layer of workers whose skills cannot be integrated into the workforce has been growing geometrically with the passing out of every university generation. It is these educated but pauperised young who are the backbone of the resistance in the “Arab Spring” as well as the Occupy and Indignados movements. Capitalism has no way of integrating them and operations like Amazon only underline what kind of future capitalism holds for them.

And yet the automation it has created offers us the prospect of a “leisure society” in which all human beings can find something useful to do whilst no-one is compelled to work more than they feel capable of contributing. It is not a question of “taxing the rich” or even eating them as the populist Class War slogan had it. The current exploiters are in some ways irrelevant. It is the system they dominate that is the real enemy. The question is about an entirely new way of doing things or in Marxist terms a new “mode of production”. To achieve it we have to abolish commodity relations, money and exploitation. Even Financial Times commentators can see the problem. Automation of tasks poses a question.

The question is whether we are equipped to deal with the possibility that in future, there will be people who – despite being willing and fit to work – have no economic value as employees. By the time today’s 10-year-olds have their degrees, computers could be a hundred times cheaper and smarter than they are today. A future full of robot servants could be a bright future indeed, but only if we can adapt our institutions quickly enough.[21]

But it is not just “institutions” that will have to be adapted. In a capitalist world more automation means more misery. Exchange the Santa Claus grotto from what are wants we don’t need to needs that we really want and Amazon, or any other retail warehouses, could really be converted into “fulfilments centres” supplying the real needs of human beings. However this doesn’t require mere institutional adaption. It requires proletarian revolution.

Jock

Notes

1 Though this also included a one-off $1.4bn for purchasing Amazon’s headquarters building in Seattle in 2012). See ben-evans.com

2 Jean-Baptiste Malet “Amazon – the future of retail?” in Le Monde Diplomatique [English edition] November 2013. The translation is by LMD. Malet has also written a book En Amazonie: Infiltré dans le Meilleur des Mondes (Undercover in the best of all possible worlds) [Fayard Paris 2013} which he wrote after working in an Amazon warehouse. The information from the French and American Booksellers is quoted in the same article.

3 According to the LMD article already cited there are 3 more towns in Germany (Graben, Pforzheim and Kobern-Gondorf) plus 2 (Sevrey and Lauwin-Planque) in France with streets named after the company.

4 dailymail.co.uk

5 scotsman.com

6 theguardian.com. The same article states that Amazon is fighting a one billion dollar tax demand from the US government over its operations in the US.

7 See “Not paying the tax” in Le Monde Diplomatique [November 2013] by Jean-Baptiste Malet. Amazon now claims that 380 people work in its Luxemburg offices.

8 Amazon has also set up a market in online work which is called Amazon Mechanical Turk. It invites people to complete microtasks for micropayments. Pierre Lazuly “Artificial artificial intelligence” in Le Monde Diplomatique [English edition] November 2006

9 Besides Malet (quoted above) there was also theguardian.com by Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer whilst Richard Bilton conducted an investigation for BBC’s Panorama programme entitled “The truth behind the click”.

10 Apparently Motorola were the first to import these methods into the US.

11 An Amazon manager quoted in “Amazon unpacked” by Sarah O’Connor in the Financial Times Magazine 8 February 2013

12 It is an EU law that safety boots be worn in warehouses but Amazon furnishes such bad ones that many workers are forced to buy their own just to be able to keep working.

13 Workers in Kentucky, Washington state and Tennessee have brought lawsuits against Amazon arguing they have to wait 40 minutes a week at security checks which take place before breaks as well as at the beginning and end of the day.

14 See Malet in LMD.

15 See the articles on the Mother Jones site by Mac McClelland such as motherjones.com

16 See “Amazon unpacked” by Sarah O’Connor in the Financial Times 8 February 2103

17 Again we have to stress it, Amazon is more representative of mainstream capitalism than most of its critics acknowledge. Google too has bought a firm called Boston Dynamics which specialises in robots for the military. See Tim Harford “The robots are coming” Financial Times 28 December 2013 at ft.com It sounds trivial (because it is) but Amazon is obsessed with its packers wasting too much tape on its packages so a robot is being developed to take over this task.

18 See Malet in LMD.

19 ibid

20 Guenther Wallraff in Malet op cit

21 see Tim Harford in note 16 above

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Comments

Thank you Jock for this truly eye opening and absolutely Amazoning article. It left me stunned.

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