Our new investigation in @TheAtlantic:— Reveal (@reveal) November 25, 2019
We obtained Amazon’s internal injury records for 23 fulfillment centers.
They show that the rate of serious injuries for those facilities was extreme – more than double the national average in 2018. https://t.co/Gzo4gepSnz
Dixon’s scan rate—more than300 items an hour, thousands of individual products a day—was being tracked constantly, the data flowing to managers in real time, then crunched by a proprietary software system called ADAPT. She knew, like the thousands of other workers there, that if she didn’t hit her target speed, she would be written up, and if she didn’t improve, she eventually would be fired.
Amazon’s cutting-edge technology, unrelenting surveillance, and constant disciplinary write-ups pushed the Eastvale workers so hard that in the last holiday season, they hit a coveted target: They got a million packages out the door in 24 hours. Amazon handed out T-shirts celebrating their induction into the “Million Unit Club.”
But Dixon, 54, wasn’t around for that. She started the job in April 2018, and within two months, or nearly 100,000 items, the lifting had destroyed her back. An Amazon-approved doctor said she had bulging discs and diagnosed her with a back sprain, joint inflammation, and chronic pain, determining that her injuries were 100 percent due to her job. She could no longer work at Amazon. Today, she can barely climb stairs. Walking her dog, doing the dishes, getting out of her chair—everything is painful. According to her medical records, her condition is unlikely to improve.
Not that this is a surprise, we’ve been outsourcing enforced disability to poorer countries for a long time. Makes sense that eventually neoliberalism would eat its own children.
Traditional left analysis would say that strong union culture should prevent this, but the system that has long destroyed workers’ bodies convinced society three decades ago that the trade off is worth it. We get cheap goods and the price we pay is other people’s well-being. This time the wage slaves get smart phones, an affordable car, and a mass media distraction delivery system. We’ve lost the battle to make things fair because now (almost) everyone gets to partake of the endless churn of goodies. The kicker here? Much of the pressure on workers comes from the success of Amazon’s consumer culture social engineering so that we now expect everything to arrive yesterday.
Neoliberalism tells us that things are getting better for poor people, and if we just keep trusting, globalisation will improve things even more. But it’s inevitably a race to the bottom because mass consumption requires back-breaking wage slavery, resource depletion, and environmental pollution. Eventually that gets to us all.
The thing that amazes me is that we’re still buying it. I feel like I am describing some future-set dystopian novel, and the scary thing is that the AI, transhumanism, technofascist society is just around the corner. They’re already building it. There is no way to make what is happening here better. We’re burning the wrong Amazon.