business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Philadelphia Inquirer has an unexpected piece about Emily Guendelsberger, who worked for two weeks as an Amazon fulfillment center employee for her new book, "On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane," for which she worked several service jobs as part of her research.

While the work is tough enough that Amazon has vending machines on the floor that dispense OTC pain medications, Guendelsberger says that critics tend to get it wrong.

“They’re appalled by a whole host of details — the aggressive productivity tracking, the ambulances waiting outside to take people who pass out from the heat — but for the people working there? To them it’s normal,” the Inquirer writes. “Not only that, but they see these as good jobs. The pay is well-over federal minimum wage. The hours are predictable. You even get unpaid time off — or, if you’re a permanent, full-time employee, you get to accrue paid time off, plus health insurance and a 401(K) match. The workers Guendelsberger talks to tell her that it’s one of the best jobs a person without a college degree or specialized skills could land.”

That said, the jobs aren’t perfect. The warehouse floor employees are constantly monitored to make sure that they are meeting productivity expectations, and there does seem to be a sense of loneliness - it is designed to be almost impossible for employees to talk to each other, so the job isn’t just hard, but also isolating. The micromanagement also means that employees have no room for independent thought or innovation because “managers treat them as if they aren’t smart enough to think, like they’re just brute labor.” Or robots.

You can read the entire story here.
KC's View:
Wow. Not an entirely positive story, to be sure. But “one of the best jobs a person without a college degree or specialized skills could land”? Didn’t see that coming.