I’ve talked about Spencer’s work a good deal in this space, and it’s not just because mindless abuse at the hands of the world’s largest online retailer is happening in my backyard. It’s a global story, and a globalism story. Many of the people I’ve shared it with have responded in encouraging ways, pledging to swear off Amazon not just because of the violations Soper uncovered, but because of what Amazon’s very model says about the corporate ethos. Let’s be clear: getting things to you as quickly and cheaply as Amazon does means Amazon caring as little as possible about worker rights, local economies, brick and mortar small businesses, communities, and fairness. Oh, how grand it was when these realities were only hypothetical. But the abuse here in the Lehigh Valley brings things we should have all realized long ago directly to the fore. Amazon is a machine built for speed, and if people get caught in all those moving parts, it’s fine with Amazon so long as the clean up doesn’t take too long.
Soper’s new piece notes that 13,ooo people might equate to something like $9 million in sales. Even if that’s only a drop in Amazon’s global bucket, imagine what that same $9 million could do, even when broken into pieces, for fair trade retailers and generative charities.
I’ve heard some people in this here Valley saying that Amazon was justified in keeping warehouse workers, often clad in nothing more than t-shirts and short, outside in the wee hours of the morning in the freezing cold for ridiculously long periods of time. Oh, they’re not saying it exactly that way. Remember, the evacuations at the warehouses were caused by fire alarms being pulled, and the alarms were pulled so that these workers could steal, so the narrative goes. Sometimes people with throw the word “lazy” in there before “workers,” or maybe the occasional “thieving.” So, you know, because some workers are allegedly stealing, everyone has to be exposed to extreme cold for close to two hours so some middle managers can get some iPod Nanos back. Some of the workers, by the way, have been saying that the managers are the ones doing the stealing.
Amazon and Amazon fans can spin this however they want. The fact remains that these procedures, and the culture that breeds them, are the definition of unsustainable business. There’s really no better to handle rogue alarm-pulling (if, indeed, that’s what happened) than to let your workforce freeze in the early hours of a November or December morning in Pennsylvania? That’s atrocious and unacceptable. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, really has no better way of cooling their facilities in the summer than farming out heat-sick workers to local ERs via a veritable concierge ambulance service? Please.
Strike a blow for sustainability and stop buying from Amazon until they figure out how to run an ethical business on the supply side.