Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping call out Jeff Bezos, acolyte of the great god Mammon (AKA money) in a protest outside Bezos’s NY home (on YouTube) and in a podcast about Bezos and Amazon’s crimes against the Earth (and its own workers).
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice had forced CEO Jeff Bezos into an extraordinary concession, pledging to move the company to 100 per cent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions. The tech workers were celebrating their power even though their numbers represented a minuscule fraction of the company’s fifty thousand Seattle workers. Imagine what power they would have if tech, logistics, and warehouse workers united and organized global majority unions at Amazon.
That’s daunting to conceive. Amazon is huge. It plays the central role in American capitalism’s distribution and logistics web and also in technology and its control of the internet through Amazon Web Services (AWS). Amazon’s worldwide employee head count is 1.2 million and growing every day. Its market valuation exceeds the national GDPs of more than 90 per cent of the world’s nations.
A Very Modern Challenge
In the last fifteen years, the company that began as an online bookseller has consolidated extraordinary monopolistic control over our daily lives, monetizing the activities of workers and consumers, honing surveillance systems inside and out of the workplace, driving economies, capturing governments around the world, and deploying vast resources to keep workers atomized, intimidated, permanently precarious, and disempowered.
The challenge of how to organize at a company so vast and apparently omnipotent, whose CEO is on the way to becoming the world’s first trillionaire, can seem utterly overwhelming, a futile exercise. And yet any credible working-class theory of taking on late-stage monopoly capitalism in today’s Gilded Age must answer the question of how to organize worker power at Amazon.
The Cost of Free Shipping: Amazon in the Global Economy (edited by Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and Ellen Reese and out by Pluto Press this year) doesn’t purport to provide a comprehensive road map for organizing. But in essays by the editors bookending seventeen curated articles from around the world, the book offers important insights into Amazon’s insidious nature, the challenges of organizing, and also some glimmers of organizing success at the local and national levels.
Photo: Despite their Amazon-branded delivery vans and uniforms, subcontracted delivery drivers do not formally work for the e-commerce giant. Photo: Todd Van Hoosear, CC BY-SA 2.0.
In addition to Flex, the company is increasingly relying on its Delivery Service Partners program, rolled out in 2018. DSPs are small subcontracted parcel delivery firms with 20–40 delivery vans apiece—considered “independent” of Amazon, though they exclusively deliver packages for Amazon Prime customers.
DSP fleets are limited to 40 vans to complicate unionization efforts and to increase Amazon’s flexibility and power over the price paid per delivery. Limiting their size makes it difficult for these small firms to gain leverage against Amazon. Each DSP manages between 40 and 100 employees.
I live in Southern California, one of Amazon’s largest markets in the world. For years, it was most common here to see white unmarked delivery vans with workers wearing reflective vests hustling Amazon Prime packages through the streets. Today, however, most DSPs lease grey-blue Amazon-branded delivery vans and Amazon uniforms for their drivers. And yet, despite their appearance, these subcontracted delivery drivers do not formally work for Amazon.
The majority of these drivers in Southern California work eight- to 10-hour shifts and earn about $15 per hour. Many do not receive health insurance benefits.
These workers face extreme pressure to meet the demands of Amazon’s tight delivery terms. During peak holiday periods, the number of deliveries can reach as high as 400 per shift. Drivers complain of unpaid overtime, poor working conditions, and unrealistic expectations and pressures set by Amazon.
Amazon’s new “Halo” wearable device can listen to every word you say, determine your mood, and monitor your sleep.
NY Times Op Ed EXCERPT:
Halo is Amazon’s attempt to compete with the Apple Watch and Google (which is awaiting approval of its acquisition of Fitbit) in the health-tracking arena. I got on the wait list for it as soon as it was introduced in the summer, and it arrived on Halloween. I strapped on the attractive band and turned on all the intrusive bells and whistles, which Amazon had trumpeted as good for me.
The company has been on an endless quest for information about me (and you, too). The device widens the reach of the company’s personal-data grab, adding a user’s body tone and a body-fat analysis to the information it vacuums up, which required photos of me in as pared down a state of dress as possible.
Doubling down on owning the consumption grid, Amazon last week announced a major push into the prescription drug arena, since it needs to move into ever bigger markets like health and wellness in order to keep up its explosive growth. The announcement of Amazon Pharmacy to deliver prescription drugs to the home sent the stock prices of drugstore chains crashing. …
In the last few weeks of using Halo, it finally clicked as to why Amazon needs a device that tracks sleep and movement and body fat and even body tone: An Echo is too far away from our bodies, and the consumer goods we order give the company much information about us but not enough. Amazon needs even more, and to be even closer — skintight — to understand the state of me at all times. Then the company can begin to really determine what I might need or want at any moment.
Another link and review:
Another of Halo’s unique features is Tone, which uses the bracelet’s microphone to periodically eavesdrop on your conversations to tell you what your mood sounds like. I turned the feature off after two days because it felt like a creepy invasion of privacy. But I left it on long enough to complain to my wife about what a bad idea it was.
After analyzing the conversation, the Halo app said I sounded irritated and disgusted. That, at least, was accurate.
The Halo collects the most intimate information we’ve seen from a consumer health gadget — and makes the absolute least use of it.
This wearable is much better at helping Amazon gather data than at helping you get healthy and happy.
Since August, the Halo has been listed by Amazon as an “early access” product that requires an “invitation” to buy. (It will cost $100 plus a $4 monthly fee once it’s sold widely.) We’re reviewing the Halo now because Amazon’s first digital wellness product offers a glimpse of how one of tech’s most influential companies thinks about the future of health. And what could be better to do when we’re lonely during a pandemic than have an always-listening device point out our flaws? Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but we review all technology with the same critical eye.
“Amazon is hiring…2,800 people a day.”
While news of new job opportunities seems positive, Tiffany D. Cross pointed out that “Amazon employees top the list of those receiving public assistance like SNAP. ”
EXCERPTS from NY Times article:
The scale of hiring is even larger than it may seem because the numbers do not account for employee churn, nor do they include the 100,000 temporary workers who have been recruited for the holiday shopping season. They also do not include what internal documents show as roughly 500,000 delivery drivers, who are contractors and not direct Amazon employees.
[Note: I wonder if Amazon had a hand in passsing CA’s Measure 22 which exempted delivery driver contractors, along with Uber and Lyft, from being classified as employees?]
Adding so many new workers so fast in a pandemic has been a herculean task. Many workers feared catching the coronavirus in warehouses, so Amazon rolled out a fleet of safety measures to address Covid-19. And it revved up its hiring machine, which relies on technology and traditional recruitment.
That includes promoting its training, benefits and pay. Of its 810,000 workers who are in the United States, about 85 percent are frontline employees in warehouses and operations who earn a minimum of $15 an hour. That is higher than traditional retail work, where an average sales worker makes $13.19 an hour, but lower than typical warehousing jobs.
[Note: Warehouse work, especially under Amazon’s speed-up policies, is a lot more physically demanding and taxing than traditional retail, and given the confined quarters and large staff, a lot likelier to spread COVID.]
Today is Black Friday, the second busiest shopping day of the entire year.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is hoping to make billions of dollars between today and Cyber Monday, off of the work of thousands of warehouse employees across the country.
Warehouse workers at Amazon are twice as likely to be injured on the job than those in similar jobs.(1) Coronavirus cases are spiking but Amazon has ended its hazard pay and still does not have significant paid sick leave.(2) And while Bezos has made $70 billion since the start of the pandemic, warehouse employees in California aren’t being paid wages competitive to where they live.(3)
We’re encouraging everyone to shop local this Black Friday and Cyber Monday in order to support local businesses and send a strong message to Bezos that we won’t support his exploitation of warehouse workers.
Here are instructions for how to change your profile picture for various social medias:
A trove of more than two dozen internal Amazon reports reveal in stark detail the company’s obsessive monitoring of organized labor and social and environmental movements in Europe, particularly during Amazon’s “peak season” between Black Friday and Christmas. The reports, obtained by Motherboard, were written in 2019 by Amazon intelligence analysts who work for the Global Security Operations Center, the company’s security division tasked with protecting Amazon employees, vendors, and assets at Amazon facilities around the world.
The documents show Amazon analysts closely monitor the labor and union-organizing activity of their workers throughout Europe, as well as environmentalist and social justice groups on Facebook and Instagram. They also indicate, and an Amazon spokesperson confirmed, that Amazon has hired Pinkerton operatives—from the notorious spy agency known for its union-busting activities—to gather intelligence on warehouse workers.
Internal emails sent to Amazon’s Global Security Operations Center obtained by Motherboard reveal that all the division’s team members around the world receive updates on labor organizing activities at warehouses that include the exact date, time, location, the source who reported the action, the number of participants at an event (and in some cases a turnout rate of those expected to participate in a labor action), and a description of what happened, such as a “strike” or “the distribution of leaflets.”
Amazon intelligence analysts appear to gather information on labor organizing and social movements to prevent any disruptions to order fulfillment operations. The new intelligence reports obtained by Motherboard reveal in detail how Amazon uses social media to track environmental activism and social movements in Europe—including Greenpeace and Fridays For Future, environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s global climate strike movement—and perceives such groups as a threat to its operations. In 2019, Amazon monitored the Yellow Vests movement, also known as the gilet jaunes, a grassroots uprising for economic justice that spread across France—and solidarity movements in Vienna and protests against state repression in Iran.
|From the New York Times:
The U.S. Army uses Palantir’s technologies for logistics. The investment bank Credit Suisse uses it to guard against money laundering. The pharmaceutical company Merck, in Germany, uses it to expedite the development of new drugs. Ferrari Scuderia uses it to try to make its Formula 1 cars faster. In the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services is using Palantir’s software to analyze virus-related data. In the NY Times magazine cover story, Michael Steinberger reports on Palantir, the secretive tech company that’s seen by some as:
a particularly malignant avatar of the Big Data revolution.
Unmentioned by the NY Times in their teaser above, Palantir has contracts with many US police departments to provide “big data” for so-called “predictive policing,” (referred to by some as PREDATORY policing) which is the draping of a scientific veneer of “objectivity” on racial profiling and the criminalization og Black, Indigenous and other People of Color communties