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Working conditions in warehouse jobs

This is depressing and I thought about not posting it, but I spent a couple of hours reading these articles and I figured someone might be interested and/or need their blood pressure raised.

"I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave" by Mac McClelland describes the stress of working in an etailer warehouse. When I ran across this quote:
I suppose this is what they were talking about in the radio ad I heard on the way to work, the one that was paid for by a coalition of local businesses, gently begging citizens to buy from them instead of off the internet and warning about the importance of supporting local shops."
I wondered: aren't local shops also stocked via warehouses? Do those warehouse workers get treated better than the ones working for direct etailers? Digging around in some other articles, I found evidence that some warehouse jobs are better than others. The ones that are especially bad are associated with big companies like Amazon and Walmart, which seem to mostly hire temps, set them impossible tasks, and then fire them after a few weeks.

"Inside Amazon's Warehouse: Lehigh Valley workers tell of brutal heat, dizzying pace at online retailer"

Excerpts:
During summer heat waves, Amazon arranged to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside, ready to treat any workers who dehydrated or suffered other forms of heat stress....

Goris, the Allentown resident who worked as a permanent Amazon employee, said high temperatures were handled differently at other warehouses in which he worked. For instance, loading dock doors on opposite sides of those warehouses were left open to let fresh air circulate and reduce the temperature when it got too hot, he said. When Amazon workers asked in meetings why this wasn't done at the Amazon warehouse, managers said the company was worried about theft, Goris said.
Just to show that it's not entirely the corporations at fault for this behavior:
OSHA does not mandate that work cease when temperatures exceed a specific degree. Instead, the agency gives employers guidelines about what they should do in specific ranges of the heat index.
The article explicitly compares Amazon to Walmart.
Amazon's competitors are no longer just bookstores. It's now considered a key competitor to Walmart, which has seen its growth slow considerably while Amazon's sales have skyrocketed.

Amazon's founder and CEO, Jeffrey Bezos, keeps climbing the ranks of the world's wealthiest people. Forbes magazine estimated his net worth to be $18.1 billion this year, making him the 30th wealthiest person in the world. That wealth is tied to the value of Amazon stock, which has grown about eightfold to nearly $240 per share over the past five years.
This one specifically discusses how arms-length relationships between the warehouse companies and temp agencies contributes to the problem of worker mistreatment: The New Blue Collar: Temporary Work, Lasting Poverty And The American Warehouse by Dave Jamieson. Excerpt:
The industry relies so heavily on temp work that many temp agencies actually have offices inside the warehouses themselves.
...
...the splintered workforce among all the temp agencies creates a tremendous obstacle to unionization.
Hotels are replacing in-house employees with temps too. "As Hotels Outsource Jobs, Workers Lose Hold On Living Wage" by Dave Jamieson

This entry was originally posted at http://firecat.dreamwidth.org/764709.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
graymalkin13
Mar. 9th, 2012 12:19 pm (UTC)
Well, that was seriously disturbing. I've long known about Walmart's abusive business tactics, but it never occurred to me that big-box etailers might be doing some of the same things. Now that I've read that first article, I'm not surprised at all.
firecat
Mar. 10th, 2012 02:30 am (UTC)
I wish someone would just tell me how to buy things without its being equivalent to crawling over a bridge of human backs with spiked boots.
graymalkin13
Mar. 10th, 2012 09:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know much about this subject, but the way world commerce is structured now, I think it's nearly impossible, at least for certain types of things like electronics. The only countermeasures I can think of are: buying clothes from small independent businesses like Love Your Peaches (which make the clothes themselves), buying books from independent local bookstores, and buying food from local producers at a farmer's market. And those things aren't always possible.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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