Issue 51: Amazon is watching, and we're watching Amazon

21 Jul 2019

Amazon workers and supporters rally outside the fulfillment center in Shakopee on Prime Day

Workers Perspective

I was assigned to sort packages in a tight space between rows of shelves, called “cells.”

I had been in the cell for barely five minutes, and was trying to figure out how to get my equipment to work, when I heard a voice come on a nearby radio: “You have someone two cells down that isn’t working.”

A supervisor poked her head into my cell and asked what was wrong. I explained that my equipment was broken. The radio crackled again: “Are they going to scan 250 packages an hour today? No more excuses. Get them back to work.” This is a common response from managers when they have issues with our work. Frequently they do not provide any helpful or rational solutions—they simply yell at us to work faster and harder.

While walking from the cell to get functioning equipment, I looked up and saw where the radio voice had originated: an elevated platform 30 feet off the ground where a manager stood scanning the entire warehouse floor, radioing down to supervisors on the ground to yell at us to make us work faster.

The “plantation overseer” effect is intensified by the fact that over 90 percent of the workers at this warehouse are Black and Latino, while most of the top managers are white.

We workers are the ones who make these warehouses function to get all the Amazon customers their packages in two days or less. We know what we need in order to do this work with dignity and without hurting ourselves, and we know what we deserve.

Amazon tries to placate us with the occasional pizza party, candy, popsicles, “swag bucks” that can only be used for Amazon-branded apparel, little contests for prizes, and juvenile antics like “wear wacky socks day.” But we are not children to be manipulated with token prizes and activities. We have our own children to feed and bills to pay.

Upcoming Events

Wayfair Workers Speak Out (Boston) Wednesday, 7/24, 7 PM @ Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church

July General Meeting (DC) Wednesday, 7/24, 4 – 5:30 PM @ Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library Google Calendar Event

July Meeting (LA) Thursday, 7/25, 6:30 – 8:30 PM @ TBD Meetup

Take Back Tech (San Jose) Friday, 7/26 – Sunday, 7/28 @ School of Arts and Culture Eventbrite

Vegan potluck and zine sharing picnic (SF Bay Area) Every 2nd and 4th Sunday through September, 3 PM @ Lake Merritt Amphitheater in Oakland Text 510-871-3306 for updates

Abolish ICE block party (SF Bay Area) Tuesday, 7/30, 12 PM @ 620 Sansome Street

Bug Report! Zine Issue 3 Submission Deadline Thursday, 8/1 More info

Learning Club: Tech Work, Organising, + Unions (London) Thursday, 8/1, 6:30 PM Event Page

General Meeting (NYC) Tuesday, 8/6, 3:30 – 5:30 PM Google Calendar

Workers Happy Hour (LA) Wednesday, 8/7, 6 – 8 PM at Mandrake Meetup

The Code of Conduct is in effect at all TWC events.

In The News

Uber & Lyft have been pressuring their drivers to support their employers’ legislative agendas while Microsoft workers fight their employer’s political action committee.

Rideshare drivers are starting to win classification as employees in California and a union in Canada. SEIU is trying to get ahead by creating a “national bargaining committee” for a nonexistent bargaining unit.

Uber Eats is expanding in Mexico, and the death toll of couriers is rising.

NPM settled with the workers it fired.

Meredith Whittaker left Google after claims of retaliation.  Claire Stapleton, the other prominent Walkout organizer, left Google earlier this year.

BuzzFeed agreed to recognize its workers’ union.

A game worker reflects on organizing in the industry, and workers recount a long history of organizing workers in tech.

Privacy policies are harder to read than Immanuel Kant.

A Palantir Gotham user manual and emails about other uses of Palantir software were obtained by press.

A federal court ordered Amazon pilots back to work after the pilots claimed overwork, underpayment, and unsafe working conditions.

Warehouse workers, pilots, and engineers protested Amazon on Prime Day.  Warehouse workers walked off the job in Minnesota, pilots submitted complaints about working conditions, and engineers and other community members came after Amazon for its work with Palantir and ICE.

Consumers may not mind that their Ring doorbells are being used for surveillance.  Amazon has been granted a patent for surveillance-as-a-service.

Song of the Week

Bambu - Comrades

Building with the comrade
Sharing with the comrade
Diddy bopping, polly with the comrade
Down a couple drinks with the comrade
Criticize the comrade
Take a criticism from the comrade
And try to get better for my comrade
Silent with the comrade
Never ever rat on any comrade
I gotta stay sharp for my comrade
Depending on the comrade
Take a couple bullets for my comrade