Suck It Up! Work is Work!

We live in a tough economy, and a job is a job is a job. Even if the work is dehumanizing, low-wage and detrimental to your health, you need to tough it out and be grateful you have a job.

Man up America. China is willing to put up with it and so should you.

Or maybe not.

A recent article in Mother Jones highlighted the conditions in an Amazon fulfillment center. Workers are expected to find and package 1600 items a day, often having to reach up high or bend down low while running through a factory that can be miles long. The conditions are hot, job security and health insurance are next to zero, and shifts are long. This is actually not the first article on this subject and Amazon has released official statements saying it will deal with some of the specific problems mentioned. Still any news like this is cause for customer concern, but also seems to engender a lot of the opposite response.

Is hard work something you should just accept, or should you fight for better conditions?

A lot of people don’t feel like they have a choice. They need a job just to stay afloat and due to any one of a number of factors, this is the job they have to accept. There have always been hard jobs, and a class of people who have had to do them. The difference is that workers had unions who would fight for better pay, health benefits, and more humane conditions. Most workers in these fulfillment centers are temporary employees who can be fired at any time and have no benefits. They do what they are told or they are replaced, and for what exactly? So that I can get a DVD a nickel cheaper and pay no shipping.

Given the volume an increase in pay of a nickel an item would mean an additional $80 in gross pay a day per worker. Or an increase in ten cents could mean an extra worker who could take on half the volume. I’ll pay it. Now I know things aren’t really that simple, but I also know they aren’t that hard. Take the gross salary per day, divide by the number of items handled, and you have the cost of that worker per item. If you pass that cost directly onto me or any other customer for each item, I’ll pay it, hell I’ll double it. 20 cents is not too much of a surcharge to get an item I want. I don’t think you could make the case to me that I’ll buy from someone else just because an item is cents cheaper. Maybe dollars, but cents?

Now Amazon has been dealing with this particular problem, and maybe this is old news, but what does it say about them as a company that it allowed this to happen in the first place? A smart business practice is to account for growth by building infrastructure and hiring the bodies necessary for the future. Some might respond that you should just not buy from Amazon. If their official statements on the matter are not enough for you then you will never be happy.

Do we have to accept things as they are or should we try to change? Workers worked in pretty brutal conditions at the turn of the last century, and then there was a labor movement that gave them rights. Is that something we don’t do anymore? Is it okay for a company to say it is fixing the problem without taking financial responsibility for the decisions it made before?

What do you think?

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1 Comment

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One response to “Suck It Up! Work is Work!

  1. Pingback: Once More With Feeling | Ben Trube

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