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Truthdig! - December 5, 2019

"The company squeezes its workers so hard that they are forced to rely on public benefits in order to survive—an accusation that dogged Walmart for years when it was the nation’s top retailer. Anew studyby the Economic Roundtable focused on Amazon’s Southern California warehouses found that “For every $1 in wages paid by Amazon, warehouse workers receive an estimated $0.24 in public assistance benefits.” Additionally, “57 percent of Amazon warehouse workers live in housing that is overcrowded and substandard. There is direct and indirect evidence of significant homelessness among warehouse workers.”

While online shoppers were busy taking advantage of bargain prices on Black Friday, retail workers in various European cities were walking off their jobs in anger. Hundreds of Amazon workers in six German cities protested, saying that their employer’s demands were making them ill. Similar protests were held by Amazon workers in France, aimed at the environmental cost of Black Friday, and in the U.K., members of the union GMB held signs saying pointedly, “We are not robots.” Here in the U.S., workers picked up on that theme as dozens gathered outside Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ Manhattan apartment to insist that they are “human beings, not robots.”

A majority of American households are members of Amazon Prime. All we see with our eyes is the website that we make purchases on and the boxes that arrive on our doorstep a day or two later. Sometimes we may catch a glimpse of a delivery person rushing away to their truck to drop off the next package. But the worker protests that have plagued the company ought to deeply trouble us, as well as documented abuses in numerous recent studies and investigative reports.

As millions of Americans this holiday season have been doing, I too have been relying on the convenience of Amazon’s shopping experience to tick off the boxes on my list of gifts. In fact, I routinely count on it to meet the needs of my family. As a parent with a full-time job, I have barely 20 minutes of free time during the day to run errands, buy groceries, drive my kids to their extracurricular activities, and so on. When I see heavy rain in the forecast and realize with dismay that my child has outgrown his rain boots, it is far easier to order him the right pair of boots on Amazon in minutes than spend more than an hour driving to and from a store that may or may not have the size and price I’m looking for.

Online shopping has been a boon, especially for working mothers like me. I will admit, I have often thought of my reliance on the convenient online shopping experience as “self-care,” to use the parlance of the modern wellness movement. But each click confirming a purchase comes with a heavy bout of guilt, knowing what I know about how the workers who fulfill my order are treated.

Earlier this year Amazon surpassed Walmart to become the world’s largest retailer. Like Walmart, Amazon has reached its heights by cutting labor costs to the bone and faces a plethora of accusations of underpaying workers and violating their rights. But Amazon has gone further than Walmart could ever dream of in its quest to squeeze workers, ruthlessly spying on and tracking them to ensure they spend every second of their work day in service of the corporation. ...
Read full report at Truthdig!