December 1, 2019

"Amazon warehouses are ‘cult-like’ sweatshops run by robots"...

... according to this NY Post piece written by a 46-year-old woman who worked there for a month.

The woman, Maureen Donnelly, does assert that the place is "cult-like":
On the first day, about 100 of us newbies gathered in a conference room, and a bunch of managers got up to talk. They were all the same. They all drank the Kool-Aid. They all said, “This is the best place to work.”

Looking back, it was cult-like.
So... it's cult-like because other employees keep saying it's a great place to work? I really don't understand the "cult" idea here. Donnelly is disappointed that her work stocking shelves was repetitive — you keep putting one thing and then another on a shelf — and that she didn't have much contact with other people — because robotic carts brought her the things she needed to put on the shelf, but the argument that it's a "'cult-like' sweatshop" is hyperbole.
The job crushed my spirit — and crippled my body. I would spen[d] nearly 12 hours a day with with no one to talk to for more than five minutes. I wasn’t sleeping well. I was getting cranky with family. My knees were killing me. My back and shoulders constantly hurt. My left hip throbbed. After every shift, I’d ice my swollen ankles, which were triple the normal size.
Donnelly doesn't say what kind of physical condition she was in when she started, but it's clear that this wasn't a good job for her. I'm just not seeing how this is a terrible job in general. The 12-hour days are part of a 4-day work week, and she was paid $16 dollars an hour for work that was easy to do if you can tolerate the standing and the boredom. Are workers paid by the hour aggrieved when they don't have social interactions that go on longer than 5 minutes?
I should say that I make some money from Amazon (and urge you to use my "Amazon Portal"), and I do much of my own shopping through Amazon (and don't like thinking I'm part of a system that oppresses workers). So don't just adopt my opinion, but my only opinion is that this article is an individual's subjective complaint and there's not enough evidence of a "'cult-like' sweatshop."

For background on sweatshops, here's the Wikipedia article:
Sweatshop (or sweat factory) is a pejorative term for a workplace that has very poor, socially unacceptable working conditions. The work may be difficult, dangerous, climatically challenged or underpaid....

[T]he concept of a sweatshop originated between 1830 and 1850 as a specific type of workshop in which a certain type of middleman, the sweater, directed others in garment making (the process of producing clothing) under arduous conditions. The terms sweater for the middleman and sweat system for the process of subcontracting piecework were used in early critique...
Here's where the Wikipedia article on Amazon talks about the working conditions. The main problem seems to be inadequate air-conditioning.

104 comments:

Shouting Thomas said...

Working in a crummy, repetitive job after I graduated from college was just what I needed to motivate me to learn how to make a living in some sort of challenging and interesting way.

Off to play for services. As I approach 70, I'm still making a living in some sort of enjoyable, interesting fashion.

It's your job to make this happen, folks. Not the government or some employer.

Dan in Philly said...

Let's take such jobs away so those who have little choices end up on welfare!!

AllenS said...

Doing any job that pays $16 an hour, when you neither need to know how to write, nor need to know how to read is a pretty good gig. Unless you were raised in a rather elite privileged setting.

tim maguire said...

It doesn’t sound any worse than some of the jobs I had when I was young. Except I made minimum wage and got few benefits. Her problem is she’s 46 and doing unskilled labor. If she can tell her story in a major newspaper, then she can get a desk job.

Karen of Texas said...

I'd pay Amazon to let me work in an environment where I had virtually zero interaction with other humans. That set up works for me!

Seriously, like assembly line work, some people are mentally, emotionally, and physically cut out for it and some aren't.

I had friends in college who worked during the summer at the old GM plant in Oklahoma. This was during the early 80s. They made 20$ an hour to tighten bolts on their portion of the assembly. Twenty. Bucks. And they complained it was soooooo boring. Practicing an attitude of gratitude has been a lost endeavor for a very long time.

Hagar said...

Adequate air conditioning will not get you an Energy Star.

lgv said...

It's a hatchet job article. She doesn't no what a sweatshop really feels like. This is a free market country. She can choose to not work there and just collect welfare. It's the American way. :)

Luckily her position will be manned by a robot in the near future. I have a mathematical business model that determines if you should replace people with robots. The answer has been "people" for almost all things. As people get more expensive and robots become cheaper, the answer that comes from the investment model is now popping up "robot" a bit more.

It started as an exercise for the burger assembly robot. They have been around for many years. Very cool, but not particularly cost effective vs. minimum wage humans. The cost of humans has gone tremendously, primarily soft costs like liability and training. I figured that if a robot burger assembler got down to $x, it would be the tipping point. We are almost there.

Place your order on a Kiosk and pick up your order. Faster, cheaper, more accurate.

I've had a lot of "Mike Rowe dirty jobs" in my life. Most people don't know what a shit job really looks like. She needs a month on a crab boat.

Amadeus 48 said...

The summer I worked in a canning factory gave me respect for everyone up and down the economic ladder who worked for a living.

Amadeus 48 said...

AllenS--Amen.

Sydney said...

It sounds like any assembly line job. And all corporations have management who have drunk the Kool Aid

Leland said...

I'm not a fan of "going to the gym", because it is often a repetitive exercise where you just get hot and don't accomplish a lot. I do prefer solitude. It sounds like I could get good repetitive exercise at Amazon, get paid, accomplish something, and have some solitude. If I can wear headphones and listen to books; then it sounds like a great second job.

"all corporations have management who have drunk the Kool Aid"

Indeed, and would people like to work at a company that had management saying how much it sucks to work there?

"We pay you $!6, when we could easily pay you $20. They put stone benches in the breakroom, not for décor but because they are less comfortable. The coffee is tepid, and they make fresh tea once a week, whether they need to or not. Other than that, avoid using your medical, because the deductible is above your yearly income."

Bob Smith said...

We are well into a third generation of people for whom farms and factories are strange places where nobody they know works. This made them soft and lazy. Too bad for them if the prosperity they inherited turns out to be cyclical.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Ah, indoor work. A man can dream.

wendybar said...

WAH. Don't like it?? Send out your resume instead of bitching. Grow up.

Bob Boyd said...

It sounds like a job for younger folks.

Fortunately for Donnelly, Trump is President and there are numerous other options out there.

stlcdr said...

As noted, an assembly line job. You can go to Ford truck plant in Michigan and have a quick tour where they put together parts into an F150. Very little social interaction.

It also sounds like a physical job, as expected. Packing boxes or moving boxes. Look what’s on Amazon; that’s what you will be packing and/or moving. More oriented to younger, fitter, people. Entry level job.

If you are in your 30s or 40s doing something like this, it should be a secondary household income for a bit of extra money, or you have not made progress in your life that you should have. It’s a shame that people don’t recognize this. These are jobs which are simply not meant to be careers.

Of course, you get bombarded with the ‘you don’t know what it’s like trying to make ends meet!’. Well, the reality is that a lot of people, middle or upper class (if you will) started off at the bottom, in hardship, and learned the lesson. It is not that we don’t have sympathy for people in that position, but no amount of ‘there there’ or ‘poor thing’ will solve this persons problem - or the government, which has been ‘solving’ exactly these problems for way to long.

BUMBLE BEE said...

It's called work. WORK. Many are unaccustomed to doing it, both mentally and physically. Repetitive stress injuries are part of the game. Long term damage of some sort is inevitable. People are different, get out of your bubble, would be author.

stlcdr said...

“Do you want robots!? Because this is how you get robots!”

Tank said...

These kinds of jobs are good for two kinds of people who are physically fit enough to do them:

1. People who don't have the brain power to do a more complex job. There are actually a lot of people like that, although the kind of person who reads and comments here isn't likely to have much contact with them.

2. People who can daydream with one part of their brain, and use just enough of the leftover part to do the job right. I had some of these jobs when I was young. Good for daydreaming.

If you think this is only the kind of job that you get while getting ready for your real career, you haven't met enough of the people in group number 1. This is the best they'll ever do.

J. Farmer said...

Something is really only "cult-like" if it ends in the cult leader banging a bunch of chicks. There are actually people alive today who believe that Charles Manson was primarily motivated by environmentalism. They refuse to acknowledge the fact that he was a pimp who was primarily concerned with young SoCal bimbettes with daddy issues and acid freaks.

gilbar said...

does Amazon even have a corporate song?
if you don't have a corporate song, that your employees sing on their own, without prompting, HOW THE HELL do even claim to be a Company? Let alone a cult?

REAL Companies have Corporate Songs

EVER ONWARD -- EVER ONWARD!
That's the spirit that has brought us fame!
We're big, but bigger we will be
We can't fail for all can see
That to serve humanity has been our aim!
Our products now are known, in every zone,
Our reputation sparkles like a gem!
We've fought our way through -- and new
Fields we're sure to conquer too
For the EVER ONWARD I.B.M.

MikeR said...

Yeah, well. Most jobs used to be like this. Farming, putting Ford autos together, driving a truck. We're moving into a world where all those jobs will be replaced by robots, and lots of humanity won't be qualified to do any job at all.
"By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread."
Not saying it isn't hard. But it has been normal and will be until sometime soon.

rehajm said...

12 hours a day without human interaction? Best job ever!

There’s a sub genre of this kind of hit piece in business where some dopey mba grad takes the Amazon job stocking shelves for a month then writes a ten page critique of Bezos strategic moves for the company.

gilbar said...

Dan in Philly said...
Let's take such jobs away so those who have little choices end up on welfare!!


Welfare! Now, There's a REAL CULT!

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gilbar said...

you Know what's REAL Sweatshop work? Landscaping!

You're out there in the Blazing Sun, heat and humidity; laboring away
Knowing that there are illegal aliens that are stealing your business

And then,
You FINALLY make it to the point that you Own your Business, and can retire comfortably...
And you find the woman of your dreams...
Some little faggot will claim that you're milking the government

Mark said...

Welcome to the world of manual labor. It's not for privileged white folks.

Bob Boyd said...

I hope my stuff gets here on time.

Mark said...

Once I got a job that required a lot of analysis and thinking and creativity -- and because the mind and ideas don't just shut off, and you're salaried, I was/am thinking about work projects often away from the workplace -- I longed for the days when I had a mindless job that I could do for eight hours and then completely walk away from it and have a life.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

A friend of mine who lives in Denver just stated seasonal work at UPS. He describes similar working arrangements. He moves boxes from conveyor to shelves. Some shelves are high and many boxes are heavy. He told me it's very physically demanding and by the end of the day he is wrung out and sore all over. He knows he cannot keep this job much longer. He's in his 50's and all the other employees who work back there are young. He says he rarely sees the same person twice there are so many people. He is only required to work 5 hours at any given time and after 5 hours, UPS pays time and a half. (If I heard him correctly.) He loves the good pay but knows he cannot do it much longer. High burn out is part of the deal.
Never mentioned anything about it being a "cult". I'll have to ask him.

This is American life, now. Vast amounts of ker..app.. in boxes. Until they build robots to do all of it.

Jamie said...

She worked there for one month. At her age, I doubt that's enough time for her body to adjust to the demands of the job. When I was a preschool director, it took me at least that long to adjust to having my office on the main floor and the classrooms on the lower floor and over in the other building several hundred yards away - I climbed many more flights of stairs and walked or jogged many more steps each day than I had been accustomed to as a desk person. I was not even forty yet, and fairly fit, yet my feet and knees told me after every day that they wished I were in my 20s. But eventually this was no longer the case.

Of course, I was the one doling out the Kool-Aid, and my salary worked out to an hourly wage of maybe $16.50, so that's probably why it didn't seem either untenable or cult-like to me.

Ray - SoCal said...

I would like to know more about the authors background, smells like a hit job...

Amazon is all about productivity.

I expect the job she was doing will soon be automated.

If you ever get a chance to do a tour of amazon, do it.

The videos of robots at Amazon’s warehouses are amazing.

My gut feeling, is amazon could make a few changes that would have a minimum impact on productivity, such as closer bathrooms and lunchrooms, but would reduce their turn over rate.

I’ve known people that get fired due to mistakes at amazon, it’s a ruthless system.

Amazon has similar issues with delivery drivers.

Sebastian said...

"The job crushed my spirit — and crippled my body."

Hey, lady, welcome to male privilege. We've been doing this for millennia. Yeah, yeah, y'all produced the babies. But now that we've solved that problem, all the hard stuff is done by men. As this bitching and whining, not to mention health and mortality statistics, confirm.

"The main problem seems to be inadequate air-conditioning."

The main problem seems to an insufficient number of capable robots.

Birkel said...

When everything is a cult, actual cults will have to distinguish membership by taking extreme measures.
Maybe mass suicide or sex slavery.
Have those been tried by Leftist Collectivists, yet?

Gahrie said...

My niece was attending college and was on a state champion water polo team, but quit after her freshman year to go work for Amazon at their warehouses and become a hiker.

gilbar said...

"The main problem seems to be inadequate air-conditioning."

I'm curious if the writer has ever tried being a dishwasher in a restaurant?
{actually i'm not curious At ALL, 'cause she OBVIOUSLY Ain't ever}

That's what i did, my second try at college. The HIGH POINT of my night would be if waitress would come back, and bat her eyelashes at me, because they'd run out of spoons up front, and she wanted ME to make her life better.
Otherwise, it was me and the hot water, and the soap

DaChad said...

So let's honest for a moment. These jobs are temporary. It's just a matter of time & technology before Amazon figures out how to automate unloading the trucks and loading the shelves. They're probably more than halfway there with the automated systems doing quite a bit of the picking.

Slowly but surely they are getting manufacturers to standardize box sizing and shipping friendly dimensions. Just a matter of time before they start working on the fulfilled by amazon vendors to do the same.

Consumers have repeatedly shown they don't really care about employee conditions when it impacts their cost or convenience (see Walmart).

Darrell said...

My first job was at a busy large sit-down pizza place at 16--hand washing dishes and pans. My high school principal was a friend of the owner, and he offered up two of his top students (because he said we could handle the job without affecting our studies.) The pay was $0.70/hour (late 1960s) and was supposed to be part time--but often went 12 hours when somebody didn't show. My next job was making automotive and truck clutches in a factory without air conditioning that got up to 130 degrees inside near the heat treating. I looked like I jumped in a pool within five minutes of starting. That was a small base pay, but with piece work bonuses and I lucked out because I got to work with these superhuman guys that nobody wanted to work with because the threw up huge numbers--fast. (Both old, both had long-term partners die.) Beating rate by more than fifty percent means big paychecks. My third job was at an old-school steel mill.

Now tell me about your tough job sticking shit into a box that a robot fetched for you.

holdfast said...

Sounds a lot better than repeatedly sweeping the armored vehicle compound clean, sometimes in the freezing cold, and sometimes in the blazing sun. Yes spending a year and a half with the regular army midway through college was a great motivator to get my grades up and get a good, indoors job. Not that I didn’t enjoy my time in the reserves, and that sojourn with the regular forces, but I realized that I was not prepared to do it for 25 years straight.

Also, as with being in the military she would be well advised to spend a little of her own money on good insoles and good footwear.

Annie C. said...

Amazon is a cult. According to Inga people who vote for Trump are a cult. The TEA party was a cult.

Talk to Manson or Jim Jones. Oops you can't.

'Course, there is always the NXIVM liberals. Branded, held captive, sex slaves. Now there's a cult.

hawkeyedjb said...

Dan in Philly said...
"Let's take such jobs away so those who have little choices end up on welfare!!"

This is an explicit goal for some lefties. I'm acquainted with one. She's said, more than once, that people shouldn't have to work shit jobs, and they should just go on welfare. She's said that 15 bucks an hour is an insult, and nobody should have to work for that.

I wonder: why not set that line at 40 bucks?

hawkeyedjb said...

Amazon is based on facts, reality and the physical world. It's not a cult.

You want a cult? Try the church of Climate Change.

AllenS said...

Maureen Donnelly, let me introduce you to my best friend, Ibuprofen.

SGT Ted said...

Article synopsis: "This is an actual hard work job where I don't get to run my mouth all day and it's harrrd on my body, like all hard work jobs. Feel sorry for me."

It's popular with the lefty press to bash corporations, especially to those that don't cater to or reorganize their operations to meet the personal preferences of certain kinds of women. Such as the author.

Doing a job standing on your feet all day is always exhausting. It is usually a young mans game. I was a motorcycle technician in my late 40s and early 50s and by day 4 I was toast physically. But, being retired military, I knew what that was like already.

As Sebastian says, welcome to male privilege.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

What a whiner. The job is boring, repetitive and mindless. You have to stand on your feet for hours in a big heated or air conditioned warehouse. You are getting paid $16 an hour. More than minimum wage in some places. Some jobs are hard. Some jobs are unpleasant. Some jobs will kill you. Stop whining you big baby.

Try some of my jobs.

Big whoop. Try a summer of cutting the pits out of apricots standing in the hot sun standing on the dirt of a giant apricot orchard. Flies, gnats, ants crawling over your feet towards slop bucket that holds the pits and the rotten parts of the cots that you have to cut off later in the season. Fookin' hot. Sticky. Sweaty. All for .75 an hour.

Be a an assistant short order cook at a truck stop for breakfast shift. Chopping, prepping, cleaning, cleaning. No sitting down. How many times can you make scrambled eggs, bacon and toast in a hot steaming, greasy kitchen before you want to scream or cry. That was my most temporary job :-) Strangely I still do like to cook.

Teller at a bank. Standing all day IN HEELS. Dealing with the same things over and over and over. Plus you were expected to be "nice". Smile dear and keep standing.

If you don't like the job or you aren't physically suited for it. QUIT. No one is forcing you to work there. It isn't slavery.

Michael said...

I packed popsicles from 2 in the morning until 10 in the morning. I worked on an assembly line in a factory pulling out defective bottles. I worked in a warehouse driving a forklift and hauling heavy packages by hand. I worked in a grocery restocking. I survived.

There is nothing cultish about her work or workers. Going on a national whine abetted by a media that loves to knock business is not going to make this tiresome woman happy.

hawkeyedjb said...

Remember the halcyon days of the 50s and early 60s, when widely-available industrial jobs Made America Great? Those were often dirty, hot, hard, repetitive jobs. Those jobs were seen as good, not as shitty alternatives to welfare. Now, lefties are hard at work trying to figure out how to wreck what remains of the industrial economy.

I guess we can all go on welfare, or work as diversity administrators.

rhhardin said...

Amazon shipping with Amazon is often next day but so often you'd notice loses packages in the system. They get so far and then get a couple of package delayed lines and then they're never heard from again. It's often enough so that there's a replace this package button after it's a few days too late, so as to automate the fix (just send another one).

Apparently they have no way to get a package that's misrouted back onto its route, since they're not a post office. Their distribution system has no loops so packages can only go downstream of where a branch goes, rather than being able to go to another branch.

tcrosse said...

One of my favorite cartoons has the caption: "Unlike his Dad, who worked at a soul-crushing dead-end job in a dark, noisy, smelly factory, Joe works at a soul-crushing dead-end job in a well-lit air-conditioned office". I had it posted in my cube in a well-lit air-conditioned office.

AllenS said...

My first paying job was a paper route when I was an early teen. I got up around 4:30 to deliver the morning paper and then after school to deliver the evening paper. This was in Minnesota, so you can imagine the weather that I worked in. The Sunday paper was big and heavy. I did hard physical labor my whole life after that. The military wasn't easy since I was in the Infantry. I was a pressman on a 4 color web offset press, and then I would go home and change clothes and put up hay for my cattle. It helps when you start early doing hard work. I have no regrets. Very few, if any women could have done that.

Ambrose said...

There is a reason it is called work.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

I don't think I can win the "who has had the hardest job" competition. I'll just that one summer in the 70s, I picked parts in a warehouse owned by a farm implements company. Some parts were big and heavy. We were both timed and checked on quality--did a local dealer we shipped to get what was ordered? It was tempting to fill a bigger box to save time, but if it got too heavy, you had to re-pack. I did this once and was told: nice try, rookie.

Kevin Mims has written with praise, but no sentimentality, about working in an Amazon warehouse. https://quillette.com/2019/08/06/how-and-why-to-kissass/

gilbar said...

before i stupidly got my degree; i was a 2nd shift computer operator
a 3 day rotation of job tasks
1: TAPES walking back and forth, mounting tape reels on 16 reel tape machines (cardio)
2: PRINTER putting boxes of paper, in and out of the printers (strength)
3: CONSOLE sitting and thinking and do, fitting which job runs could fit together (mind)

I was in GREAT Shape, and didn't spend a minute at the gym.
I miss walking miles a night, with 6 tape reels on my left arm
I miss coming home with printer ink (and dust) on my hands)
I miss being able to wake programmers up, at 11:30; and telling them:
"JH170 bombed in step 045, with a S0C7; you need to come in and recreate your datebase"

Best job i ever had.

hawkeyedjb said...

Here is another take on the Amazon work experience, perhaps more worthwhile in that it recognizes both the good and the shitty aspects of the job. If you look only for the worst parts of anything, that's what you'll find.

mockturtle said...

Rhhardin observes: Apparently they have no way to get a package that's misrouted back onto its route, since they're not a post office. Their distribution system has no loops so packages can only go downstream of where a branch goes, rather than being able to go to another branch.

Never thought about it that way but it explains a lot.

The article failed to insinuate Trump into the issue. Is the NYT slipping? Running short of vitriol?

rhhardin said...

1: TAPES walking back and forth, mounting tape reels on 16 reel tape machines (cardio)

I did research data reduction of radar data, which had to be spliced together from a dozen tapes onto a single tape before I could get anywhere. I noticed a GE 635 operating system call, for a courtesy callback when a tape operation completed, so I could start another tape operation and return; and that made my dozen tape reels all move nonstop, as they normally do only when the operator loads them and they search for their reflective-spot load point.

The difficulty arose in trying to get the operators let the tapes run rather than taking them offline to reseek the load point. Many red post-it tags on the job information card were necessary.

The normally hourlong job ran in a minute, however, when that worked.

The problem got fixed once and for all when they gave me my own IBC 360/65 at night and I did the operating.

BADuBois said...

When I was in high school I worked as a dishwasher at a restaurant. On your feet all the time. Ducking hands in and out of big sinks. Scrubbing, drying, repeating. Late nights. On your feet all the time. Clothes got soaked and when you got home, smelled of both soap and grease. Sometimes cutting your hands when a dish or glass broke in your hands.

But at least I was spared the horrors of packing boxes for an incredible salary. Lucky me!

Curious George said...

"AllenS said...
My first paying job was a paper route when I was an early teen. I got up around 4:30 to deliver the morning paper"

Me too, but I started at eight and stopped when I went into high school. In Chicago, so often in terrible weather. I made a penny per paper, and had 100 customers give or take. Would take me a little over two hours, so about $.50/hour. Of the $30 a month I made, my parents let me keep $5, and the rest went in the bank.

AllenS said...

George, remember how dirty your hands and clothes were from that old newspaper ink? I could fold the papers so tight that they were harder than Narwhal tusks when I threw them on the front steps.

tcrosse said...

There was a Monty Python bit where several old guys try to top each other with stories about how bad they had it as kids.

mockturtle said...

When I was a college student, I had an early morning job as a proofreader for a daily newspaper. The proofreading part was easy but the job also involved separating and winding AP tapes [yes, this was the Dark Ages] which had been spewed forth onto the floor overnight. That part of the job started at 4:30 AM. It wasn't so bad until the cleaning lady began picking up the piles of tapes and shoving them into the bin where they became hopelessly tangled.

Howard said...

Nice try Hawkeye but it's the libs like Bezos and Musk creating and building manufacturing jobs. Republican Free trade killed US manufacturing and libtard elites are trying to build it back.

Francisco D said...

Working in a crummy, repetitive job after I graduated from college was just what I needed to motivate me to learn how to make a living in some sort of challenging and interesting way.

Exactly so. I worked crummy manual labor jobs in HS and college. The experience was good in that I learned what I did not want to do for the rest of my life. (My parents were involved in their own soap operas and provided no direction). It motivated me to work through undergrad, MA and PhD programs. Then I was able to do something interesting and fulfilling.



reader said...

The summer after my freshman year of college I started working as a Kelly Girl. I was placed at General Dynamics for data entry. When school started back up they kept me working. I stayed at GD for the next three years doing 10 key data entry. My station was in the tool crib smack dab in the middle of the machine shop. Boyfriend would pick me up at school Thursday night, I’d work two ten hour days Friday and Saturday, and then Sunday Boyfriend would drive me back to school.

It was boring work but they let me use my Walkman (this also helped me with the noise of the machines). When I graduated from college they hired me as an analyst. I met my husband at GD four years after they hired me.

Boring/all jobs are what you make of them.

LYNNDH said...

Yep Holdfast, sounds like she has bad footwear. That can cause a whole host of problems. That and a little more time on the job.
I never worked at very physical jobs, lucky for me. I did sacking in a grocery store summer before college. Worked in the washroom in the dorm kitchen, busboy at a restaurant, then the Navy. I was an "assistant manager" at a drug store, which meant sweeping floors, stocking shelves. I did collection work, repo'd cars (had a gun pulled on me and another time was physically assaulted). Then came office work. Retired now and work harder in my yard.

wildswan said...

"Working in a crummy, repetitive job after I graduated from college was just what I needed to motivate me to learn how to make a living in some sort of challenging and interesting way."

That's it. Plus, if it was too late to start a career, she probably should have got some big ugly sneakers with thick soles, not tried to talk, and in every way copied clothes and attitude of the people able to do the job, but she wanted to look good and be the center of attention.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am going in a bit different direction. Like everyone else here, I had the mind numbing jobs like everyone else here. Maybe the worst one was stacking bricks at a brickyard - but the illegal Mexicans I worked with there loved the job, and made it fun. And helped me survive backbreaking, mind numbing, work for half a year, after which I went back to grad school. Or grad school(s) - moving among CS, EE, business, and law, up into my 40s.

Instead, I am looking at the younger generations. My kid, in particular. No real job until college. Between Sr year and college, and then between freshman and sophomore year, teaching older lower school kids about water. Then two summers doing NSF REUs (Research Experience for Undergraduates). The kids got paid to hang around a college research lab, do a small project themselves, and had room and board thrown in. Kinda like camp for those PhD bound in STEM. Between Jr and Sr year, the four roommates bonded enough to stay in touch, and all got their PhDs about the same time. The bonding was partially over watching Big Bang Theory, since it was a Physics REU. Then, off to a PhD, starting about halfway through the summer after graduation, where they got a stipend that required some “work”, except that the work was either as a TA, which meant grading homework and tests, or helping undergrads who shouldn’t be in STEM, or as an RA, doing research for their PhD. Then a couple weeks before formally getting their diploma (they had defended, walked, and was “hooded” three months earlier), taking a job in industry at a high salary, designing, and now implementing new industrial technology.

I like to tell myself that they would be fine in a job that didn’t require graduate level mathematics, but instead was a repetitive as working in an Amazon warehouse, or was as onerous as many of the jobs listed by everyone above. But I can’t convince myself. Maybe they should have actually at least worked summers through college, but those summer REUs they did were actually quite helpful in getting admitted to a decent grad school. They seem to actively prefer recruiting grad students who can point to actual research experience.

The problem though, as I see it, is that my kid (and their significant other) are now raging progressives. Ok, maybe not raging, since on occasion, we can carry on rational discussions. I am constantly amazed how much these two kids think that they know about how the world works, despite not being out of their 20s yet. And much of it is wrong. They join AOC, the 20 something Obama staffers who helped draft Obamacare, and those “journalists” who write much of the news these days, with no more real life experience, and who have spent much of their lives living and working in an affluent, comfortable, well protected, bubble. Sure, socialism looks good to them. It does on paper. But the reality is that not everyone can spend their days solving partial differential equations, but instead must stock shelves for Amazon, clean dishes, etc. They don’t understand the adage from the Soviet era, that the workers pretend to work, and the government pretends to pay them.

William said...

Before I secured my current gig as Jennifer Lawrence's personal trainer and masseur, I had any number of crappy jobs. As I remember, the greatest job satisfaction that crappy jobs offer is bitching about them in imaginative and cathartic ways. I congratulate the writer for her success in getting her complaints published. Most of my bitching was lost in the ether. This is some highly accomplished and professional bitching.......If you yearn for human interaction, there is no greater job than being a security guard at a methadone clinic. Lots of interaction to restore your faith in the beauty of the human spirit under adverse conditions. (s/on)

Ann Althouse said...

".I do prefer solitude. It sounds like I could get good repetitive exercise at Amazon, get paid, accomplish something, and have some solitude."

Yes, I think it is the sort of job that many people could tolerate. It's not good for people who want to encounter other people, but there are a lot of us who feel stressed having to get along with and serve others all the time (such as being a cashier or a receptionist).

"If I can wear headphones and listen to books; then it sounds like a great second job."

Well, that's one of the limitations, stated in the article. No headphones.

Birkel said...

"Republican" free trade and Bill Clinton signed it into law.
Wonderful rewrite of history, Howard.
Do you have an alt-history newsletter to which we can subscribe?

Meanwhile, Republican President Trump reworked Clinton's mistake.
And Nancy Pelosi stands athwart history and yells stop.
The multi-cultis demand fealty.

And Trump does the same thing with Clinton's MFN declaration for China.
Trump is demanding standards and property rights.

Yancey Ward said...

J. Farmer wrote:

"Something is really only "cult-like" if it ends in the cult leader banging a bunch of chicks."

When truth is hilarious.

Yancey Ward said...

Reader wrote:

"Boyfriend would pick me up at school Thursday night, I’d work two ten hour days Friday and Saturday, and then Sunday Boyfriend would drive me back to school."

Sunday Boyfriend? :-)

Curious George said...

"AllenS said...
George, remember how dirty your hands and clothes were from that old newspaper ink? I could fold the papers so tight that they were harder than Narwhal tusks when I threw them on the front steps."

Oh yeah, newsprint transferred easily. We rolled them, but I'm guessing that's what you meant. Added waxpaper on rainy days, and had a tying machine that was forever failing and jamming. Still, was better than rubber bands, especially in winter when they would get brittle, break, and snap your cold fingers.

As they say, it wasn't much, but it was honest work.

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yancey Ward said...

I wonder if Donnelly submitted this story anywhere else before the NYPost. This is the sort of story WaPo or the NYTimes would normally be dying to publish, and probably would have readily agreed to do so before Bezos bought WaPo.

reader said...

I had a twenty hour a week college work study job that I worked Monday through Thursday. So even though I was young I don’t think I could have handled two separate boyfriends. It might have been fun to try though. You’re only young once ;)

Char Char Binks said...

NY Post had column inches to fill. A robot would have been cheaper. You do not have to read them.

John henry said...

A couple of comments, having read the post article:

She is not making $16 per hour plus change (How much change? She doesn't say, it could be 95 cents making her almost $2,000 a year more. Let's assume $16.00

She works 4 12 hour days or 48 hours a week. That means 40 hours at $16 plus 8 hr overtime at 150% or $24/hr. Weekly earnings are 832 divide by 48 and average earnings are $17.33 or about $35,000/yr. Not bad for unskilled labor.

Decisions about whether to replace people with automation (not just robots) are made based on the cost of the employee, not their pay. Rule of thumb is that benefits add 50% to the employee's cost. Since it is partly OT in this case, lets say 135%. That makes her annual direct cost to Amazon about $47m, round it to $50m. They probably run multiple shifts so that position costs Amazon $100-$200m/yr to keep staffed.

I don't know specifically about Amazon but most manufacturing companies want a 2 year payback to justify replacing people with automation. If a robot, with ancillary stuff, software and support, costs $50-100m, that job is gone.

Robot costs are way down and that seems eminently feasible to me. If I was selling robots, I'd be going hard after them. As opposed to a company with a 3-4 year payback.

Amazon is so big on robots, they bought one of the major players, Kiva, to build robots just for them. All those orange robots you see in the Amazon videos Amazon makes themselves. They can't make them fast enough.

Nor can the robotic industry in general. All of them, worldwide, are running pretty much flat out.

What is going to make this woman's life easier, by letting her go back to managing her bar, is not robots. It's this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0eqtqKDbV1Q

Instead of automatically packing the products in boxes, it wraps them in corrugated. It is fully automated, products come in on a conveyor, are wrapped in corrugated, labeled and sent to shipping. The video shows handloading but they also do automated loading and collation.

In interviewed the VP Marketing at a trade show last April just before they announced their big contract with Amazon.

It also saves by greatly reducing the amount of packing materials.

One machine could probably cover 2 manual packing stations. If the machine costs $500m, with the labor and other savings it will pay back quickly and is pretty much a brainer. (Very smart)

John Henry

Gospace said...

I see a co-worker - if that's the right term - at the beginning and end of 8 hour shift. I'm alone in the boiler plant all by my lonesome from 4 to midnight. Starting at 6 I have to call the operator(s), who I've never met, once an hour to verify I'm alive. If I don't call, or don't answer if they call me, they send someone to check on me.

There are some jobs you don't take if you crave contact with others.

John henry said...

Reading the article, I think this is a union put-up piece.

The woman only worked there for a month. Perhaps she could not take it, though in the picture she is not visibly unfit. Also Amazon tested her strength etc before hiring her. Or, perhaps she took the job just as a temporary thing, knowing she would quit in a month so she could write about it. There have been other, similar, schemes over the years. Two I remember were at McDonalds and at Walmart. One even became a book!

She did not quit her real job managing a bar. Seems like that is what she may be more suited to anyway. She gets to hang out with people, never a dull moment etc. I don't think I'd be suited for either job. Neither would be interesting to me.

They talk about Amazon as an unsafe company, one of the "Dirty Dozen" as rated as rated by the National Council on Safety and Health. Sounds like a govt agency but it is a union funded organization. It always shows up whenever a company gets in labor's sights.

John Henry

FullMoon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher said...

I'm totally on board with having jobs filled with drudgery as part of your history and lessons learned. But I read a recent lengthy story (can't find it) about working the floor at Amazon, and it sounds horrible, with quotas more appropriate for robots than humans. The metrics are brutal.

John henry said...

Re the Air-Conditioning, I guarantee that if she thinks it is too hot (or cold) there will be some other worker who will think it is too cold (or hot)

She is also likely to think it is too cold one day and too hot the next even if the temp is exactly the same. Well, maybe not her specifically but lots of people are like this.

I used to have charge of facilities maintenance for a multi-plant campus. A/C temps in the offices were never right. Somebody was ALWAYS too hot or too cold.

Didn't Ann post something about this a few months ago? Women complaining it is too cold or too hot?

Amazon has been getting in the news about their warehouse temps for a long time. Hey kids, warehouses are always hot or cold. They are never going to be just right. Somehow I never see complaints about non-Amazon warehouses.

John Henry

FullMoon said...

"...it sounds horrible, with quotas more appropriate for robots than humans. The metrics are brutal. "

Only the strong survive

John henry said...

Re shoes:

Amen, amen and amen

When my daughter got her first job out of college, as a process engineer in a refinery, I took her to a Redwing store and made her buy a good pair of steel-toe, safety sole, work boots. They were about $150 (in 1998) and she bitched about how much they cost. I made her try several pairs to find some that fit right. I had to keep telling her to shut up about how they looked since she was going to be in baggy coveralls anyway.

Then I made her get some really good cushion sole socks.

A couple weeks later she thanked me for taking the time to pick out some really good shoes.

Best non-steeltoe shoes I've ever owned come from Payless. Pretty much all I've worn for the past 20 years. I have a couple new pair in my closet in boxes that I hope will last me out.

John Henry

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Her job doesn’t sound so terrible as I’m a fan of long periods of work solitude. Some of my favorite days at work are when folks in the department are immersed in their own projects. As to the “no headphones” stricture, a Bluetooth earpiece hidden under long hair would be a good workaround. You change the rules by bucking the rules with no negative impact on your employer. I’ve made a secondary career of this and I’m successful at it because I’m an amiable hard-working guy who’s sensitive to the egos of the powers that be. Or maybe it’s just articulate White male privilege. I wouldn’t rule that out.

John henry said...

Headphones in an industrial environment, including a warehouse, are a serious safety hazard.

The rule is not arbitrary.

John Henry

Gospace said...

John henry said...
Re the Air-Conditioning, I guarantee that if she thinks it is too hot (or cold) there will be some other worker who will think it is too cold (or hot)

She is also likely to think it is too cold one day and too hot the next even if the temp is exactly the same. Well, maybe not her specifically but lots of people are like this.

I used to have charge of facilities maintenance for a multi-plant campus. A/C temps in the offices were never right. Somebody was ALWAYS too hot or too cold.


There's been discussion here - more than a few months ago, and I've participated in such discussions elsewhere.

It's generally understood by everyone who works in HVAC jobs that if there is more than 1 woman in an office, there's no such thing as an ideal temperature.

gilbar said...

You change the rules by bucking the rules with no negative impact on your employer.
YES! it's Amazing what you can get away with, if it has no negative impact!

If you're doing a better job than most, and aren't bothering anyone; no one cares that you read (etc) on the job.

If you're doing a Worse job than most,and are pissing people off; you'd better be a protected minority

bagoh20 said...

The only thing wrong with that job is that it sounds boring. Otherwise it's a pretty good gig for the unskilled, and I think it's a little over-paid. Just tell one of those employees that they are going to lose that job and see how much they hate it. Some people like boring repetitive work that doesn't ask much of you, and some don't have the capacity to do other work. Either way the work is essential to some people, but fuck them if they're not like me.

As long as you can walk out the door, that job, it's pay and working conditions are your choice. If you think you deserve better or can do better, go get it, or shut up and get to work.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

And there’s nothing “cult-like” about supervisors talking up the company. It’s part of their job. Sure, roll your eyes if you like (I invariably do), but stop being such a drama-queen.

bagoh20 said...

We have some boring work at our company, but we let people wear earbuds while they do it. To be paid for listening to podcasts or music is a pretty good deal. I mean you do that for free every chance you get.

bagoh20 said...

If you can't honestly recommend your employer to others with some enthusiasm then you need to find another job where you can. That would be a good measure of a job worth keeping: can I honestly tell others that working here and putting in a good effort is worthwhile?

Bunkypotatohead said...

I wonder what she was paid for the article?

Bruce Hayden said...

“It's generally understood by everyone who works in HVAC jobs that if there is more than 1 woman in an office, there's no such thing as an ideal temperature.”

Maybe 30 years ago, I shared an office with a woman. I need good airflow to stay awake and productive. She constantly complained how cold she was, and took to wearing gloves. I pointed out logically that they had two choices, me awake and productive, and her wearing gloves and a sweater, or me asleep. Whose job was more mission critical? Knowing that mine was, was why I could push it. Couple months after this, I got my own huge room back in the computer room complex, with raised floors and forced air. Perfect. You needed a card key to come and bug me, so the distractions were minimized. Still, I work best with maybe a half hour of socializing between two and three hour stints of solo work, and so would do a walk around outside the computer room complex, then go back to work. Did the same practicing patent law - a couple hours with the door closed, then a half hour of socializing, followed by more work. Turned down a job offer from HP because everone, even the attorneys, worked in cubicles. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But better than open plan offices so popular these days.

Caligula said...

"The job crushed my spirit — and crippled my body. I would spen[d] nearly 12 hours a day with with no one to talk to for more than five minutes. I wasn’t sleeping well. I was getting cranky with family. My knees were killing me. My back and shoulders constantly hurt. My left hip throbbed. After every shift, I’d ice my swollen ankles, which were triple the normal size."

It's been decades since I worked in a warehouse. Back then there were no robots, nor were there any pep talks. But, then as now, if you couldn't maintain the pace they'd find someone who could.

What did you expect, that you'd sit at a desk chatting with your fellow employees between occasional requests to go fetch something? This type of work has always been hard, fast physical work and, unless/until it can be totally automated, it likely always will be.

Sammy Finkelman said...

If you don't like the job or you aren't physically suited for it. QUIT

That's what she did, although she stuck it out longer than she really wanted to. she said it wasn't a job for anyone over age 25. She also quit because she figured she'd be fired as soon as they stopped treating her like a newbie, so she quit before she could be fired.. She was not stocking 12 items a minute.

There's a system in place also that keeps track of how much time is spent "off task." Automated warnings are generated if there is too much, and after six of them over a 12-month period, a termination notice is automatically generated, although it can be overrideden.

They gave an online test that involved organizing boxes on the back of a truck, but it sounds like she should have said they should have administered a physical fitness test. Even if you were not required to pass it.

They did allow people to switch the jobs they had, something she doesn't seem to have tried to take advantage of. Maybe the problem was she wanted the hours she got, because she also worked as a bar manager, and there wasn't anything that looked better for her.

They weren't allowed to take any food (or achair) to their workplace, but were almost required to have water. There weren't enough bathroom breaks (maybe a problem related to sex) and the lunch break was almost impractical. There was a 30 minues lunch break, but it took her about 15 minutes to walk to the lunchroom (and that means 15 minutes to walk back) so all she could do was eat half a peanut butter sandwich and take acoule of gulps of soda (and also smoke acigarette - she was allowed to do that, something she maybe couldn't do easily these days in many other locations) It was a 7-minute walk to the bathroom. The place was HUGE.

They had to change clothes and put all personal belongings in a locker. No cell phones or headphones (the latter may have been a safety issue) The uniform was T-shirts and jeans. THey recommended Sketchers sneakers. She tried Timerlaked but two or three days had to admit they were right because he feet were killing her. Even afterwards she had swollen ankles, triple her normal size, which she iced, and her left hip throbbed. THey had all the workers go through 10 minutes of calithenics to warm up before starting their shifts. They told them to bend at the knees and not at the waist.

She said they treated the robots bettwer than the humans (because the reason they didn't have air conditioning was because of the robots ad that's why all the managers wore shorts. I thought computers like things cool. Not these microchips, apparently. Amazon had maybe overcompensated.)

She was amazed none of the robots ever crashed into each other. By the way, stepping into the robots' territory was a firing offense.

There were many different things to stock. Toys were the hardest. And lots and lots of books, each of which had to be placed so you could read the title.

She called it a cult because when they applied they were greeted by someone who told them it ws the "best" company. High pay ($16 and change an hour plus benefits) limited mandatory overtime, a 4-day week, employee discounts and stock shares. Te employee discount turned out to apply only to Amazon branded goods. (I think)

Christy said...

How dated! Dr. Who did an episode about this year's ago.

AllenS said...

When trying to figure out what Maureen Donnelly makes a day, remember this. I worked at a place that had to keep the web offset presses running 24 hours a day from 11 pm Sunday night until 11 pm Friday night (unless there was overtime). Which meant 3 different shifts working 8 hour shifts for 24 hours, we did not get paid for lunch, so we were only paid for 7.5 hours, or 37.5 hours a week.

I would imagine that Amazon had 12 hour shifts and probably had the same pay structure for 2 daily shifts.

Robert Cook said...

"These are jobs which are simply not meant to be careers."

Most people do not have careers. Most just do jobs-of-work their whole lives.

Robert Cook said...

"High pay ($16 and change an hour plus benefits)....""

$16 per hour x 40 hours/week x 52 weeks = $33,280.00 per year (gross). That is not high pay.

John henry said...

It is for unskilled labor, Cook.

Unskilled labor defined as any job where you can be fully productive in a week with little to no experience, training or skill requirements.

Go see how many other unskilled jobs pay this well.

John Henry

John henry said...

Also, Cook, don't forget medical benefits. Those add another $6 per hour or more to compensation.

And tax free.

I wonder how much she makes managing the bar? I wonder if that pays as well as Amazon? And bar management takes at least a bit of skill. More than the Amazon job.

John Henry

Skippy Tisdale said...

When I was in my very early twenties, I worked factory jobs. At one job, I took little ring-lick spacers and held both side up against a deburring tool. The spacers were for crossbows, so they had very tight tolerances. No other worker could hit the tolerances,b but I could because I had spent years prior learning to play guitar (jazz, R&B, rock, etc.). So all day long I sat alone deburring spacers. It's mindless work, so it's easy to think about other things while doing it. I sand to myself, wrote songs, made plans for the weekend and stuff like that to bide the time. At one point I asked my boss how many would there be. He said one million. I didn't stay much longer. My point is that there is beauty in having a boring job.