Archive for November, 2019

Prime Mover: How Amazon Wove Itself Into the Life of an American City – The New York Times

Amazon just put this department store out of bussiness in Baltimore, and its largest hardware store, both owned by the same family.

“. . .  Ms. Black said she quit after two written warnings that she wasn’t meeting productivity standards, knowing a third would get her fired.

“The machines determine so much,” she said. “You’re clocked from beginning to end. They grind through people.”

When another employee told the National Labor Relations Board that he had been fired for complaining about working conditions, the company said he had it wrong: He had been fired for working too slowly.

In fact, an Amazon lawyer wrote to the N.L.R.B. last year, it had fired “hundreds of other employees” at the Baltimore warehouse for failing to make their numbers. The letter, obtained by The Verge, listed more than 800 workers fired in the previous year, but the company now says the correct number was 309.

Automated dismissals are a feature, the letter said, not a flaw. “Amazon’s system,” the lawyers wrote, “automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors.” Amazon says termination decisions are ultimately made by managers.

Workers at Amazon who run into that kind of trouble have no unions to represent them — a shift from Baltimore’s past. G.M. employees were represented by the United Automobile Workers. At the second warehouse, on the old Bethlehem Steel site, United Steelworkers held sway. At both plants, the pay was adequate to support a family.

Credit…Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

In the G.M. plant’s final years, line workers made an average of $27 an hour, equivalent to more than $35 today. G.M. workers could make $80,000 annually with overtime, according to contemporary news reports, equal to $102,000 in 2019 dollars.

The vehemently anti-union Amazon has raised its lowest hourly pay to $15.40, which is a little over double the federal minimum wage, the company points out. But even a veteran worker at its BWI2 warehouse would have to put in considerable overtime to get to $40,000 a year, less than half of what a G.M. worker could make in the past.

Nor are the job numbers comparable. The G.M. plant employed 8,000 at its peak; Bethlehem Steel employed 30,000. Amazon has a total of 4,500 workers at the two warehouses.”

Source: Prime Mover: How Amazon Wove Itself Into the Life of an American City – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, Monopoly or Monopsony

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Opinion | The World-Shaking News That You’re Missing – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“SINGAPORE — One of the most negative byproducts of the Trump presidency is that all we talk about now is Donald Trump. Don’t get me wrong: How can we not be fixated on a president who daily undermines the twin pillars of our democracy: truth and trust?

But there are some tectonic changes underway behind the Trump noise machine that demand a serious national discussion, like the future of U.S.-China relations. Yet it’s not happening — because all we talk about is Donald Trump.

Consider this: On Nov. 9, European leaders gathered in Berlin to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an anniversary worth celebrating. But no one seemed to notice that almost exactly 30 years after the Berlin Wall fell, a new wall — a digital Berlin Wall — had begun to be erected between China and America. And the only thing left to be determined, a Chinese business executive remarked to me, “is how high this wall will be,” and which countries will choose to be on which side.

This new wall, separating a U.S.-led technology and trade zone from a Chinese-led one, will have implications as vast as the wall bisecting Berlin did. Because the peace, prosperity and accelerations in technology and globalization that have so benefited the world over the past 40 years were due, in part, to the interweaving of the U.S. and Chinese economies.”

Source: Opinion | The World-Shaking News That You’re Missing – The New York Times

Posted in: China, Foreign Affairs and U.S.ForeignPolicy, Thomas Friedman

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