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.”
Archive for Monopoly or Monopsony
“Over the last year or so, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and other American tech leaders have issued a stark warning to those who want to see more competition in the industry. It goes something like this: “We understand that we’ve made mistakes. But don’t you realize that if you damage us, you’ll just be handing over the future to China? Unlike America, the Chinese government is standing behind its tech firms, because it knows that the competition is global, and it wants to win.”
This — Big Tech’s version of the “too big to fail” argument — has a superficial nationalistic appeal. It’s certainly true that the Chinese technology sector is growing and aggressively competitive, and that many of its companies are embraced and promoted by the Chinese state. By one count, eight of the world’s 20 largest tech firms are Chinese. That would seem to suggest a contest for global dominance, one in which the United States ought not be considering breakups or regulation, but instead be doing everything it can to protect and subsidize the home team.
But to accept this argument would be a mistake, for it betrays and ignores hard-won lessons about the folly of an industrial policy centered on “national champions,” especially in the tech sector. What Facebook is really asking for is to be embraced and protected as America’s very own social media monopolist, bravely doing battle overseas. But both history and basic economics suggest we do much better trusting that fierce competition at home yields stronger industries overall.
That’s the lesson from the history of Japanese-American tech competition. During the 1970s and into the ’80s, it was widely believed that Japan was threatening the United States for supremacy in technology markets. The Japanese giant NEC was a serious challenger to IBM in the mainframe market; Sony was running over consumer electronics, joined by powerful firms like Panasonic and Toshiba. These companies enjoyed the support of the Japanese state, through the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, which pursued a nationalistic industrial policy thought to be infallible.”