Thursday, December 26, 2019

Those Amazon packages arriving for Christmas? They come at the expense of workers' rights.

Erica Smiley, Opinion contributor
,USA TODAY Opinion•December 25, 2019

Prime members were a big part of Amazon’s $11.2 billion in profits last year — on which the corporation, incidentally, paid $0 in income taxes. So can’t we, the people, demand more from Amazon — with Prime members leading the way?

In fact, arguably for Prime members who are both pushing and benefitting from the leading innovations of Amazon, speaking out for more just business practices is our duty. Amazon’s convenience comes at a high cost to working people. People working at Amazon face strenuous, sometimes impossible, demands inside warehouses, delivering packages, and even working as independent contractors.

Warehouse workers are required to meet impossible quotas for how many items they “pick” every shift. They often receive few — if any — real breaks on the job, and the demands are so great, warehouse workers around the world have succumbed to exhaustion and some have even died on the warehouse floor. Drivers race against a tight clock to deliver an enormous amount of packages, putting their own — and the safety of others — on the road at risk. Amazon increasingly relies on contractors to make these deliveries, which limits the company’s liability if something goes wrong and lets Amazon avoid paying overtime or benefits, while drivers use their own cars to make deliveries.

That’s bad enough, but as Amazon expands its data services empire, its unjust business practices are setting the standard for the entire economy. And instead of using its profits to reward the working people who make Amazon work, the corporation pays politicians to do its bidding — rigging the rules of the economy to be better for Amazon but worse for our communities. The end result will be almost instantaneous delivery of a race-to-the-bottom economy that is bad for all of us.


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