When the author described the ‘Picking’ job, I thought about how that task is most of the way to…
George Shoemaker
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It’s a fair point! I say no, because its data-gathering efforts and expansion to this point has come off the back of hundreds of thousands of workers who have not been duly compensated, and it is only really Amazon and its shareholders that will yield the profits of automation. It’s not just Amazon employees that lose their jobs of course, but staff across the whole of a retail sector that can’t keep up, and it’s already happening. I have no problem with automation in principle, but those benefits need to be shared by the public. As I see it, the logical conclusion of a corporation hoarding the benefits of automation under capitalism are extremely grim (not least when the corporation in question perennially avoids tax).

Simply put, Amazon’s ethic, under the terms set by our economic system, are that its retail proposition is compensation for the damage the company has done to other businesses, to working people, etc. and if we don’t like it we can go elsewhere. In my opinion this is insufficient, especially if you consider Amazon a monopsony, with the reality of ‘choice’ limited and getting worse. Most concerning to me is the idea that the company is now so big it is acquiring ‘functional sovereignty’. Its anti-democratic turn, as seen with HQ2, was rightly a scandal, and the bigger issue at stake here.

Long story short, I think the plight of Amazon’s warehouse workers is just the tip of the iceberg, but it illustrates what this company is about!