"Congress must prioritize four repairs for the immigration system before contemplating any DACA-style amnesty negotiation, said Brat: 1. Ending chain migration and the visa lottery; 2. Mandating employer use of E-Verify; 3. Construction of a southern border wall; and 4. Interior enforcement of immigration law." REP. DAVE BRAT
Saturday, June 10, 2017
AMAZON - MAKING JEFF BEZOS A MULTI-BILLIONAIRE..... Working at Amazon was soul crushing
Ex-Amazon worker: I was
fired for picking too slow
10 June 2017
A former Amazon worker submitted the following response to theInternational Amazon Workers Voicearticlefrom May 26,“Amazon
workers worldwide denounce dictatorial working conditions.”The
former worker said,“Every quote in the article is accurate.”The
ex-worker gave the IAWV permission to post his comment from Reddit.
I worked at an Amazon fulfillment center, and yes the job is
terrible and soul crushing, but it was about the same as other big
factory/warehouse jobs I’ve had and have heard about.
Amazondoesseem to be at least a bit worse than
other places, and I believe it’s because they are a tech company. As a company
that has only existed in the computer/internet age, they have from their
inception been able to keep metrics on every single aspect of their business.
Productivity optimization has always been a thing with business, but computers
allow (and condition) you to keep track of everything and anything and optimize
it all down to the nano-second, millimeter, pixel, thousandth of a cent, etc.
Being a worker at Amazon is perfectly summed up by this quote in
“We are not robots to just look at the shelves.”
Because as far as Amazon Inc. is concerned, every human employed
by them is essentially an organic robot. They have determined the exact amount
of time every task should take, regardless of which particular organic robot is
doing the task, and if a piece of machinery doesn’t do the job exactly as you
expect it to you scrap it and get a replacement machine.
As an example, for a time I was a picker: meaning I stood in one
place while actual robots drove 6.5 ft. tall shelves to me one at a time, then
a screen told me which item to pick and from which section of the shelf, then I
grab it, scan it, place it in the correct bucket (from 3 to 10 buckets), and
push the light over the bucket. Amazon decided that this whole process should
take exactly nine seconds.
If your average pick time was consistently over nine seconds,
they’d try to train you a couple times then eventually let you go. This is why
I was fired. My manager came to me a couple times to try to show me how to pick
faster; he never gave me new information or new techniques, he just moved
faster than me. He never acknowledged the fact that I had to do the same task
for ten hours straight (btw, shifts are always ten hours) while he only picked
for a couple minutes a day, nor did he acknowledge the fact that he waswayshorter than me so he could reach the
lower shelves (they start at your feet) without bending over as much as me
which was killing my back.
Oh, also, whatever speed they had previously decided was the exact
perfect speed for an organic robot to operate at, they would just make it
quicker whenever they wanted productivity to go up without having to pay for
Current and former Amazon workers: Submit your Amazon horror
stories by signing-up for theInternational Amazon Workers
Voicenewsletter belowand explain your story in the comments
share with your co-workers.
Hundreds of Amazon workers havesigned upfor theInternational Amazon Workers Voicenewsletter in recent days.
AMERICA: No Damned Legal Need Apply!
While the declining job market in the United States may be discouraging some would-be border crossers, a flow of illegal aliens continues unabated, with many entering the United States as drug-smuggling “mules.”
“The principal beneficiaries of our current immigration policy are affluent Americans who hire immigrants at substandard wages for low-end work. Harvard economist George Borjas estimates that American workers lose $190 billion annually (DATED FIGURES) in depressed wages caused by the constant flooding of the labor market at the low-wage end.” --- Christian Science Monitor
“The lifetime costs of Social Security and Medicare benefits of illegal immigrant beneficiaries of President Obama’s executive amnesty would be well over a trillion dollars, according to Heritage Foundation expert Robert Rector’s prepared testimony for a House panel obtained in advance by Breitbart News.”
AMERICA: NO LEGAL NEED APPLY
REPORT: The assault to finish off the American middle-class is NOT over
“The report noted that many illegals don't have jobs or have difficulty in landing good jobs because of local laws.”
“However, it identified several states that have begun easing employment laws so that illegals can get a job.”
THE HORDES KEEP COMING!
While the declining job market in the United States may be discouraging some would-be border crossers, a flow of illegal aliens continues unabated, with many entering the United States as drug-smuggling “mules.”
SHOULD SHIT BILLIONAIRE JEFF BEZOS PAY WORKERS A LIVING WAGE?
BUT IF HE DID, HOW MANY BILLIONS WOULD HE MAKE THEN?
"Another Amazon worker added, “If something unexpected comes up, an illness or something needing repaired, then that’s it for you. The wages suffice to barely survive, if even for that, and even then it is difficult."
Striking Amazon workers in Germany support call for international cooperation
By our correspondents 27 May 2017
Workers at Amazon distribution centers in Bad Hersfeld went on strike yesterday. Workers have been resisting ruthless exploitation and low wages at the online sales giant for years.
Around 1,000 workers in Bad Hersfeld work at FRA1, the oldest distribution center in Germany, and an additional 2,000-2,200 work at FRA3, which is located on the so-called Amazon Road. Around 100 striking workers gathered at the entrance in the early morning, and 40 departed by bus to Frankfurt to participate in a day of action by retail workers in the state of Hesse, organized by the Verdi trade union.
Amazon is known for its brutal
methods of exploitation and workflow,
which is organized down to the last
detail. It is also notorious for the harsh
treatment of anyone who complains.
Many striking workers therefore did
not want to speak on camera about
their working conditions. “I am on the
verge of being fired,” was a common
Thomas, is a “picker,” the name given by Amazon to workers who locate ordered goods in the huge storerooms. He said that he walks between 20 and 30 kilometers each day. “When I take goods from the lower shelf, I have to bend my knees, often go down on my knees,” he said. Even being in good physical fitness cannot assist in such a situation.
Andrea has worked for Amazon for nine years and earns about €2,000 per month before tax, “and that is only because I have been employed here longer than 24 months,” she said. New hires earn much less. “That is €24,000 per year!” said Andrea. By comparison, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos “is the second richest man in the world. He ‘earns’ $24,000 within a minute,” she said.
Andrea recalled how company management had previously said that there was no money for higher wages because the company would make a loss. “But what about now?” she asked. Profits are exploding today. “We do not participate in the profits,” she added.
Andrea also explained how Amazon “justified” the low wages. “Amazon hires us all as trainees. Yet many of us are trained professionals.” She had trained as a retail saleswoman, with a focus on storage and logistics. “But that is not required. So you run around here as a trainee for years.”
The massive pressure on workers was clear to see on Friday morning. It was barely possible for workers who were not striking to speak as they went to work. However, almost all took the WSWS flyer introducing the International Amazon Workers Voice. Some were reluctant at first, but took it after campaigners informed them that it was not associated with Verdi, which is known for organizing a series of one-day strikes that have no impact on company operations.
Carl was formerly a US soldier and stationed in Germany until 1992. He began to work at Amazon in 1999 when it opened its first storage and distribution center in Bad Hersfeld. Prior to that, he worked as a gardener and landscaper, and he also worked in arms manufacturing and security.
Since his health had been ruined by the decades of labor, Carl spoke out vehemently against the “health bonus” introduced by Amazon management at several German stores. Bad Hersfeld has not yet introduced this system. According to this system, part of the bonus payment is linked to the absentee rate of an entire department. If one worker is absent due to illness, all workers lose out.
The obvious goal of this measure is to encourage workers to check on their colleagues and put them under pressure. “I have to go to the hospital twice a year, sometimes for a long period,” Carl said. “Should the entire department lose out because of that?”
Dave, who has worked in the returns department since 2011, said that he is also opposed to the system. It is merely a “scheme to get workers to turn up to work,” he said. Workers drag themselves to work when they are ill, for example when they have a cold, and infect more workers. “It just makes the whole thing worse,” he said. He hoped that the works council would manage to block the “health bonus” in Bad Hersfeld.
Jens explained the perfidious system to us on the sidelines of the demonstration in Frankfurt. A trained retail salesman, Jens has worked for Amazon for seven years. The group bonus is designed to work so that “if five people are selected from the department, and one of them is ill, then the entire department gets no bonus, everyone suffers as a result. This is not only a lottery, but also makes a fool of the workers.”
Jens said he knew one worker who forced herself to come to work even though she was ill. “She had a breakdown at Amazon and later died. That shows exactly where this type of thing leads.”
Another Amazon worker added, “If something
unexpected comes up, an illness or something
needing repaired, then that’s it for you. The wages
suffice to barely survive, if even for that, and even
then it is difficult.”
Many workers from different retail and online companies took part in the demonstration at Frankfurt. They were very interested to learn of conditions at Amazon, and almost all took the flyer introducing the International Amazon Workers Voice. Many spoke about similar working conditions.
Raffaela, who works on the check-outs at Karstadt, has had experiences with several retail companies: “I think Amazon is terrible. But even at Real it can happen that a note is taken if someone doesn’t work fast enough. Then he is at risk of being taken into the office and cited.”
Elke K. works at Real in Wiesbaden. After being informed about the Amazon flyer, she said that international cooperation against such a company was extremely important. “These conditions are really unsustainable, it reminds me of Bangladesh,” she said. “What amount of pressure must it be when people have to walk 20 kilometres per day.” Elke explained how she knew many colleagues who still had to go to the welfare office, despite working full-time and overtime hours, to top up their income and pay rent. “What a perfidious system!”
Marco, a Karstadt salesman, was horrified to learn that workers in Scotland lived in tents because they could not afford the travel to their work or a nearby apartment. “Hard to believe that something like that is possible in a modern industrial state.”
Gabriele added, “The suggestion to cooperate internationally is interesting. Companies have long since acted internationally and outsource operations to the Czech Republic or Poland and play us off against each other. And the trade unions offer only recipes within the national framework.”
Meanwhile in Bad Hersfeld, Amazon workers at the midday shift change spoke to the WSWS. They have to deal with the fact that many colleagues are not participating in a strike called by Verdi. One reason for this is that there is no grounds for workers to believe that Verdi will represent and fight for their interests. Verdi has been organizing one-day, isolated strikes against Amazon for years.
The trade union is pursuing entirely different goals to the workers. The Verdi trade union is calling for an additional €1 per hour for workers in the retail and online sales sector. But at Amazon, the issue remains one of securing any kind of collective agreement. The world’s largest online sales company has refused to recognize any contract.
With its demand for a collective agreement, Verdi hopes to be recognized by Amazon and cooperate with the company as a partner. This ultimately amounts to jointly organizing the exploitation of workers. Verdi already sits on the supervisory boards of many companies, including Lufthansa, Karstadt and the rail company Deutsche Bahn.
Workers said they could only fight the company by being organized as an international force. Carl said, “We can all secure more if we are all united. Not only in a state or federally, but on an international level.” This is why the Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei and its sister parties internationally have established the International Amazon Workers Voice. This newsletter will be international, both in its form and political content. It will link the struggles of workers around the world in a common struggle against the company and the capitalist system.
Ex-worker: I was close to heatstroke and Amazon forced me to keep working
By our reporters
29 May 2017
Hundreds of Amazon workers havesigned upfor theInternational Amazon Workers Voicenewsletter in recent days. Workers continue to send in their horror stories of exploitation, and workers in fulfillment centers in North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa are discussing the need for an international strategy to fight back.
Here is what workers are saying:
Amazon to worker on verge of heatstroke: keep working
Amazon tries to keep the lid on scenes like this one, described by an ex-Amazon worker who feared he would die on the job.
“I worked there [for Amazon] for a year and I was treated like complete trash,” the young worker said. “One day I actually got really bad heat exhaustion from there when I was trying to keep myself hydrated. I was on water bottle number seven by lunchtime and that still wasn’t cutting it. Everyone agreed at my fulfillment center that it was hotter than usual, and the managers weren’t doing anything about it.”
The company only cared about shipping its goods and making profit.
The worker continued, “I almost passed out while rebinning. I was taken to Amcare [the company medical team] and was told I was only allowed there for 20 minutes because I had to get back on the floor when they knew I was getting very close to having a heat stroke. They even said I was very close to having a heat stroke. So I left Amazon that night and never returned because I felt like my life was more important than dying at the job. If I died there that night I would be number four on the list of people who died while working at my fulfillment center, and I didn’t want that.”
“Why not share the benefits of industrial progress, instead of accepting our fate as slaves for the rich?”
One former warehouse worker in the UK explained: “I worked in a warehouse in Manchester as a picker for XPO/Missguided under conditions very similar to those recounted by Amazon workers. Workers were demeaned with a barrage of dictatorial policies and pushed to the limit of physical and mental endurance. A few workers passed out due to overexertion.”
The worker continued, “Why shouldn’t society share equally the benefits of productive development? After all, it was the workers who built the warehouses, and the means of production and operations, not Bezos. Why not share the benefits of industrial progress, instead of accepting our fate as slaves for the rich? The social condition today is appalling and given the productive forces available, entirely medieval.”
No to nationalism! Unite Amazon workers across the world!
One worker in the UK messaged theInternational Amazon Workers Voiceto report stressful and dangerous conditions at their facility. The worker thanked the IAWV for exposing Bezos’ wealth, but said that part of the problem is that English workers are mistreated while Polish workers are favored.
TheInternational Amazon Workers Voiceresponded:
“The rich want you to compete with workers of different national origins so that all workers don’t unite and fight the real enemy: the rich. We are socialists, that means we’re for the international unity of the working class, regardless of national origin. English workers have much more in common with workers from Poland than they do with David Cameron, and the Polish workers have more in common with you than they do with Polish oligarchs, too.
“Imagine how much power Amazon workers would have if they united in the US, UK, Poland, Germany, Mexico, China, Germany, India, and all over, in a common struggle for social equality. Divided by nationality, the workers are powerless. But united across the world, the working class is a powerful force that can change the course of history.”
The worker responded with a “thumbs-up.”
Amazon workers, if you have stories to share, sign-up for ournewsletterand send them in the comments field. We keep all sources anonymous to protect from arbitrary firing.
Billionaire Bezos’s cash bonanza
Amazon CEO makes $3.3 billion in a few hours
By Evan Blake and Eric London 6 May 2017
Last Thursday evening, Amazon’s billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos made $3.3 billion when the tech giant reported its eighth consecutive profitable quarter, adding $50 a share to the value of its stock in after-hours trading.
To acquire $3.3 billion, a US Amazon worker making the average $12.41/hour would have to work 133,064 years—roughly the length of time modern humans have lived on Earth. It would take Amazon workers in China, Brazil, India, and Mexico who are paid even lower wages much longer than that.
If the entire 200,000 person Amazon workforce in the US began working on January 1 at this wage, they would make a collective $3.3 billion in wages only at the end of August. A US warehouse worker would have to work almost two weeks just to make enough to buy a single share of Amazon stock (worth about $940)—and that’s before tax!
Bezos’s evening bonanza brings his net worth to $80.6 billion, making him the third wealthiest person on Earth. Bezos is poised to become the world's richest person by year's end.
Among the world's billionaires, Bezos has experienced the largest growth in his personal wealth so far this year, adding $15.3 billion since January 1, according to theBloomberg Billionaires Index. Over the past year, Bezos has earned $22.4 billion, and in the last five years he has earned an astounding $62.5 billion.
To put this in perspective, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that it would cost roughly $51 billion—$11.5 billionlessthan Bezos has earned in five years—to provide access to water and sanitation for the entire global population, which would save millions of lives annually.
The average Amazon warehouse worker in the US makes roughly $25,792 each year before tax. Thus, in the past year, Bezos earned 868,486 times the average Amazon worker, and over the past five years he has earned nearly this same amount, $23,782,per minute.
Amazon and Bezos exercise an inordinate amount of control on the political system. In 2016, Amazon’s Political Action Committee gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to 129 congressmen—29.6 percent of the total—and 35 senators, both split almost evenly between both Democratic and Republican representatives. Bezos also owns one of the country’s most influential newspapers, theWashington Post.
Bezos’s billions and his influence come through the exploitation of the hundreds of thousands of Amazon workers worldwide, who go to work each day and produce far more value for the company than they receive in wages. This is where the company’s profit comes from.
In all the countries in which it operates, Amazon is engaged in efforts to suck its workers dry of every penny of profit. In Germany, Amazon recently implemented a new policy of collective punishment for its workforce aimed at dissuading workers from taking sick days that they have the right to under German law.
The policy stipulates that workers are eligible for a group bonus of 6-10 percent only if the entire group has used a minimum amount of sick days. This pits workers against one another and places immense pressure on individuals not to take time off to recover from illness for fear of being blamed for taking away their coworkers’ bonuses.
Over the last five years, Amazon’s revenue has increased more than the cost of revenue (which includes labor costs). That means that each year, the level of exploitation at Amazon increases while workers receive a smaller proportion of Amazon’s gross profit. From 2012 to 2016, the difference between the company’s total revenue and the cost of revenue, including labor costs, increased from $15.12 billion in 2012 to $47.72 billion in 2016. That’s tens of billions of dollars of wealth that workers produce but will never see.
Behind the billions of dollars on the company’s balance sheets are the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Amazon workers whose daily economic struggles are funding Bezos’s lavish lifestyle.
Last October, he bought Washington DC’s largest house—a 27,000-square-foot former textile museum—for $23 million in cash. To purchase just a single square foot of Bezos’ mansion, an Amazon worker making $12.40 an hour would have to work 68.7 hours.
The house has 14 bathrooms, 10 bedrooms, and 11 fireplaces. Bezos’s nearby neighbors include Barack Obama and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as well as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Bezos’s wealth is not a product of individual “greed,” it is a product of the capitalist system, which is based on the private ownership of the means of production by a tiny sliver of the world’s population which increases its wealth through the exploitation of the working class of the world.
It is the working class, at Amazon and in all industries and workplaces, which produces society’s wealth. The Socialist Equality Party calls for the nationalization of Amazon and all major corporations, the seizure of the wealth of the rich, and its redistribution to meet the needs of the human race.
This requires apoliticalstruggle for the unity of the working class of all nationalities against the corporations and the political parties and governments they control, as well as against their wars for corporate plunder. TheWorld Socialist Web Siteencourages all Amazon workers to share this article as widely as possible on social media and to contact us to learn more about the fight for socialism.
Amazon ordered employee to work despite heatstroke risk, sought to cover up incident
By Eric London 30 May 2017
A former Amazon worker who nearly suffered heatstroke and was ordered by the company to keep working told theInternational Amazon Workers Voicethat Amazon ignored reports of the incident to avoid blame and deny her access to medical attention.
On a sweltering hot summer day in 2016, a young “picker” named Nicole was working on the floor of Amazon’s fulfillment center in Chester, Virginia. Although workers requested that management turn up the air conditioning, Nicole said the company refused. When she nearly passed out, Amazon gave her just 20 minutes of rest and then ordered her back on the floor. The company knew that medical officials warned she could suffer potentially fatal heatstroke.
To this day, Nicole explained, she has been unable to seek medical attention because the corporation ignored a report she filed of the incident.
Amazon workers are familiar with this type of brutal treatment by a corporate giant that prioritizes private profit above the lives of its workers. This is the rule under capitalism: corporations like Amazon cut costs by sacrificing workers’ health to improve the profit margin and enrich the corporate leadership.
“When I made a report about my incident,” Nicole told the IAWV, “I found out they never did my report because they didn’t want to get into trouble. How I found out was I called the Amazon hotline for employees to see if there was a report made so I could go see a doctor about my current condition, and they said they had no report on my incident when I made one. I wanted to because it was a work place accident. And they didn’t want to help me.”
Because the company ignored her report, Nicole said she couldn’t file a workers’ compensation claim or bring a lawsuit against the company for the abuse she said she suffered.
After the incident, Nicole decided that the $12.50 an hour she made was not worth the risk of suffering from the intense heat on the shop floor. But instead of firing her, the company sent her a letter claiming she left the company through “voluntary resignation due to job abandonment.” Because of this, she was ineligible to collect unemployment benefits.
Out of a job and still feeling the effects of the incident, Nicole says she began to have difficulty being outside during the daytime for long periods of time. Though she has finally found new work, she hasn’t seen a doctor despite ongoing side effects because of the high cost of health care in the US. She fears her health will never be the same.
“Ever since I left Amazon I have been having problems with heat in general,” she said. “I haven’t gotten medical attention for it because I had no job and no health insurance. I loved being outside before, and now I can’t enjoy the summertime as I used to. I am basically cursed because of them.”
Nicole is not alone. She described horrific conditions at the Chester, Virginia fulfillment center, which was featured in a 2015 article, “The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp.”
“From what I have heard,” Nicole said, “one person had died from a heart attack there. I also heard someone killed themselves by jumping from one of the floors, and not quite sure about the other [deaths at the facility]. We also had a lot of workplace injuries where ambulances were called.
“But no matter what circumstances we were under, management always told us to keep working even if we were hurting. They told us to take some painkillers and get back to work.”
Nicole said it is hard to find news articles of many of the deaths, since Amazon “keeps that under wraps because they don’t want people to know so they can get people to work for them.” She added, “They don’t like us talking about it.”
Despite these conditions, some workers drive from as far away as North Carolina to work at the Chester fulfillment center. Temporary workers make $10 an hour, and many other workers at the facility make $12.
Nicole expressed gratitude that theInternational Amazon Workers Voicewas exposing sweatshop conditions at Amazon fulfillment centers.
“I am for the cause,” she said. “I am all for uniting to show Amazon that they need to listen to how they are treating their people. We work far too hard. I want Amazon to do better or be shut down. I hate seeing my friends being worked to the very core to the point of almost disabling themselves. I don’t want anyone to go through what I am going through right now. I can’t even go to amusement parks which are my favorite places without having a threat of heatstroke.”
She said she would share theIAWVwith her friends who still work at the facility and encouraged other workers across the world to step forward and share their stories of abuse.
Amazon workers:contactthe IAWV today and help expose Amazon’s exploitation of the working class. We protect anonymity and don’t use names without your approval.Sign-upto receive updates, “like” the IAWV on Facebook,and share this article with your coworkers.
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon, the e-commerce giant that has changed how much of the world shops for books, toilet paper and TVs, hit a new milestone. Its stock topped $1,000 for the first time.
That price puts Amazon’s market value at about $478 billion, double that of rival Wal-Mart and more than 15 times the size of Target. And its four-digit stock price places it in rare company: Only four other U.S.-listed companies have shares that trade above $1,000.
Amazon.com Inc. has come a long way since its start in 1995, when it mostly sold books. The Seattle company now sells just about anything, from groceries to small appliances, and has been blamed for taking business away from department stores, supermarkets and clothing retailers.
The International Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV) has met with great interest among Amazon workers in Germany. Many workers took the IAWV flyer during the strike at the Bad Hersfeld Amazon Distribution Centre last weekend.
One of the first to register for the IAWV was an Amazon worker in Leipzig. He has worked in the Amazon Distribution Centre there since 2011 and has been involved in strikes against the miserable working conditions. On Sunday, he talked with reporters for the World Socialist Web Site about the conditions in the factory and gave an insight into the treacherous conditions of exploitation practised by the American multinational. He did not want us to use his name for fear or reprisals.
The Leipzig facility was built in summer 2006 and employs more than 2,000 workers on an area of 75,000 square metres. It is one of nine distribution centres in Germany employing approximately 12,000 people.
At the beginning of our conversation in Leipzig, he told us that he had subscribed to the IAWV mainly because he was interested in the international cooperation and coordination of all workers.
“Two things are important to me,” he said. “Firstly, Amazon is a global company and one cannot successfully fight against it without the international cooperation of the workers. During the strike last December, workers in Poland were forced to work extra shifts to undermine our strike. Secondly, Amazon plays a pioneering role. The merciless exploitation here is to be the benchmark in all other facilities.”
He then described his working day. He lives outside Leipzig and has to set off by bus before 5:00 in the morning for his shift that starts at 6:30. The early shift runs until 15:00 (3:00 p.m.). At that time, the late shift starts and goes on till 23:30 (11:30 p.m.). There is no bonus for working nights, since that only kicks in after 24:00 (midnight). If he works the early shift in autumn and winter, he does not see daylight at all. It is still dark when he starts in the morning and when he returns in the early evening, too.
There are two breaks on each shift: one lasting 20 minutes and another of 25 minutes. Workers are not permitted to eat at their workstation, and it takes 3-5 minutes to walk to the canteen. “Usually, only 10 minutes remain in which you have to eat your food and then walk quickly back to the warehouse,” he says.
He is a packer. This means he has to pack the orders into a parcel and put it on a conveyor. This is done as follows: He stands at a packing table in front of a monitor. This displays the order, and the items are placed ready in a so-called Silver Cart, where they have been collected by the “pickers”.
The monitor also shows the size of the box to be used and the type of shipping, with or without instruction leaflet, delivery note and the type of packing material. Then the box has to be unfolded, the goods inserted, secured with packing material, closed and taped shut. Then a barcode sticker has to be stripped from a roll and stuck on, and then the package has to be placed on the conveyor.
Amazon’s default work rate is to pack 75 parcels an hour. This means barely 50 seconds for a parcel, which is impossible to achieve despite working intensively. “On average, one can achieve no more than 65 or 66 packages”, the worker explained. From time to time, a “leader” or “manager” passes by and shows the performance rate on his laptop, “demanding a performance increase.”
The work is physically and mentally very strenuous. A packer does not have to run about as much as the pickers, who have to walk 25 kilometres on some days. But the intense concentration, the long periods standing at the packing table and the constant repetitive movements are a big strain and cause permanent health damage. For this work, he earns €11.96 an hour (US$13.36), which equates to a monthly income of barely €1,400 (about US$1,550) total.
You have to be at your workstation just before the beginning of the shift, he says. Each shift begins with a 10-minute departmental meeting where a manager, or sometimes a leader, speaks and reports on “incidents”. Sometimes the official says: “Today will be an athletic day.” This means that the order situation is intense, the work rate has to be intensified. The departmental meeting usually ends with an appeal about work safety. This also includes the tidiness and cleanliness of the workplace, for which every employee is responsible.
The managers and leaders speak in commandeering tones, the Leipzig packer reports. He knows that several are former army soldiers and officers. For them, issuing commands is a matter of course, and sometimes colleagues are spoken to very harshly for minor mistakes. That is very humiliating.
The work pressure is reinforced by an insidious bonus system called “PRP”. This operates as follows: There is the possibility of earning a 12 percent bonus each month, but only if there are no mistakes in terms of work safety, productivity and inventory accuracy. The 12 percent is almost never achieved. Usually, there is no more than 3-5 percent bonus; often it’s zero.
But the group pressure that is generated by this is huge. If there are three accidents or even minor work safety issues, 3 or 4 percent is already lost from the bonus. If several workers do not achieve the defined productivity level, another 4 percent also falls away. And if many “stowers”, those who stock the goods onto the shelves, wrongly place items, or if for some other reason there is an inventory error exceeding a certain tolerance, then more bonus points are also gone.
The bonus points apply to the whole department. This means that the mistake of an individual worker can mean all workers are “punished”, and therefore everyone tries to perform fully in order not to harm other colleagues.
A few weeks ago, the garbage compactor caught fire at the Leipzig facility. The cause was unclear. Workers suspected that as the rubbish was not being separated, batteries ignited under the pressure of the compactor. Waste separation has been introduced since the fire, he said, but several firefighters suffered smoke poisoning and had to be treated by a doctor. Although they were not part of the workforce, the incident was classified as a work accident and the bonus was cut.
Another time, a worker suffered a stroke and had to be taken to hospital. Although neither the worker nor any other employee could be held responsible, a point was deducted for breach of work safety, the Leipzig Amazon worker reports.
This bonus system is to be expanded in the future. Due to persistently high sickness levels, a special “health bonus” is to be introduced. Even if you do not have any absences due to illness, you can only achieve the health bonus if the whole team in which you work has no or few absences.
The system puts employees under pressure to drag themselves to work even if they are sick. These measures pit workers against each other and help poison the working environment. It pushes elderly and chronically ill colleagues to the sidelines.
In reality, the reason for the high sickness absences is the extremely harsh, energy-sapping work. The constant work stress, the pressure and the permanent checks are physically and mentally exhausting in the long run. In many Amazon facilities in eastern Europe, the work pressure and levels of exploitation are even greater than in Leipzig, our interlocutor explains, and stresses the urgency of workers cooperating internationally.
Ex-Amazon worker in Spain speaks out: “My life has been destroyed by Amazon”
By Eric London
2 June 2017
TheInternational Amazon Workers Voicespoke with a former Amazon worker in Spain who says he was fired because he suffered a workplace injury in July 2015.
José Antonio Rueda Bermudez is 30 years old and married with a young daughter. When he was hurt on the job at Amazon’s San Fernando de Henares fulfillment center outside of Madrid, the corporation blocked him from receiving compensation or any other form of financial support needed to help his young family.
José was lifting and moving boxes under sped-up conditions when he suffered a sharp, excruciating pain.Amazon sent him to Mutua Universal, a company that works with Spain’s Social Security system to provide public aid to workers injured on the job. A doctor later diagnosed him with sacroiliitis, an inflammation of the sacroiliac joints at the point where the lower spine and pelvis connect.
“They told me the injury was my fault,” José said. “The inflammation hasn’t gone away, and I still can’t work because of it. Amazon knows this, but they haven’t done anything. Since their doctors told me there was no problem, I can’t get any financial support. Then they sent me back to work after just four days and told me I was wasting their time.”
Like most Amazon workers in Spain, José was hired through a contracting firm—in his case, Manpower ETT. When he got the job in late 2014, he considered himself lucky after listening to Amazon boast of its working conditions. He soon found out the company wasn’t telling the truth. It was impossible to keep up with the pace of work, and corporate management watches workers like hawks.
The San Fernando de Henares facility was Amazon’s first in Spain. It consists of more than 15 kilometers of conveyor belt, 63 kilometers of shelves, and it warehouses over 165 million products. As of November 2016, the plant employed 1,600 workers. Amazon will hire 2,000 more workers in Spain in the next two years, in part by opening another fulfillment center near Barcelona in late 2017.
Fearing the prospects of long-term unemployment, José was forced to work through his worsening injury, causing him to slow down due to the constant pain.
“Manpower ETT didn’t renew my contract because Amazon told them I wasn’t working as hard, but that was because of my injury,” he said. “Amazon wouldn’t give me a report from my injury because they didn’t want to have to pay me anything. After I was fired, I got minimal benefits for a while but I was cut off long ago. Now I’m not receiving a single euro—not for medicine, not for anything.”
José’s wife, who also can only find temporary work, recently got surgery to remove two tumors on her foot. The young family is in a desperate economic position. They have decided not to tell their eight-year-old daughter to protect her from what the family might have to endure. He is taking his case to court, but will not appear before a judge until February 2018.
“My life has been destroyed by Amazon. It is hard to be able to buy meat now. In Spain, there is very high unemployment, and Amazon puts their facilities in areas of high unemployment.”
José’s injury exposes the brutal character of temporary and contract work, commonly used by Amazon across the world. Aside from a lack of basic safety protections, workers work themselves to the brink of exhaustion out of fear that Amazon won’t renew their contracts. With a youth unemployment rate of 41.5 percent, Spanish workers fear that the loss of a job means long-term loss of income, with life-shattering consequences.
“Life for the working class in Spain is very tough,” José said. “You have to go through contractors. It’s very rare to go directly into a job. So, you start work and you go for two months. Then they’ll kick you out after a few months and you have to look for new work. So, if you work at Amazon, you don’t get vacation, you get no rest, you walk over 20 kilometres per day, and you can’t stop. The company uses your labeler gun to monitor how fast you move. If you stop to go to the bathroom, my coworkers tell me your gun sends you a message: ‘What are you doing? Get back to work.’”
José heard about Nicole, a young worker in the US state of Virginia, who was also denied medical attention by Amazon. Nicole told theInternational Amazon Workers Voicethat Amazon said they had no record of her workplace injury. Amazon ordered her to work despite the fact that she nearly suffered heatstroke on the job.
“Madre mia,” José said. “And you have to pay for health care in the US! Amazon plays with your health, it’s the same here. If you’re hurt, too bad. It gets very hot in our fulfillment center and there is a quick pace of work, there are no stops. It can be dangerous.”
An IAWV reporter explained the need for a political struggle against Amazon and against the capitalist system, in which corporations like Amazon control the political parties and dictate the policies of governments.
“I agree with you. The political situation is shameful. In Spain, [Prime Minister Mariano] Rajoy is robbing people,” he said. While he hoped the Spanish political party Podemos would “fight for the interests of the people,” he explained he is “disillusioned with all the politicians,” including from Podemos, “because they always say they want to listen but they change their mind when they get to power. They say what you want to hear.”
The IAWV shared with José the experience of Podemos’ sister party, the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), which enforced brutal attacks on social programs, pensions, and workers’ living conditions after pledging to oppose the European Central Bank’s austerity program. “Interesting, I didn’t know about that,” he said.
José said he invited all his former coworkers to “like” theInternational Amazon Workers VoiceFacebook pageand has shared theWorld Socialist Web Siteso that others can read it.
When he learned of the IAWV proposal that workers build factory committees and link their struggles in a common international fight against Amazon, he said, “I agree with you. We the people, the workers, we are the ones that could have power but they want to keep us divided against each other. We have to unite all over the world. We have to not have fear and fight for what our grandparents fought for and won. Young people, pensioners, we all have to unite.”
"The study demonstrates, yet again, that the super- rich are a law onto themselves, living in a world completely separate from the vast majority of humanity." Study: The ultra-rich hide 25 percent of their wealth in tax havens
By Gabriel Black 5 June 2017
A study released May 28 by University of California Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman and two Scandinavian colleagues, “Tax Evasion and Inequality,” demonstrates that global wealth inequality is drastically underestimated in official statistics because of how successful the super-rich are at evading taxes.
According to the paper, the super-rich, that is the top .01 percent, hide some 25 percent or more of their wealth. This is primarily due to the exploitation of offshore tax havens that allow them to avoid paying taxes where their income is actually accrued, and where they actually live.
The study demonstrates, yet again, that the super-rich are a law onto themselves, living in a world completely separate from the vast majority of humanity. Earlier this year, Oxfam reported that only eight men control as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity. However, the findings of this new paper suggest that wealth concentration is even higher.
The authors of the paper write, “The many data sets used in this article all paint the same picture: the probability to hide assets rises very sharply with wealth, including within the very top groups. As a result, offshore wealth turns out to be extremely concentrated. By our estimate, the top 0.01% of the distribution owns about 50% of it [offshore wealth].”
They conclude, “this implies that the top 0.01% hides about 25% of its true wealth”
Zucman explained to the Los Angeles Times, “There’s a big industry providing wealth management services for the super-wealthy all over the world. … Once you cross a certain threshold of over $50 million, you get offered those services.”
The study’s authors, Anette Alstadsaeter, Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman, rely on several sources to make their analysis. The first and most important is leaked data from HSBC Private Bank (Suisse), the Swiss arm of HSBC, the sixth-largest private bank in the world. The data from HSBC Private Bank (Suisse), which was exposed in 2015, shows how the bank hides billions of dollars of taxable money for corporations such as Google and Amazon,as well as a variety of extremely wealthy clientele. The dirty stream of money exposed in the leak went as high as former US President Bill Clinton, and involved several billionaires and public figures.
Another source they use is the data from the Panama Papers, the massive leak of files from the Panama-based law firm Mossack-Fonseca in 2016. Those files showed how the law firm made millions of dollars helping politicians and the super-rich stash their money and hide it to evade taxation.
A third source they use is data from Norwegian, Danish and Swedish tax authorities showing households who voluntarily disclosed previously hidden assets in exchange for tax amnesty. Zucman, et al. were able to match assets exposed by the 2015 HSBC leak and the Panama Papers with government data in the Scandinavian countries. This method allowed them to understand the average amount of wealth the super-rich said they had versus what they actually had in undisclosed accounts.
The paper showed that in Norway, when offshore assets are added, the Norwegian super-rich show a 30 percent rise in income and the increase is likely to be higher in other countries.
“Because most Latin American, and many Asian and European economies own much more wealth offshore than Norway, the results found in Norway are likely to be lower than for most of the world’s countries,” the authors noted.
Zucman told the Los Angeles Times, “There is good reason to believe that the very steep gradient [in tax evasion by the wealthy] is also the case in the US.”
According to the conservative figures of the Internal Revenue Service, which does not cover legal tax havens, $406 billion in taxes are unpaid every year. An investigation into the HSBC leak by the CBS News program “60 Minutes” showed that the Swiss bank run by HSBC had about 4,000 US taxpayers with wealth exceeding $13 billion.
The individual tax evasion highlighted in the report, however, is only part of a much broader phenomenon. Tax evasion in the US literally takes place on an industrial scale and is built into the business model of major US corporations.
It has been estimated that US firms hold about $2 trillion in cash on offshore holdings largely to escape paying US taxes—an amount roughly equivalent to 14 percent of American gross domestic product.
The most prominent example is Apple which holds $240 billion out of its $256 billion in cash reserves offshore in order to avoid paying taxes on this money if it repatriated it. At the same time, it borrows tens of billions of dollars in the US, much of it in order to finance share buybacks and dividend payments in order to boost its share value.
The operation of this seemingly perverse logic—borrowing money while having an ocean of cash on hand—is the outcome of policy decisions of the US Federal Reserve since the eruption of the financial crisis of 2008 aimed at boosting the wealth of the financial elite.
Its policy of quantitative easing, which has pumped around $4 trillion into the US financial system coupled with the maintenance of ultra-low interest rates, means that Apple only has to pay interest ranging between 1.6 and 4.3 percent to finance operations that boost the value of its shares—far less than the cost in taxes that it would have to pay if it repatriated its overseas holdings.
As a result of these and other financial machinations, Apple’s total market value passed $800 billion earlier this year and is well on the way to the $1 trillion mark while the social cost of these operations is borne by millions of working-class families who are deprived of vital services because it is claimed that government has no money to pay for them.
Apple, however, is only the biggest example of a process which extends across the corporate world. Among the other big holders of overseas cash reserves are: Microsoft, with $113 billion; Cisco Systems, with $62 billion; Oracle, with $52 billion and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, with $49 billion.
These figures underscore the fact that tax evasion and the gains secured by the “malefactors of great wealth” are not the result simply of their individual actions but are the product of an economic and political order of, by and for the rich.
“But what the Clintons do is criminal because they do it wholly at the expense of the American people. And they feel thoroughly entitled to do it: gain power, use it to enrich themselves and their friends. They are amoral, immoral, and venal. Hillary has no core beliefs beyond power and money. That should be clear to every person on the planet by now.”
"Amazon and Walmart executives are probably
plotting a way to make money off of workers while
"The immense wealth accumulated by the Waltons
and Bezos is extracted from the labor of hundreds of
thousands of workers worldwide that toil for both
In move to compete with Amazon, Walmart asks workers to make deliveries during commute
By Evan Blake 6 June 2017
Walmart, the world’s largest multinational retailing crporation, unveiled a new package delivery program Thursday, in which the company will pay its employees to deliver packages to customers on their way home from work.
The program shows how Amazon’s exploitative practices are lowering working conditions for the entire working class.With Amazon occupying a dominant position in online retail sales, it dictates the terms of employment far beyond its own workforce.
The new initiative is the brainchild of Walmart’s e-commerce director Marc Lore, who publicly announced the new program in a blog post on the company’s web site. Lore, who worked for Amazon between 2011 and 2012, wrote that the goal of the program is to “cut shipping costs and get packages to their final destinations faster and more efficiently.”
“Cutting costs” is corporate code for increasing the level of exploitation of the workforce in order to increase the company’s profit line. At present, last-mile delivery—the movement of goods from a transportation hub to the final delivery destination, often the consumer’s residence—accounts for an estimated 53 percent of the total cost of online retail delivery.
The move is part of an effort by Walmart to control an even greater portion of its workforce’s lives. Amazon and
Walmart executives are probably plotting a way to
make money off of workers while they sleep!
The average FedEx delivery driver earns roughly $24/hour, while the average UPS driver earns close to $30/hour, according to Glassdoor.com. An entry-level Walmart employee, on the other hand, earns a mere $9/hour during their first 6-18 months of training, at which point the starting wage is roughly $10/hour. The new “associate delivery” program thus strives to replace largely full-time, salaried truck drivers with informal, minimum-wage employees. It marks another step toward the “uberization” of the global workforce.
Stephanie Luce, a labor professor at the City University of New York, told theWashington Post, “The practice seems ripe for abuse if the company does not compensate workers for the full cost of their journey, the expenses related to gas, car depreciation, and potential problems like accidents, tickets or parking expenses. Like other ‘gig economy’ type jobs, there is a potential to benefit workers—but in reality, most of the benefits accrue to the employer, not the employee.”
The competition between Walmart and Amazon shows the degree to which a handful of massive corporations dominate the world economy.
Nearly all growth in the retail market now stems from e-commerce, and in 2016 Amazon accounted for 53 percent of all growth in US e-commerce sales for the year, placing immense pressure upon Walmart to elevate its standing in the online marketplace. This prompted Walmart’s decision last August to purchase the e-commerce web site Jet.com for $3.3 billion. As part of the acquisition, Jet.com founder and CEO Marc Lore was promoted to president and CEO of Walmart e-commerce and given a total compensation package of $243.9 million, making him one of the country’s highest-paid executives.
Lore was previously the co-founder of Quidsi, the parent company of a family of web sites including Diapers.com, Soap.com, Wag.com, and more, all of which were sold in 2011 to Amazon for $545 million. Last March, Quidsi’s subsidiary companies were all deemed “unprofitable” and closed, widely seen as a an act of retribution by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos against Lore’s decision to head e-commerce at Walmart.
Since Lore took the helm of e-commerce operations, Walmart has engaged in an acquisition spree, buying out online footwear retailer ShoeBuy.com ($70 million), outdoor gear company Moosejaw ($51 million) and the online fashion web site ModCloth ($45 million) in the past year alone. At present, there are ongoing negotiations to acquire the menswear web site Bonobos.com for a reported $300 million.
Walmart’s efforts to compete with Amazon in e-commerce, including the latest move to hire current employees to deliver packages on their commute home, has had a substantial impact on corporate sales. In the most recent quarter, Wal-Mart reported a 63 percent increase in e-commerce sales, up from 29 percent growth in the previous quarter and its fourth consecutive quarter of increases.
BLOG: WALMART USED TO LOCK ILLEGALS IN
THEIR STORES AT NIGHT TO DO THE CLEANING.
THE WALTON FAMILIY THINKS IT IS COMMIE TO
PAY LIVING WAGES TO LEGALS!
Meanwhile, workers’ wages at both corporations stall. As they compete with each other for market share, they similarly compete to increase the profit margin by “cost cutting”—i.e., cutting workers’ wages and benefits.
The average Walmart employee in the US earns a starting wage of $9/hour, while the average Amazon warehouse worker in the US makes roughly $12.40/hour, or annual salaries of roughly $18,720 and $25,792, respectively.
Last year, Walmart had an operating income of $22.76 billion, while Amazon raked in $2.37 billion of net income. At present, the six heirs of Walmart founder Sam Walton, who own a majority of the company, possess a combined net worth of roughly $143 billion.
With the rise of Amazon, founder and CEO
Jeff Bezos has seen his personal fortune
skyrocket. On May 30, Amazon stock topped
$1,000/share for the first time, pushing
Bezos’ wealth to $86 billion and making him
the second-richest person in the world. In the
past year alone, Bezos has accrued $22.5
billion, and in the last five years he has
earned an astounding $66.6 billion, or
The immense wealth accumulated by the Waltons
and Bezos is extracted from the labor of hundreds of
thousands of workers worldwide that toil for both
corporations. This is the real source of profit under capitalism, and is the driving motive behind Walmart’s new package delivery program, which seeks to extract surplus value during its workers’ drive to and from work.
Walmart and Amazon workers have no interest in the frenzied competition for profits between the two major conglomerates. Rather, their interests lie in unifying with one another against both corporations in a common struggle for social equality.
Amazon forced pregnant
woman off the job due to physical, emotional stress
By our reporters
12 June 2017
Amazon workers from across the world have expressed hostility with
the way Amazon dishonestly portrays what it is like to work in its plants. The
following job listing from a warehouse in the US paints a rosy picture of life
as an Amazon worker:
“Our fulfillment centers, aka warehouses, are where Amazon orders
come to life and where we focus on delighting our customers by delivering
smiling boxes filled with everything under the sun,” the listing begins. Work
is described as “a new adventure” aimed at “bringing smiles to our customers.”
Amazon promises prospective employees that “we’re committed to
providing one of the safest work environments.” This does not match with the
reality workers face.
“I was there for almost two years but I quit because I was
pregnant and I would throw up in the heat,” a former worker from Southern
California told theInternational Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV).
“This would not help my rate and I would get a write-up. But I was in my final
trimester and it made me furious that when I got written up, my manager didn’t
even mention that I was in my final trimester.”
The former worker explained: “Then, I got a second write-up and I
asked if I could appeal. My manager said I could, but that there is no use
because they’re going to see it his way. I felt like he was saying, ‘Why bother
trying because you’re wrong.’ I got very stressed out over this, and I went
into a stage of depression. I had to quit Amazon since it was a cause of part
of my stress from pregnancy and I didn’t want that to harm my baby.”
Amazon also explains that it will help workers pay for college.
“We’ll support your educational and career goals with our Career Choice
program,” the job listing says. But workers know that this only applies if they
work more than a year at Amazon. Due to high turnover rates and the company’s
use of temporary and contract labor, the program is almost entirely for public
One worker from the state of Washington wrote, “Amazon is the most
miserable place I have ever worked. The company doesn’t help with anything.
They told me to sign up for school and they said they would help pay tuition,
but once I was all signed up they decided to tell me they weren’t going to help.
Many times this company has abused my physical abilities, leaving me drained
and miserable every day.”
Amazon also claims it is “an Equal Opportunity” employer. But
workers told theIAWVthey are targeted because of their
One worker in California said, “I was let go in 2016 after being
told I was too old to work for Amazon. I worked nights for 3 years and
transferred to days. They put me in an area I had never worked in before and
knew nothing about. I was given approximately an hour and a half of training. I
was fired three months later. I had filed a complaint regarding age
discrimination prior to being transferred. This was the end result.”
The corporation also boasts that workers get “paid time off.” This
also clashes with the reality workers face.
A worker from Northern California said he had physical work
restrictions that the company was obligated to follow because of
recommendations from the workers’ doctor:
“Over a year after hurting myself, they told me I was not allowed
back with a doctor’s release. I had restrictions from my surgeon that I had to
get every 30 days. Finally in June of 2016 they fired me because they couldn’t
accommodate me. Three years of fighting them to let me work there just for them
to fire me. Three years of bending over backwards for them so I could get
pennies to help live on with long term disability, with no intention on their
part to ever let me back. The work environment is horrible. Morale is next to
none. They know they can get people to stay because they never have time to
look for work or energy on their days off.”
These are the conditions workers face at all Amazon all over the
world. Amazon’s profits come from the exploitation of its workforce, and the
corporation will do everything possible to limit meeting workers’ concerns over
health, safety, and the speed of work because to do so would reduce their
profit margin. In other words, the interests of the corporation and of its
workforce are irreconcilably hostile.
While Amazon possesses a tremendous amount of wealth and is able
to use workers’ individual economic weakness to coerce them, Amazon workers
occupy a key position in the world economy, shipping goods all over the world.
If they act in international unity to assert their interests against those of the
company, they will possess a tremendous strength.
Workers who are abused by the company are not alone. They confront
the same problems as their co-workers in every country where Amazon has plants
and offices. The primary challenge for Amazon workers is to break the isolation
imposed upon them by the corporation by building their own democratic
organizations—factory committees—to link with workers at other warehouses and
in other countries in a common, international fight against the corporate
If you are interested in learning more about building or joining a
committee in your warehouse, please sign-up for our newsletter below, like us
onFacebook, and share theIAWVwith your friends and co-workers.
Amazon’s monopoly swells
with $13.7 billion offer to buy Whole Foods
17 June 2017
Amazon, the world's largest online retail corporation, announced
early Friday that it began negotiations to acquire the grocery store company
Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. The corporation now has a foothold in the $800
billion US grocery market as it expands its octopus-like tentacles of economic domination
into new segments of the world economy.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s personal fortune rose by an estimated
$1.88 billion yesterday as Amazon's stock soared by $23.54 a share. In a single
day, Bezos earned as much as 72,890 Amazon warehouse workers—well over half the
total American workforce—make in an entire year.
The sale expresses the tremendous power exercised by a handful of
powerful financial houses on the world economy. Ninety three percent of Whole
Foods shares are owned by so called “institutional investors,” with a quarter
owned by just three companies—Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street. These
companies are also the first, second, and sixth largest institutional
shareholders of Amazon stock, over 60 percent of which is owned by financial corporations.
Four of the top five largest financial institutions in the world earned a
combined winnings of $2.26 billion from the deal in the first day alone.
It is the financial aristocracy, not the workers at Amazon and
Whole Foods, who are the sole beneficiaries of the potential merger between
these two companies. While the corporate owners celebrate the deal, Bloomberg
News quietly announced: “Amazon also wants fewer employees in each [Whole
Foods] store, with those who remain providing product expertise, rather than
performing mundane tasks.” In other words, thousands of jobs will be slashed.
Current and former Amazon employees can tell those who remain that their
working conditions will rapidly deteriorate.
Amazon offered to buy the company for $42 a share. Over the course
of the day, Whole Foods stock rose 28 percent to a high of $43.45. Yesterday’s
rise in Amazon’s stock price added $11 billion to the corporate coffers, almost
equaling the cost of the Whole Foods acquisition. Whole Foods, founded in 1978,
is best known for selling more expensive organic and “natural” products,
largely to upper middle class customers, giving it the nickname “whole
paycheck” for the expense of shopping there.
The negotiations behind the deal give a sense of how the world
economy is really run.
Over the past year, Whole Foods has increasingly struggled to
compete with larger grocers, and in April activist hedge fund company Jana
Partners announced that they had become the second-largest shareholder in the
company, sending stock prices flying. The hedge fund immediately placed
pressure upon Whole Foods to cut costs and increase stock prices, prompting the
company to replace five members on its board of directors and hire a new chief
financial officer last month.
Shortly thereafter, financial backer Neuberger Berman, which owns
roughly 2.7 percent of the company and manages $267 billion in assets
worldwide, sent a letter to the Whole Foods board, urging them to consider
“possible strategic mergers, partnerships, joint ventures, alliances.”
For Amazon, a primary motive behind the acquisition is the vast
expansion of the company's physical, brick-and-mortar presence, as they will
take ownership of Whole Foods' more than 460 stores spread across the United
States, Canada and Great Britain.
Amazon has been piloting a series of cost-saving initiatives at
individual grocery stores, including an “Amazon Go” convenience store in
Seattle that functions without cashiers, instead using an array of sensors and
cameras to monitor shoppers and automatically charge them for items they take
from the store.
Prior to Friday's deal, Amazon had been a minor player in grocery
retail. In 2007, the company launched its food delivery service “Amazon Fresh”
in Seattle, expanding to over a dozen cities globally since then. In March, the
company announced “Amazon Fresh Pickup,” which lets users shop online, reserve
a time to pick up the groceries and have them loaded into their car at the
The acquisition is still subject to approval by Whole Foods
shareholders and federal regulatory agencies, with the negotiations expected to
finish in the second half of 2017. Multiple analysts predict that other retail
giants, including Walmart, Target, Costco, and more, may attempt to outbid
Amazon in the meantime, or at least drive up the price Amazon has to pay to
seal the deal.
Walmart is the most likely opponent to step into the fray, fearing
that an Amazon-Whole Foods deal could mark an encroachment on their control
over brick-and-mortar retail. The two companies have been engaged in a
ferocious campaign over control of the global retail industry. To challenge
Amazon, Walmart has been engaged in an acquisition spree of e-commerce
companies over the past year, culminating with a purchase also announced Friday
of the online apparel company Bonobos for $310 million.
Amazon’s offer to purchase Whole Foods will have profound
implications for workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, and on the entire working
class. In their efforts to undercut one another and expand their control into
all industries, the corporations’ central strategy will be to reduce labor
expenses—that is, wages and benefits for their workforces. These downward
pressures will drive other companies to reduce wages and benefits to satisfy
shareholders in a ruthless competition for profit.
The Amazon-Whole Foods deal is an expression of the growing
concentration of wealth and economic power in an increasingly small handful of
financial aristocrats like Jeff Bezos and the executives at leading Wall Street
firms like Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street. According to a 2017 academic
study, these three firms are the largest combined shareholder of 40 percent of
all publicly listed companies in the US, accounting for a market capitalization
of $17 trillion, roughly equal to the total GDP of the United States.
As monopolies like Amazon gain strength across all industries, an
increasingly interconnected network of investors and directors demand higher
profits and more intense exploitation of the working class. It is not just the
cruelty or greed of individual bosses which lies beneath the increasingly
demeaning and difficult conditions Amazon workers face in fulfillment centers
worldwide—this cruelty and greed has a material basis—it stems from the
monopolization and financialization of the capitalist economy.
The task of the working class is to take control of these
international behemoths, place them under democratic control, confiscate their
assets, and reorganize them to meet the needs of the human race.
The Mexican Invasion & Occupation