Conditions in Amazon’s warehouses have been called “worse than Walmart” and are about to get even worse with wristbands that track workers’ every move and nudge their hands in the right direction when they make a mistake.
Amazon has a long, though hidden, history of ruthlessly intimidating workers, Salon reports.
“Amazon’s system of employee monitoring is the most oppressive I have ever come across,” writes Simon Head in his book Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans, which you can buy on Amazon by the way 😉
With its “state-of-the-art surveillance technology … Amazon tags its employees with personal satellite navigation computers that tell them the route they must travel … set target times for their warehouse journeys and then measure whether targets are met,” Head writes.
“All this information is available to management in real time, and if an employee is behind schedule she will receive a text message pointing this out and telling her to reach her targets or suffer the consequences.”
An employee at Amazon’s depot in Allentown, Pennsylvania, told Head she was fired shortly after a text message telling her she was unproductive for several minutes of her 11-hour shift.
Head also recounted the scandalous story of how Amazon preferred to have ambulances on hand for the inevitable heatstroke victims rather than pay to cool the Allentown warehouse, where temperatures regularly exceeded 100 degrees one summer.
On June 2, 2011, a warehouse employee contacted the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration to report that the heat index had reached 102 degrees in the warehouse and that 15 workers had collapsed. On June 10 OSHA received a message from an emergency room doctor saying he’d seen several patients with heat related injuries. On July 25, with temperatures inside the depot reaching 110 degrees, a security guard reported to OSHA that two pregnant women collapsed and were taken to a nursing station.
Still Amazon refused to turn on the AC or even open the loading doors to let fresh air circulate for fear of theft, while pushing employees to maintain their regular fast pace.
Calls to the ER became so frequent that ambulances and paramedics remained stationed at the depot all day for five days that summer.
It doesn’t look like things are going to get better anytime soon for Amazon employees, as the company just patented wristbands that even more thoroughly track their every move.
The new bracelets use vibrations to nudge warehouse workers in a different direction if they are off track. The goal is to make them more productive until robots can replace them altogether, The Guardian reports.
While Whole Foods workers haven’t been forced to stay on task with virtual handcuffs just yet, things haven’t been pretty for them either since Amazon took over.
The company requires Whole Foods’ managers to
Employees are also subjected to pop quizzes twice a week, in which they are asked to recite their departments’ sales goals, top-selling items, previous week’s sales, and inventory details. Scores below 90% can result in firings.
One employee said Amazon has taken micro-management to a new level – “nano-management.”
“The stress has created such a tense working environment,” a supervisor at a West Coast Whole Foods store said. “Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal.”
Team leaders, store team leaders, executive coordinators and even a regional vice president have quit as a result.
And, to top it all off, Amazon now wants to takeover American healthcare, using artificial intelligence to diagnose and treat patients.