February 9, 2017

Amazon vows to create 100,000 jobs that will turn your body, spirit, and neighborhood into a bland lifeless putty

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Last month, on January 12th, Amazon announced its plan for the next eighteen months: create 100,000 new full-time jobs across the country, a figure that amounts to a 50% increase in the company’s workforce.

The statement was released just eight days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, whom Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had feuded with on Twitter, and then later congratulated on Twitter, and then made nice with. The plan was celebrated for its ambition (100,000 full-time jobs is a lot of full-time jobs, no doubt), but nonetheless deserves, like everything Amazon does, a more critical look.

Thankfully, such an examination has been provided by Oren Teicher, the CEO of the American Booksellers Association. Writing in The Hill, Teicher notes the damage that Amazon has already done to our economy and argues that the company’s proposed hiring surge is less of a victory for the working American than a distraction from its past and present evils. Teicher pulls no punches, opening his piece by calling the announcement “a complete snow job.” He continues:

Since its start more than 20 years ago, Amazon has been a master of the persuasive business narrative and the timing of its jobs pledge was telling, coming just before the inauguration of President Trump, a prominent critic of Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos.

The real question is 100,000 jobs at what cost?

That cost, as Teicher goes on to point out, is (and has been) pretty high. “In 2015,” Teicher reports, “Amazon sales produced a net loss of 222,000 retail jobs nationwide, jobs that would have contributed to the long-term economic health and diversity of communities.” (Emphasis mine.) Further, the year’s sales, while they may look staggering at $55.6 billion, actually amounted to a loss of $1.2 billion for state and local governments, which translates to “fewer teachers, more students per classroom, longer waits for first responders, and shorter operating hours for libraries, among many other cuts in community services.”

But the cost is even higher still. While we know that these jobs are full-time and that they are, according to a statement from Bezos to the Wall Street Journal, “not just in our Seattle headquarters or in Silicon Valley, [but] in our customer service network, fulfillment centers and other facilities in local communities throughout the country,” we also know that Amazon isn’t exactly a great place to work. I mean, remember Bo Olson? In 2015, Bo Olson, a book marketer for Amazon, told Jodi Cantor and David Streitfeld of the New York Times, “Nearly every person I worked with [at Amazon], I saw cry at their desk.” Elsewhere in the piece, different Amazon employees report feeling pressured to work eighty hours a week. They recount being subject to pathological performance reviews. They recall the possibility of witnessing someone actually combust from stress.

These are not the jobs you are looking for.

 

 

Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.

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