Warehouses Still Aren’t Very Pleasant Places To Work, FYI

12.21.11 3 Comments

If you’re hoping to not feel guilty about ordering holiday gifts online from Amazon, you should probably stop reading this post now.

With that said, remember when we told you about how working in an warehouse was somewhat akin to working in a pre-labor movement sweatshop, what with ambulances stationed outside the facilities to tend to workers who drop like flies from the oppressive conditions? Think things have improved for the holiday season? HAHAHA…think again! The tens of thousands of non-unionized temp workers hired at minimal wages so we can all all have packages appear magically at our doorstep mere hours after placing an order for very little money are, in the words of Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland, Santa’s secret little “elf slaves.”

Often, they can’t request any time off during the holidays. If they miss Thanksgiving, or Christmas Eve, they can be fired. Overtime is generally mandatory, even if that means five 12-hour days in a row. Doing anything for five days of 12-hour shifts is tough, but particularly when that thing is standing in one spot at a conveyor belt repeatedly stuffing inflatable air pockets into boxes, or running up to 15 miles a day around a vast warehouse in order to retrieve the items for those boxes, bending over to grab them off floor-level shelves literally hundreds of times a day, while supervisors meticulously keep track of how many items every employee picks and let them know when they’re not moving fast enough, not good enough. Hurry up, customers are waiting. Santa’s special helpers can’t be permitted to take personal time off, or time to go to the bathroom except during a couple of 15-minute breaks, or to have enough off-work hours in their day to get laundry done or eat dinner with their kids. It’s Christmas, goddammit.

So while I don’t want to have to change out of my pajamas to go shopping, either, and I fully expect the goods I order off the internet to materialize at my front door in about the amount of time it would take them to be transported from the Starship Enterprise, I’m just sayin’. Like I tell people who are unfortunate enough to be friends with me: It’s worth considering how the hell those goods get to you, so fast, and for free, when the company you bought them from is posting profits in the millions, or even, in the case of Amazon, billions. Chances are, it’s via the people who worked for the small businesses we ruined when we were saving $4 by buying stuff off the internet, people performing dangerously repetitive or otherwise ergonomically unsound jobs in a cold, shitty, emotionally abusive warehouse for very little money and very few benefits, the kind of conditions people endure only because it’s their last resort.

If one wanted to play Devil’s Advocate I suppose one could say, “Well at least these people have jobs during the holidays,” but that would just make one an as$hole.

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