On his blog The Late Age of Print, Ted Striphas, author of The Late Age of Print: Everyday Culture from Consumerism to Control, discusses Jeff Bezos’s recent decision to spend a week working at an Amazon warehouse in Lexington, Kentucky.
According to the Lexington Herald-Leader: “Local Amazon employees say Bezos is working in the warehouse with the company’s hourly employees to see what they do and hear their comments about their work.” And undoubtedly, Bezos’s decision to get his hands dirty is well-timed given the other news we’ve been hearing about regarding CEO’s.
However, Bezos’s stint as an Amazon warehouse employee also coincides with “with the quiet-ish shutdown of three of Amazon’s distribution facilities: in Munster, IN, Red Rock, NV, and Chambersburg, PA. More than 200 employees will be affected, though at least some will see transfers to neighboring facilities.”
In The Late Age of Print, Striphas describes the intense and sometimes difficult work environment at Amazon’s warehouses. In the post “Mr. Bezos Goes to Lexington,” Striphas writes:
In its rosier moods, the book industry likes to say that it favors culture over commerce. Perhaps that’s true, but claims like this can only be sustained by ignoring what, in The Late Age of Print, I call the book industry’s “back office.” This consists of places like Amazon.com’s colossal warehouses, which are nothing more and nothing less than labor intensive workplaces. I detail how so in the book; for more, check out this fascinating article from the Guardian (UK). Here’s an excerpt:
“[T]he Sunday Times reported that staff at the . . . [Amazon warehouse at] Marston Gate near Milton Keynes . . . were required to work seven days a week and “punished” for being ill (where staff with a sick note received a “penalty” point; six points meant dismissal). The quotas for packing – 140 items an hour, which is only slightly below the 5 items per two minutes of 2001. Collecting items for packing can mean walking up to 14 miles during a shift.”