As of this writing, nearly 640,000 people around the world have died from COVID-19. Many millions more have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. A good percentage of those jobs are gone for good. Scientists are scrambling for a vaccine as “second waves” of the virus sweep across the globe. The overall damage caused by the pandemic is incalculable and much of it is irreversible.
In other news, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos made $13 billion in one day this week. That’s not $13 billion for his company—it’s $13 billion for Bezos himself. His net worth now stands at a modest $186 billion.
As Business Insider reports, Bezos is now worth more than some of the largest corporations in the world, including Nike, Costco, McDonald’s, and IBM. The article continues: “His wealth is more than double the market caps of Starbucks ($88 billion) and Goldman Sachs ($73 billion), and more than triple the market caps of General Electric ($62 billion) and Target ($60 billion).”
I think it is safe to say that Bezos has achieved Marie Antionette status. Unless you’re a technocrat, working for Amazon is a living hell. Go ahead and read some of the stories out of Amazon’s sweat shops—or “fulfillment centers” in corporate-speak. Last year the Atlantic published an article detailing how often Amazon workers are injured on the job.
“Taken together, the rate of serious injuries for [23 Amazon warehouse] facilities was more than double the national average for the warehousing industry: 9.6 serious injuries per 100 full-time workers in 2018, compared with an industry average that year of 4.”
In other words, if you’re an Amazon “fulfillment worker,” you have a 10 percent chance of getting seriously injured when you’re at work.
The Atlantic piece goes on to list some of the other ways in which Amazon abuses and exploits its workforce. For example, mandatory 12-hour shifts and impossible packaging quotas. One worker—a disabled veteran—was fired after performing at a rate of 98.45 percent. (“He had to pick 385 small items or 350 medium items each hour.”)
There’s also the well-known fact that Amazon traces the movements of its warehouse workers—right down to the positioning of their hands—by making them wear bracelets, and uses a heat map to show which of its locations are most at risk of unionizing. That includes its pretentious Whole Foods locations.
Last month demonstrators put a mock guillotine outside of Bezos’ DC mansion. The sentiment is understandable. Where is Robespierre when you need him?