In its bitter battle against the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Amazon won much more than a reprieve from labor’s advances; at stake in Alabama was securing corporate America’s carefully constructed supremacy over its workers.
Amazon stood up for the big boys.
Amazon will face new headaches from collective bargaining if they increase compensation. However, the company is already making huge profits in 2020 ($21.3 billion). ), the company can certainly absorb new costs. Amazon’s union-negotiated job categories in its tightly controlled warehouses are far more concerning to the company. They also have clearer rules regarding break time and bathroom use. This allows for easier staffing for peak periods like Christmas.
Catherine Fisk, a labor and employment law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said that recently failed pro-labor drives portend a future in which worker protections are whittled away in service of on-demand workplaces that can be dialed up or down to match consumers’ needs.
Americans, both workers and employers, may struggle to grasp the magnitude and impact of the seismic changes soon upon them. Combining better technology with its unlimited deployment will mean that there will be more efficiency in the workplace, even if it’s an extra minute spent in the toilet.
Although workers might be more productive for their employers than they are for themselves, it can lead to them losing their humanity. It could mean shifts of just an hour or two per day, huge variability in wages from one day to the next and strict monitoring to ensure productivity quotas are met.
Amazon, for example, has asked some delivery drivers to accept the use of cameras which can detect their location and speed as well as whether they appear distracted or yawn. There is no corporate ladder available for gig workers. Their wages, access to apps, and compensation can all be changed without notice.
Ms. Fisk commented, “It’s great for those that stand to benefit from this kind of labour, such as C-suite executives and Venture Capitalists and Private Equity.” Uber drivers are no longer able to afford to live close enough to their work in areas like New York or the Bay Area.
Warehouse workers are encouraged to not think creatively but only to make rate. The increase in automation and robotics has been marked. Drivers for Amazon and Uber are driven by software algorithms to reduce the time it takes to drop off and pick up each fare. Or they risk losing their jobs.
The power imbalance has taken a sharp turn with the pandemic. Although essential, many workers have lost the agency they had prior to the coronavirus epidemic.
Uber was faced with the possibility of treating their workers like employees due to a California law. Uber pooled more $200 million with Lyft and DoorDash to push Prop 22, a ballot initiative that overturned the state law. It made it possible for drivers to be classed as contract workers and thus became ineligible for full health benefits and an unemployment lifeline as well as the possibility of advancement.
Gig work companies are celebrating by trying to impose similar restrictive measures on states nationwide as well as abroad. Due to the work force structures of these companies, States and federal government are unable to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the unemployment fund, which is a burden for taxpayers.
Uber last year launched a program to allow drivers to determine their own fares, and to pick routes that are based on their destination. It was part of Uber’s campaign to convince regulators in California that California law shouldn’t be applied to it. But with the passage of Prop 22, the illusion of driver agency was no longer useful, and Uber said last week that it was ending the program.
Prop 22 advocates claimed the measure would benefit consumers as it would ensure sufficient driver supply. Also, prices will remain low. Yet the gig companies almost immediately Raised prices to compensate for the very limited benefits provided by the new law.
Amazon workers packed into warehouses, delivery vans and other vehicles to transport household goods to shoppers even as the Covid-19 pandemic devastated the country. Amazon made them go to several mandatory information sessions. They then plastered the Alabama warehouse and bathroom stalls in anti-union messaging. The company also tweeted to discredit claims that it requires workers to urinate inside bottles. After a series of media reports showed that workers relieve themselves while on the job, Amazon later apologized.
To increase worker productivity, the company has expanded its experiment with workstation games. Far from being fun, the games demonstrate the retailer’s esteem for productivity over worker fulfillment.
Amazon boasted its $15-perhour wages, which are higher than the federal minimum of $7.25. Both are inadequate. Amazon has intentionally made these warehouse jobs obsolete, with raises caps after three years unless the worker’s promoted, according Bloomberg. This encourages a constant supply of new, lesser-paid workers. For workers who quit, the company offers $1,000 bonuses. If they are replaced with $15-per hour laborers, this is a substantial savings.
There’s room for debate as to whether the majority of workers would like to join a Union if they have the option. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership fell to 11% of eligible workers last year, down from 20 percent in 1983. Amazon tried to prevent that from happening by telling the lies that workers would have to pay dues even though Alabama is a right to work state.
Officials at the Union said Amazon’s tactics were effective. Only half of eligible workers cast ballots, and that was a very high standard to meet in a region that still remains skeptical of unions.
Unions are able to highlight injustices everyday and push for improvement without fear of reprisal. The Independent Drivers Guild, an association of New York City Uber drivers, was formed to help workers receive tips and a floor wage. These are dignities that ride-hail companies had not allowed.
Workers who support collective bargaining may find some relief in the Protecting The Right to Organize Act, which is currently making its way through Congress. It prohibits mandatory anti-union meetings and creates financial penalties for threatening workers or dismissing them for participating in union activities.
Worker used to be an effective check on the worst corporate offenses. The restoration of some of that power should not be a hindrance to the industry’s future success.