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<nettime> At amazon.com, service workers without a smile
Felix Stalder on Tue, 23 Nov 1999 18:33:03 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> At amazon.com, service workers without a smile


Issue: Employment

While Amazon.com has been hailed in trade publications for its generally
quick attention to customer needs, Amazon.com employees paint a picture of
a disaffected workplace. Amazon's customer service centers are home to
time-worn industrial tensions between gung-ho managers and disaffected
employees; speedy machines and mortal paces; union and anti-union
interests. Additional animosities exist between stock-option millionaires
and low-wage co-workers. In the new economy workplace the promise of speed
still rests heavily with rote-work employees -- the men and women who
spend their days and nights boxing books at Amazon's distribution centers,
and those who answer e-mail. While technology has helped eliminate the
tedium in many fields, most of the jobs created by the new economy are low
paying, low skilled and monotonous. Customer service workers are typically
in their twenties, unmarried and unmortgaged. An unknown proportion have
been at the company long enough to receive significant equity compensation
to supplement their wages, nearly all of which are $10 to $13 a hour.
Customer service representatives are expected to maintain a high rate of
productivity, and output is watched closely, several employees said. 
Supervisors push "productivity" and "efficiency" in meetings, memos and
evaluations. Amazon.com has also faced a union-organizing campaign, led by
group of Amazon employees in conjunction with the Washington Alliance of
Technology Workers (WashTech), a grass-roots group affiliated with the
Communications Workers of America. Last December, WashTech published
"Holiday in Amazonia," a report that detailed working conditions at
Amazon's customer service centers. Employees complained of overcrowding
with up to four people sharing cubicles, low wages making regular overtime
necessary, and a top-down management style.  [SOURCE: Washington Post
(A1), AUTHOR: Mark Leibovich]

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