Mother Jones‘s Mac McClelland goes underground at an unnamed ecommerce packing facility in a rural American town and reports on the terrible, back-breaking working conditions that are compounded by continuous verbal abuse, unsafe working conditions, mandatory overtime, and humiliating disciplinary procedures.
At lunch, the most common question, aside from “Which offensive dick-shaped product did you handle the most of today?” is “Why are you here?” like in prison. A guy in his mid-20s says he’s from Chicago, came to this state for a full-time job in the city an hour away from here because “Chicago’s going down.” His other job doesn’t pay especially well, so he’s here—pulling 10.5-hour shifts and commuting two hours a day—anytime he’s not there. One guy says he’s a writer; he applies for grants in his time off from the warehouse. A middle-aged lady near me used to be a bookkeeper. She’s a peak-season hire, worked here last year during Christmas, too. “What do you do the rest of the year?” I ask. “Collect unemployment!” she says, and laughs the sad laugh you laugh when you’re saying something really unfunny. All around us in the break room, mothers frantically call home. “Hi, baby!” you can hear them say; coos to children echo around the walls the moment lunch begins. It’s brave of these women to keep their phones in the break room, where theft is so high—they can’t keep them in their cars if they want to use them during the day, because we aren’t supposed to leave the premises without permission, and they can’t take them onto the warehouse floor, because “nothing but the clothes on your backs” is allowed on the warehouse floor (anything on your person that Amalgamated sells can be confiscated—”And what does Amalgamated sell?” they asked us in training. “Everything!”). I suppose that if I were responsible for a child, I would have no choice but to risk leaving my phone in here, too. But the mothers make it quick. “How are you doing?” “Is everything okay?” “Did you eat something?” “I love you!” and then they’re off the phone and eating as fast as the rest of us. Lunch is 29 minutes and 59 seconds—we’ve been reminded of this: “Lunch is not 30 minutes and 1 second”—that’s a penalty-point-earning offense—and that includes the time to get through the metal detectors and use the disgustingly overcrowded bathroom—the suggestion board hosts several pleas that someone do something about that smell—and time to stand in line to clock out and back in. So we chew quickly, and are often still chewing as we run back to our stations.
All sorts of folderol about Foxconn and China but none of them seemed to be a poorly treated as these American workers.
A previous article talked about the inhumane conditions at another warehouse. THey work them as temps and the can them shortly before they can become full time. The workers have to pay for their own (required) badges. They had to work in enclosed spaces without air conditioning in over 90 degree weather. And no talking.
This latest report details even more the things done. Mandatory overtime with two 15 minute breaks. Given goal impossible to meet and then harassed for not meeting them. Desperate 60 year olds trying to hold on their job along with twenty-somethings. Making about $300 a week after taxes.
I bet if this warehouse was in China, there would be all sorts of group working to make things better. We’d be seeing petition drives and TV programs during sweeps. But here, these modern day sweat shops are simply ignored.
Perhaps if we started to take notice, things might change. Unless we care more about CHinese workers than our own.
We have seen this all before – graphically, if somewhat metaphorically, displayed in Fritz lang’s Classic, Metropolis.
Eighty years later and we are still learning the same lessons. Or, rather, not learning them. We still feed our young to Moloch, even while we complain about how awful China is.