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Warehouse Woes: Amazon and the new “middle class”

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To understand the motivation behind Bezos’ management of Amazon, it is worth taking a look at his second great innovation, Mechanical Turk. Mechanical Turk is the first ever digital sweatshop—excuse me, “microtasking site”—where workers compete in an unregulated digital marketplace to perform very small tasks (such as identifying duplicate web sites) for literal pennies. These tasks would have normally been done by a regular worker paid at least minimum wage and afforded some workplace protections. With the Turk, workers are paid $1.25 to $2 per hour and are guaranteed nothing, not even that companies will pay them for their work.

Like Amazon’s warehouses, the conditions at Mechanical Turk are market-driven. But the new facility in Schertz, like many others around the country, receives public incentives. In essence, taxpayers are paying Amazon for the privilege of shaky employment, harsh working conditions and measly paychecks.

Workers in the San Antonio area need jobs, but does that mean they deserve these jobs? Once upon a time a good, middle-class job meant stable employment and a paycheck that put families well above the federal poverty line. That is not the deal that Amazon is offering.

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