Hamilton Nolan writes: The Amazon warehouse worker is the face of the future of American work. No, everyone a decade from now will not work in a warehouse, and every warehouse worker a decade from now will not work for Amazon. But these workers sit at the place where the most powerful trend in employment meets the most powerful company in retail. They are the prototypical job of the near future. And how good that job is will represent how well the coming American economy is able to solve its current problems: Low, stagnant wages, lack of job stability, and rampant inequality.
How is Amazon doing on those measures so far? Horribly. Those warehouse jobs offer low wages, little job stability (bolstered by the fact that many of the jobs are seasonal or subcontracted rather than full time), and meanwhile the guy who runs Amazon is one of world’s richest humans. Amazon is in fact the embodiment of every bad trend in the workplace. If we are to make the prototypical job of the future something less than dystopic, we have a lot of work to do.
So, to get to the fucking point of all this: The only realistic way for the future of work not to suck is through the power of organized labor. Either Amazon warehouse workers will organize and unionize and assert their (considerable, latent) collective power to raise their own wages and improve their working conditions, or the future of work will continue to be just as bleak as the present. Let me state this in an even clearer way: There is nothing—NOTHING—more important for American unions to do right now than to unionize Amazon warehouse workers. Unions in America represent a paltry 7% or so of private sector workers, which is a “Prime” (heh) reason why we have the problems that we have in the first place. Power in the workplace has shifted drastically to the side of corporations and away from you, the human. If we ever want to stem inequality, we need unions to get stronger. And if unions ever want to get stronger, they need to move into where the economy is going, rather than spending all their time wallowing in the jobs of the past. Where is the economy going? Into the Amazon warehouse. And do our nation’s most powerful unions have a comprehensive plan to organize all of these workers, thereby saving both the workers and the unions themselves?