In the Wake of Protest: One Woman s Attempt to Unionize Amazon - Atlantic Mobile
Today, we rarely think about the language of work because inane job titles have become so ubiquitous. But at the time, having it explained to me at great length that I was an associate, not a worker or employee, and that I needed to challenge myself to think in these terms felt nothing short of Orwellian. Since I was clumsy about it, I often got gently corrected: I did not have managers or supervisors: I had team leaders. I did not work in a warehouse or distribution center: I worked in a fulfillment center. At that same meeting, they handed out placement tests to see where we belonged. If I wanted to organize, I knew I needed to be where I had freedom of movement and could talk to people. I wanted to be a picker. But that meant I had to score better on the test and accurately read and reproduce long sections of numbers. As a former shelver at a library, this was not a problem. I became a picker. Downstairs on your way into the picking side of the warehouse, was a traffic light. It looked like a real one except that it was stopped on yellow. Later, I would learn that the color did change throughout the day. When it was green, you could go home when your shift was done. When it was yellow, best to ask and when it was red, you should know better. The associate lead who had guided me through orientation now handed me off to another lead for training. Basically, my job was to find the books on the shelves and put them on carts to be processed. I was given PRINTouts of orders and logged each list in at a computer terminal. When I was done picking the list, I logged out. What the computer did, aside from other logistical feats, was track my productivity. It told me how many books I picked per minute. If this number dipped, one of the many leads that floated around would come to check on me, just to see how I was doing. It was all done with velvet gloves. Once, I saw a 25-year-old manager shout across the warehouse at a man in his fifties whose numbers had dropped telling him to step it up. But that was rare. Everything at Amazon was translated into language that respected personal identity above all else. No one was fired. They were just not really a good match. They were going to be happier somewhere else. And, after they followed their bliss out the door, a temp like me took their place.