rland 243 days ago [-]
Is this worth it? Is this worth having the ability to pick between 10,000 different toasters via internet and have them delivered to your doorstep in 2 days?

Sometimes I look at society as a complete organ, with a hypothetical ability to make cohesive decisions for itself. And I think, it is making extremely self-destructive choices. All for the sake of satisfying the urge to buy more, at lower prices, with more convenience.

I wonder how much of the stuff in those warehouses is utter garbage that gets bought and used just once.

Dylan16807 243 days ago [-]
We can have both. Amazon isn't going to implode if they pay some extra pennies for reasonable working conditions.
tonyedgecombe 243 days ago [-]
I don't think we can, companies like Amazon can't stop thinking about costs, it's in their DNA, it's what they live and breath.

Distribution is all about margins, if you can't keep costs low then you are toast, they are always utterly miserable places to work.

Panoramix 243 days ago [-]
You can force them to give provide conditions, or else they have to pay monumental fines / managers go to prison, etc. They will get the point.
794CD01 243 days ago [-]
Is the point to use robots? Because I'm pretty sure they already know that.
Pyxl101 243 days ago [-]
The only way to make reasonable business decisions is to think about costs in any company.
phil248 243 days ago [-]
Why would Amazon pay one more penny than they have to? To win a nice guys award? To get a warm, squishy feeling inside?

There is precisely one solution to this problem, and it is us electing leaders who change the rules in favor of the working masses, and enforce those rules mercilessly against exploitative employers.

snoman 243 days ago [-]
People deride unions, but collective bargaining has also been a very effective solution in the past.
gkya 243 days ago [-]
And that's why people deride unions. It's a defence mechanism.
untog 242 days ago [-]
...why would a defence mechanism for worker health be something people deride?
gkya 242 days ago [-]
To weaken it, so that it has less people and less power, and is not respected by the rest of the population.
pjmorris 243 days ago [-]
Why would anyone with sufficient money and organization to support a candidate support one who would change the rules in favor of the working masses?
notduncansmith 243 days ago [-]
For the same reason the mouth passes food to the stomach instead of keeping it to itself. The same reason we remove tumors from the human body. The whole organism (or in the case of human populations, superorganism) depends on nourishment flowing through the whole organism, not concentrating in small pockets.
newfoundglory 243 days ago [-]
Not everyone is a sociopath.
saas_co_de 243 days ago [-]
Just everyone with power
jessaustin 243 days ago [-]
It's a process of selection...
nnain 243 days ago [-]
> To win a nice guys award? To get a warm, squishy feeling inside? Why not? There are plenty of well-natured, kind people in the world. The price of being not nice is quite high.
andrepd 243 days ago [-]
Or stop putting band-aids in a fundamentally broken system, and change it altogether.
mkolodny 243 days ago [-]
To... what?
andrepd 243 days ago [-]
We haven't reached the peak of human wealth distribution systems with a byproduct of the fall of feudalism. Let's rack our brains, I'm sure we can figure something.
Tiksi 243 days ago [-]
Instead of being cryptic and beating around the bush, why not suggest a system if you've already racked your brain and figured something out?
needToSay 243 days ago [-]
It's easier to throw the rainbow homo propaganda flag and call it a day.
andrepd 243 days ago [-]
No we can't, Amazon is popular because it's cheap because its hyperoptimised. And if not anything, there are other major issues other than worker's rights (which are bad enough).
sharpercoder 243 days ago [-]
We don't need both. 10 toasters is more then enough to fulfill our needs.
FullMtlAlcoholc 243 days ago [-]
This is far from being unique to Amazon and from my experience constant pressures like these are prevalent in many low to mid-income paying jobs. I briefly worked as an Insurance Claims Representative for Farmer's Insurance. At the time, I lost my place, my car died and I was running low on funds so I had to take the first thing available. The job offered a free car and the first 4 weeks were spent in training. As someone who had previously only been exposed to the intricacies of white collar work, I found the whole experience to be quite eye-opening. Nearly every claims rep I met looked or acted as if they were chronically stressed, some hid it well while others wore it pretty plainly.

I later found out that they were always on edge because on any given day, one mistake could cost them their chance at a raise, bonus or any cost of living increase for the year. Farmer's had an elaborate points system used to determine eligibility for pay raises (basically cost-of-living increases). We were mobile and had to investigate 3 claims per day without exception. Our daily assignments and locations were algorithimically generated by very substandard software (didn't fully take into account variations in traffic over time and wasn't based on reliable, curent data in the first place). It was in Los Angeles, so traffic and distances between appointments could be immense. Yet, we weren't allowed any exceptions. If we didn't make one of our appointments, depending on the size of the claim, that could disqualify you from a bonus or pay raise. Too many (5-8 per year) could jeopardize your job. The same went for providing iaccurate estimates. So if you missed something (more realisistically paid out too much without trying to deny responsibility) on one flagship luxury or sports car (7 series BMW, S Mercedes, etc.), you'd likely lose your bonus. It's like every day is a chance for you to lose while I feel like for many of us here on HN, each day is a chance for us to earn a bonus.

UPS drivers are under the same pressure. That's why they leave packages outside or in the lobby of buildings. If they don't complete their algorithmically generated deliveries for the day, they're dinged. They can never question the software either. Customer service is another field with similar pressures. Being under that daily constant fear and pressure for such little reward must be so mentally taxing, like if one was still in the food chain

FullMtlAlcoholc 242 days ago [-]
I should add that a couple of years ago, I received a check in the mail for several hundred dollars due to a class action settlement launched on behalf of the Claims team. Management really pushed for employees to hit that 3 claims a day mark , granting overtime in the most limited of circumstances by suggesting that we could eat and be driving to an appointment during the lunch hour. In effect, they encouraged us to skip lunch if we needed to and/or to eat while driving. Remember, this is coming from an automotive insurance company.

As someone who only worked there for a month, it was a pretty nice unexpected bonus.

axaxs 243 days ago [-]
I am by no means siding with Amazon - check my post history. But as far as I know, there exist state and federal laws covering this. Even in my podunk state, law requires an uninterrupted 15 minute break per 4 hours worked, and even guides when that time must be allocated. Anything over 6 hours must be given an unpaid 30 minute meal period. Not perfect, but we aren't pissing in bottles.
evv 243 days ago [-]
> Sometimes I look at society as a complete organ, with a hypothetical ability to make cohesive decisions for itself. And I think, it is making extremely self-destructive choices.

One of my favorite philosophical thought experiments! I'd argue that that society is an organism comprised of several governments/companies which act as the organs.

I usually observe each organ making decisions to optimize its use of money, (or blood in this metaphor!).

It is usually clear that these decisions have net negative effects on us individual humans (cells) in the organism.

But the question remains, when each company and government optimizes for money instead of individual health, is that healthy for the success of society, the broader organism?

ttroyr 242 days ago [-]
The trouble is not the decision to optimize for financial or physical health, the issue is that Amazon seems to see some people as part of its organism (long-term entity), such as its engineering talent, and other people, like these poor warehouse workers, as a temporary part of a future robotic optimization. Companies like Apple value their lowest level employees because nobody is sure that computers will competently replicate sympathetic customer service. Amazon doesn't need its warehouse workers' soft skills, only their muscle and basic logic.
pascalxus 243 days ago [-]
It's not like people's entire paycheck is going toward materialism. In the US, nationally, roughly 70% of consumer spending is essentials (more or less): housing, transportation and food.
dlwdlw 243 days ago [-]
You might find the film Samsara quite interesting. It's a timeline documentary showing how people live all over the world. Timelapses show the interconnectedness of things that happen too slowly for us to appreciate. Like star trails.

The film evokes a sense of how things are connected and all the suffering we create due to a desire to alleviate suffering.

paxys 243 days ago [-]
What's your solution then? Are you implying that manual laborers had a better time at any point in history before Amazon existed?
aswanson 242 days ago [-]
I did manual labor up until I finished college. I never felt forced to piss in bottles to keep any of those jobs.
disordinary 243 days ago [-]
Other countries have proper labor and employment laws. This wouldn't be allowed in the bulk of the rest of the west.
tylergetsay 243 days ago [-]
If you sell toasters then yes
guiomie 243 days ago [-]
Guilty, I bought a robot vacuum on Amazon and used it once.
andrepd 243 days ago [-]
It's not only worker's rights (which is bad enough). It's many things, for example the environment. For instance, the amount of fuel burned, and carbon emitted, to deliver an item in 2 days instead of 3 is 40% higher (sorry I don't have a citation right now). We're boiling our planet alive for the slightest of conveniences! It's bonkers! Like we're filling the oceans with trash for using completely superfluous plastic packaging that improves our lives in the most negligible of ways. All of this to sell ever increasing (because current market capitalism demands constant "growth") piles of crap.
njarboe 243 days ago [-]
And for some reason one can only buy two sizes of socks. For shoe sizes 6-12 (regular) and 12-16 (large). A sock that fits 6 through 12 shoes sizes? Capitalism failure.
tomlor 243 days ago [-]
I thought the same thing until I discovered H&M socks. Say what you will about their labor practices - at least they make socks that fit my feet.


HeyLaughingBoy 243 days ago [-]
Since we're talking about Amazon and you're talking about sock sizes and I remember Alec Baldwin ordering "Bresciani's" on the first Alexa commercials: https://www.amazon.com/Bresciani-Cashmere-Over-Calf-Dress/dp...

In multiple sizes...

243 days ago [-]
243 days ago [-]
profalseidol 242 days ago [-]
Such is the way of capitalism.
aaron695 243 days ago [-]
In your perfect world you'd sack all the workers and have less toasers to choose from so you can feel better about yourself.

Cause to me this is the logical outcome of your comment unless you can explain what else you mean.

You don't mean for instance a universal income, it has nothing to do with toaster choice.

throwa_way_ 243 days ago [-]
Worth it for me, so I continue to buy stuff on Amazon.

If the workers don't like it they can work elsewhere or start their own Amazon.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
Do you believe there should be minimum standards for working conditions?
djrogers 243 days ago [-]
That's a specious question - there are minimum standards for wrking conditions. What people upset at Amazon really want is to change those standards, which is a completely fair standpoint. Let's not muddy the waters by papering over 100 years of accomplishemnts of US labor...
bbddg 243 days ago [-]
I was just questioning the ideology of the person I replied to, not making a statement on the current situation. I'm trying to get people to see that the current situation is the result of organized labor, not some natural condition we happen to find ourselves in.
nv-vn 243 days ago [-]
To the degree that workers are not your slaves or property, yes. They should be free to decide who to work for, and employers cannot treat people as their property. But as long as there's informed consent, most things are pretty fair.
vertex-four 243 days ago [-]
Informed consent to piss in bottles to meet impossible quotas, or die from starvation. Good choice.
ataggart 243 days ago [-]
If their next best option to working at an Amazon warehouse is starvation, then it's a pretty good thing for them that Amazon has a warehouse there. That said, I strongly suspect they have better "next best" options.
vertex-four 243 days ago [-]
Funnily enough, we have enough food and shelter in the U.K. that this shouldn’t need to be a choice people have to make - the issue is one of inefficient resource allocation. Instead of noticing this and solving the problem, our Government have decided that if you desire any sense of dignity, you deserve to die.

Have some fucking empathy.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
An Amazon warehouse being there is the reason they don't have many other options.
bbddg 243 days ago [-]
So you are against things like paid time off, 40-hour work week, weekends off, workplace safety/health standards, ect.?
nv-vn 239 days ago [-]
Not against them. I'm against them being required by law. (Some safety standards should definitely be part of the law). But if the law limits hours then it hurts some people more--if they didn't have to pay overtime, you might be able to work twice as many hours. For many programmers, working 1.5x as many hours might be worth 1.5x the salary. But if the company is required to pay for overtime by law, it may be more economical to just hire new workers. In that case, the guy who wants to work overtime is at a disadvantage. This is similar to what happens in part time jobs where people want to work more hours but it's cheaper for the company to hire someone else. The long-term effect is that people have to work 3 part time jobs to get by rather than 1 full time job where there's more opportunity for growth/raises.

With health and safety standards, there's always going to be some really shitty jobs. For example, in terms of health and safety mining coal is pretty undesirable. But if nobody is doing the job, the demand still stays there and the position is available for much higher pay. If you could earn $500k a year doing a job that's destructive to your body it can still be very much worth it. Of course, most of these workers either have few choices for work or are not totally aware of all the health issues associated with their jobs. This is obviously of concern, but I don't think banning the job outright is the right way to go.

thegrimmest 243 days ago [-]
Can I say "yes" without being down-voted? I'd like the government not to limit free association of moral agents. Two people should be free to work together under whatever arrangement they voluntarily enter into.

All our current system of labour and union law has accomplished is the offshoring of suffering. We've not gotten rid of the existence of, nor our reliance on abhorrent working conditions. We've just moved them elsewhere, in the process wasting tremendous amounts of energy (not to mention the associated destruction of the environment) shipping things to and from more lenient jurisdictions.

I propose that if the working conditions we rely on were present under our noses, we would do more to try to actually mediate our dependence their production.

lovich 243 days ago [-]
I understand that viewpoint,and even agree with it mostly on a person to person level, but if the government didn't have these laws why would it be any better. When people tried to negotiate with companies without the states involvement, the companies used violence to try and get their way.

Corporations aren't moral agents and can't be treated as such

thegrimmest 242 days ago [-]

  the companies used violence to try and get their way
And that's exactly where we need the state, in order to protect us from violence. I'd just like there to be limits on the scope of its authority. Corporations are just groups of people.
lovich 242 days ago [-]
Corporations may be groups of people but they don't get treated like people. There's no corporate death penalty for companies that end up killing people. There's no corporate jail to remove companies that can't behave out of society for a set amount of time. There's fines that seem to never be greater than the profit the companies earn from breaking the law and it just becomes a cost of business.

If they're going to be treated like people then go all the way, but until then they need to be regulated to prevent the worst of their excesses that have been played out again and again

thegrimmest 242 days ago [-]

  Corporations may be groups of people but they don't get treated like people
They don't have to be. All we have to do is hold individuals accountable for their actions. If a person in a corporation orders violent suppression of a labour dispute, then they are personally accountable. A corporation is a legal fiction. It can't be held accountable because it doesn't do anything, the people who run it do.
kelnos 243 days ago [-]
As I replied to the parent, the laundry list of items is a little odd, since, in the US at least, the only thing there that's protected by law are the workplace health and safety standards.

And... I guess I must not be as optimistic as you are. If we didn't have things like OSHA, I do not expect that most workplaces would act in the best interests of their workers' health and safety. Look at countries where there aren't OSHA-like laws and see how well they do there. (Hint: not well.)

thegrimmest 242 days ago [-]
Minimum wage is certainly protected by law.

  Look at countries where there aren't OSHA-like laws and see how well they do there
That's exactly my point though isn't it? We still rely on goods produced in those places, we just don't have any visibility into the conditions they are produced in. We've just offshored the suffering, not alleviated it.
bbddg 242 days ago [-]
I'm fully agreed with this. The question is then what are the ways we can improve the working/living conditions of people around the world. The way workers around the world have fought for better conditions is by using their ability to withhold labor and collectively bargain with the capitalist class.
thegrimmest 242 days ago [-]
And they should continue to do that. In fact this works quite well without government interference (labour/union law) or even in spite of it (See the Indian independence movement). I'm suggesting we need the government to protect us from violence when negotiations go awry, not to interfere in said negotiations between free private entities.
your-nanny 243 days ago [-]
See: the Inclosure Act.
kelnos 243 days ago [-]
In the US, at least, paid time off, a 40-hour work week, and weekends off are not specified by any kind of law.

I'm definitely a fan of workplace health and safety standards, though. Countries without those tend to cut corners to their workers' detriment.

wooter 243 days ago [-]
all things that exist without the government and which vary wildly amongst professions. i work far more than 40 hours and don't take most weekends - as I am entitled to.
DanBC 243 days ago [-]
> If the workers don't like it they can work elsewhere

Note that the submitted article is from the UK, where the workers might not be able to work elsewhere, and where they may have had some element of compulsion through the current benefit system to apply for and take jobs at Amazon.

skookumchuck 243 days ago [-]
> ...might...may...

Sounds like speculation.

DanBC 243 days ago [-]
No, it's accounting for the large numbers of people involved.

For clarity: people claiming Universal Credit will have been compelled to apply for work at Amazon, and will have had their benefits cut if they had refused to apply. And, once employed, people face a minimum 6 week wait before they can apply for benefits if they leave Amazon, and that time is extended if they chose to leave or were fired.

243 days ago [-]
notheguyouthink 243 days ago [-]
Are Amazon's margins razor thin? I'm trying to understand what compels them to be so toxic in their work environment. Especially compared to the people I know who work at Costco, I struggle to understand why Costco treats employees so well, and Amazon treats their employees so poorly.

It's really sad, regardless.

rando444 243 days ago [-]
Costco employees interact with customers.. Having a healthy interaction with customers is important, and treating employees well goes a long way in helping grow a customer base.

Customers will never interact with the person that boxes their amazon shipment. Those individuals are not seen as people, but just a necessity to continue operations.

atourgates 243 days ago [-]
But the real reason is the culture promoted by the founders.

Costco's Jim Sinegal steadfastly refused to cut employee pay and benefits to satisfy investor's demands. That kind of "employee first" thinking starts at the top and filters down throughout the entire organization.

Even if you're being charitable towards Bezos' attitude towards employees, it's clear that people aren't his focus. He's focused on automation, growth and performance. That kind of thinking also starts at the top, and filters down through the rest of the organization.

I remember reading a profile of Zappos around the time they were acquired by Amazon, that highlighted the differences between the two companies. Zappos built its brand on legendary customer service, and there are all kinds of stories about how the retailer empowering its reps to offer customer service that goes above and beyond. Things like sending flowers to a customer's hospital room.

In contrast, at Amazon, every time a customer has to interact with a human, it's seen as a failure. The goal is to remove human contact from the sales process as much as possible.

With that attitude, it's no wonder that employee wellbeing isn't a major focus.

j45 243 days ago [-]
Costco (retail) appears to treat their employees much better - much higher base wages, regular increases in wage, benefits, etc.

Also know a past Costco corporate employee and only had a positive impression.

jonknee 243 days ago [-]
Retail positions are different than warehouse positions. It's like how UPS drivers make bank, but the guys who load the trucks break their backs for scratch (even with union representation!).
j45 243 days ago [-]
There are warehouse positions in Costco as well. Costco seems to skirt labour laws a little less than other retailers.
foxyv 242 days ago [-]
I worked at UPS as a package sorter/loader/unloader. The money was great and the part time position offered pretty good health and dental benefits. Only issue was the job was hard on my health. Weird hours and repetitive motion can tear your body to shreds if you let it. But the hours were consistent and there were plenty of opportunities to make extra money during the holidays.
jquery 243 days ago [-]
Best teenage job I ever had. They treated us with respect and the pay was exceptional for the job, you could live a middle class lifestyle on it. Sundays they paid time and a half. They also had great holiday events, with a very memorable Christmas party I still cherish. I wish more retailers would treat their employees so well.

EDIT: it does go to the top. The CEO resisted investor pressure to reduce wages and perks. Mad respect to him for treating his employees like people instead of cogs.

geodel 243 days ago [-]
So I need a replacement for broken GPS cradle mount. Can I get at Costco?, no, but I can buy a new GPS for a couple hundred. At Amazon I can buy this 6 dollar item and bundled with few more low price items I can get it delivered for free.

Costco has far fewer SKUs and sell in bulk only high quality and price items. So they can afford to pay well because they only entertain customers which are spending far more for fewer high selling items and not few dollar obscure replacement parts.

zitterbewegung 243 days ago [-]
Yes, a famous quote by Bezos is "Your margin is my opportunity". Also, he runs the company the same way. A lot of capex for Amazon is reinvesting in the company.
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
Exactly. If there's money to re-invest, there should be money to treat employees at least decently.
StaticRedux 243 days ago [-]
On the other side of the coin, if they hadn't spent the money on reinvesting, they wouldnt be the size they are now or employ as many people.

(This is not saying they shouldn't treat employees better, just that the reason they employ so many people in the first place is bc of reinvesting and expanding to more areas. It's not as simplistic as, 'if they have the money they should spend it on people instead of business')

toomuchtodo 243 days ago [-]
If you can't grow your business to be a monstrosity without treating your employees like slaves, your business should not exist.
80386 243 days ago [-]
I work at an Amazon warehouse. I'd rather be able to do that and write code on the side than be unemployed and have to live with my parents in the middle of nowhere. My parents don't even have an internet connection.
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
That's the problem with the current labour market. A job sounds almost like a favor, because it's better than nothing, but workers (should) have rights too.

There will always be someone who has less and is therefore satisfied with less, and companies will capitalize on that to offer the bare minimum to get the job done. Ultimately the person who'd do the job for more gets no job, the person doing the job for less doesn't get a fair compensation, and the only party benefiting is the company.

80386 243 days ago [-]
Right, it's hard to get even a crappy job. Except at an Amazon warehouse. There were relatively few hoops to jump through, and I don't think I even had to interview for it.

(Well, "crappy". Aside from the low pay and bad hours, it's alright. I haven't seen any of the abuses that get talked about, although I'm sure they happen elsewhere.)

Over half of new hires quit or get fired - I'm not sure which, but probably both - in their first two months, and they mostly hire for 20 hrs/wk part-time schedules. So it's not hard to see why Amazon is an easy place to find work at.

I've applied to a few hundred jobs in my life, ranging from software development to slinging lattes, and Amazon is the only company that's ever even given me an offer. Most of my male friends are in similar positions: they're pretty smart, but they can't get anything better than FC, retail, truck driver, that sort of thing. (Truck driver was, in terms of pay, the best outcome I know of, but that was one guy and he killed himself over it last year.)

The impression I get from my (generally more successful) female friends is that the only things that matter nowadays are networking and credentials, and most public job postings are only put up as formalities.

243 days ago [-]
StaticRedux 243 days ago [-]
You clearly completely ignored my second sentence. "That's not to say they shouldn't treat employees better'.

It is a simple fact I stated. Reinvesting in new areas allows them to employ more people in those areas. This isn't an opinion, it's just a fact.

> If you can't grow your business to be a monstrosity without treating your employees like slaves, your business should not exist.

Hardly any companies make it to be "a monstrosity" in the first place. Jeff Bezos did it by reinvesting and expanding. Apple did it with ridiculous margins and taking advantage of people in foreign countries (who literally jump off the roof of FoxConn to end the suffering). Microsoft did it with monopolistic business practices. IBM and Google as well. Giant clothing companies to this day still get caught with their hands in sweatshops. Banks milk people for fees and have the power to crash the stock market through stupid gambles, taking peoples savings down with them. Airlines take advantage of their employees by paying almost nothing and customers by merging until there is very little competition and then gouging fees from people. Same with ISP's.

The idea that "a business shouldn't exist if it can't get gigantic without unfair practices, taking shortcuts and hurting and taking advantage of people" is a moral one, but not realistic in today's world.

Should it be changed? Yes. Of course.

But all I did was state a fact. It's how the economy works. And Amazon would not employ as many people as it does now without the reinvestment in new areas and taking shortcuts in other areas, like how they treat their employees. Just a fact. A fact that is despicable. but a fact nonetheless.

toomuchtodo 243 days ago [-]
My comment was more of a call to action, but I can see how that wasn't clear. Apologies if you felt I didn't properly comprehend your comment.
StaticRedux 243 days ago [-]
Ah, cool. Well for what it's worth, I agree with what you said. Becoming a behemoth at the cost of human suffering should not be acceptable in a civilized society.
hueving 243 days ago [-]
>On the other side of the coin, if they hadn't spent the money on reinvesting, they wouldnt be the size they are now or employ as many people.

Where is the evidence? Whose to say how much faster they would have grown without the employee misery and churn?

StaticRedux 243 days ago [-]
> Where is the evidence?

Basic math?

If you have $1 million to spend (as an example), and you can open a new store and hire more employees at a lesser rate, or pay your current employees more and not open a new store:

opening a new store = growth and more people hired + more revenue

paying your current employees more = less "employee misery and churn" and no growth + less revenue

aylmao 243 days ago [-]
> no growth + less revenue

I'd argue it's more like *slower growth, which should be acceptable, especially at Amazon's size.

Also, I'd in fact argue that making sure your employees have time to go pee wont significantly hurt your bottom line. At most you might need to hire a few few more people. Amazon operates at numbers big enough that this shouldn't be a considerable expense.

StaticRedux 243 days ago [-]
My comment you replied to was a direct response, not in the context of the original conversation.

> I'd argue it's more like *slower growth

Exactly my point, just in a different context. I was speaking on a much smaller scale than Amazon as an example.

If you own a restaurant, and can open a second location and hire more people, you are reinvesting and expanding and bringing in more revenue, which you can reinvest to open more locations. If you pay your current employees more instead, then you aren't opening that new location, and there is no growth (or much smaller growth if your employees do a better job, which would be incremental compared to opening a second location), but people are happier and less taken advantage of.

It's a fine line to walk, and very rarely do companies get it right. Costco is an example of a company that does get it right. There are, unfortunately, far more examples of companies that don't.

The person that replied to me asked for evidence of how reinvestment causes slower growth than paying people more. That side conversation had nothing to do with Amazon.

> Also, I'd in fact argue that making sure your employees have time to go pee wont significantly hurt your bottom line

No one is arguing that. In fact, I agree with it.

mistermann 243 days ago [-]
Unless the public can somehow get politicians to govern according to their desires, the way the world actually is, rather than how it should be, will continue to be defined by alpha leaders like Jeff Bezos and Xi Jinping.
aje403 243 days ago [-]
The public does not know how the world is
nostromo 243 days ago [-]
I see this quote often, but it hasn't really panned out for Amazon in practice.

I see other large tech companies (Google, Apple, Facebook) with these huge profit margins every quarter, year after year. Amazon has never made a dent in any of them, nor made a sizable profit themselves, despite all of that "opportunity."

Perhaps he's not speaking of tech but of retail, in which case the margins of companies like Walmart are already incredibly tight.

zitterbewegung 243 days ago [-]
I'm sorry I was unclear but the reason Amazon is purported to have low profits is due to the massive capital expenditure that they do year over year. Hypothetically they could turn a profit when they want to.
hathawsh 243 days ago [-]
What's mysterious for me is just how much less Costco charges for staples than Amazon does. For example, for Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, Costco charges $0.15 per ounce (if you buy it locally), while Amazon charges $0.52 per ounce. Sometimes Costco even cuts 25% off that price. Bezos has a very long way to go if he wants to conquer that market!



delecti 243 days ago [-]
That product isn't sold by Amazon, but by some other seller. A comparable product (though sans Almonds) sold by Amazon through their grocery delivery service is also $0.15/oz.


hathawsh 243 days ago [-]
Ah, I suppose I didn't see that because Amazon Fresh is not available in my market.
nasredin 243 days ago [-]
Plus there's no torrent of stories about mistreated Costco or Trader Joe's employees.
manigandham 243 days ago [-]
Amazon is about convenience and variety first, followed closely by price. If you want to drive to Costco and buy the bulk-version of the few choices they have then yes they will be much cheaper.
Lionsion 243 days ago [-]
> Amazon is about convenience and variety first, followed closely by price. If you want to drive to Costco and buy the bulk-version of the few choices they have then yes they will be much cheaper.

I feel like that's pretty revisionist. For a very long time, shopping at Amazon was about price first, variety a close second, and convenience a very distant third. I doubt so many people would have developed a habit of shopping there so much if the advantages were truly "convenience and variety" first.

Amazon's prices have gotten much less competitive the last several years, which has disrupted the value proposition that caused many people to choose it.

manigandham 243 days ago [-]
You don't have to revise history to say that it's true today. They definitely had a price advantage for a long time because internet commerce didn't have sales tax and they gained a massive following by the time that was legislated away.

I find it hard to believe that free 2 day shipping and free customer-first returns did not sway opinions though since it basically pushed the entire industry forward.

sremani 243 days ago [-]
Retail in general is thin-margin. That is why you see Amazon try out all sorts of things from cloud to videos, because their core is so thin margin, that any non-core looks more like an opportunity rather than spreading out resources, say in contrast to a Google or Facebook, who have solid cores high margins.
dv_dt 243 days ago [-]
But their pricing hasn't been best-possible for a while now. I've been more and more frequently finding better prices through other venues.
sol_remmy 243 days ago [-]
That's because big box retailers are shipping at a loss: i ordered something from Home Depot that was $10 and got free shipping, 3-4 days too. For the same cost as the in-store item. No way is that profitable for them

They're all okay losing money in the short temp to capture online consumers

dv_dt 243 days ago [-]
Are small sellers on ebay selling at a loss too?
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
AWS has pretty good margins afaik.

They have the money to make huge acquisitions and invest in planes, drones, etc. They have the money to treat their employees decently.

jonknee 243 days ago [-]
And I doubt the AWS staff is peeing in bottles to make their numbers.
dawnerd 243 days ago [-]
I’m wondering the same. It’s not like amazon is deeply discounting anything like they used to. Often cheaper to buy stuff at the big box stores - or at least the same price.
jonknee 243 days ago [-]
But they bring the products to your door...
dawnerd 243 days ago [-]
So do Walmart/Target/bestbuy all with free shipping...

I fail to see the point of that comparison really.

Lionsion 243 days ago [-]
> But they bring the products to your door...

That's being presented as some giant perk nowadays, but I don't really get the appeal. You're buying something sight-unseen and hoping what you'll get in a few days will match the mental images formed from the pictures. You can't size up the item in person, you don't get an excuse to leave the house, and you have to wait longer. If you don't like it, you have to go through the hassle of boxing it up, printing forms, and finding a post office.

jonknee 243 days ago [-]
Depending on where you live it's a big pain to get to a store (rural people need to go far while in the city traffic makes going across town a huge pain). Not to mention not having to wait in a checkout line.

I actually looked at my Amazon order history, it's beyond boring: soap that was out of stock last time I was at a physical store, washing machine cleaner, an OXO cutting board and a cheese grater, Anker USB charger, etc. I would never choose to go to a store and compare for any of these items and was quite happy to have them show up downstairs. If I do need to return I just print off a piece of paper and take the same box back downstairs (from my perspective way easier than having to go back to a store and wait in line).

TaylorAlexander 243 days ago [-]
In kingdoms and corporations, the more you keep from the masses, the more can go to the king. I think the fundamental reason we need democracy (at work and in civil society) is that humans have a hard time resisting riches for themselves even at the expense of others. Since these workers have no power at Amazon, they can’t effect the changes necessary to improve things. Incidentally a workers union could help here, though I think we’ve made it hard for those to thrive.
jxramos 243 days ago [-]
I don't know about Amazon workers but Costco workers are dang happy as far as I can see. Always jovial, joking, and teasing with each other. They seem to form good friend networks there working side by side and stuff.
Lionsion 243 days ago [-]
> but Costco workers are dang happy as far as I can see. Always jovial, joking, and teasing with each other. They seem to form good friend networks there working side by side and stuff.

That margin is Amazon's opportunity. /s


jxramos 242 days ago [-]
what sort of margin are we talking about and how does it translate to gross margin? Margin of comfort, of happiness?
pacaro 243 days ago [-]
It’s worth recognizing also that the fulfillment part of the business has only one way to impact bottom line, by always cutting costs.

We often talk about the importance of working for a profit center not a cost center within a business. Amazon fulfillment is a great example of this.

noelsusman 243 days ago [-]
They're less than razor thin. They generally lose money every time they sell you something. This has become less true over time with the explosion of third party sellers, but it's still generally true. The revenue from Amazon Prime subscriptions does not cover the costs of providing benefits to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Costco has a different target market than Amazon. They target relatively well off people who can afford the upfront cost of a membership and have the capital to buy goods in bulk. That customer base places a relatively high value on customer service.

ajeet_dhaliwal 243 days ago [-]
Would be interesting to know whether it's a local problem or happens in other Amazon warehouses too. I'm fortunate enough to have worked in the USA, Canada and the UK and out of the three, I've found culturally, coworkers in the UK seem to be more afraid of the what the boss will say all the time and there's a lot of micro management going on. This is just anecdotal of course on my experiences and I would like to know if this happened in Amazon's warehouses elsewhere.
walshemj 243 days ago [-]
They seem to (from overhearing covos on the train that serves the warehouse near MK) employ a lot of eu migrants from the poor countries that are used to abusive management an don't know their rights.

It was also implied that there had been capture of first level supervisory positions who played favorites.

wnevets 243 days ago [-]
> I'm trying to understand what compels them to be so toxic in their work environment.

Their warehouse employees are extremely replaceable and amazon knows this.

s73v3r_ 243 days ago [-]
That shouldn't be an excuse for anyone with a shred of humanity or decency.
pnathan 243 days ago [-]
and so? it's a power inequity and the mid-1800s into the early 1900s were marked by the workers who were treated like this struggling to take power back to force via the law better treatment. We mostly call those people "socialists" or "the labor movement" today.
gist 243 days ago [-]
Why is the assumption when articles like this are published that this is representative of what it's like working in an Amazon warehouse?
243 days ago [-]
abandonliberty 243 days ago [-]
Warehouse employees at Amazon are a stop-gap measure, and will only exist as long as they're more efficient than robots on a given task.
pascalxus 243 days ago [-]
It all starts with Bezos. But, look at all the engineers who work there with stockholmes syndrome. Most of Amazon's Glassdoor reviews are like 3,4 and 5 stars, then when you read the actual comments for those 5 star reviews, you see the horror that is amazon.
j45 243 days ago [-]
The measure of innovation and progress is how a society treats it's most vulnerable members.

With Amazon, it's hard to imagine all the smart people that are being paid well, and used indirectly to squeeze the folks on the "factory floor", however unintentional.

kelukelugames 243 days ago [-]
Bezos. Jeff Bezos is the reason why Amazon treats workers they way they do. Compared to other tech giants, Amazon is incredibly anti-employee. Look at how their stocks vest.

I worked at Microsoft during Balmer's reign. The founder/CEO's attitude dictates the work culture. And causes harm if it's bad.

I live in Seattle and often hear this joke: Being an Amazon customer is the best. An investor is great. An employee not so much.

I worked at Amazon in 2005 and was a customer before that. But I can't support Bezos anymore because he negatively impacts how people are treated. It's not on par with Nike's sweatshops in the 90s, but I still canceled Prime and stopped buying things from Amazon.

kajumix 243 days ago [-]
Judging from some of the comments here, software engineers working in Amazon must either be stupid or irrational to continue working there, given the market for software engineers. Amazon is a highly successful company with significant anticipate growth still to come. All that success doesn't come without talent. So maybe not stupid, maybe just irrational? Tech companies in general, and Amazon in particular, are highly data driven and people are constantly challenged to make design choices and decisions based on data--they are being constantly asked for hard evidence on why a certain choice is better than another. In a way they are optimizing for rational people in their recruitment. Could it be that they are more rational than average? Could it be that they are qualified to look at their work experience and weigh it against the compensation, and make the choice to instead go work for Microsoft, or one of the many tech companies around the Seattle area? Maybe they are all just masochists?

(Disclosure: I am a software engineer in AWS, and I love my job. Sorry, can't speak for non-tech jobs. Opinions are my own.)

spenczar5 243 days ago [-]
At least one reason is that the stock has done so well. A typical software engineer hired 4 years ago is incredibly well compensated at Amazon because of this.

Consider a mid-level software engineer hired 4 years ago, on April 16 2014, with a salary of $100k. A typical stock grant at hiring for a mid-level software engineer in 2014 might be $400k over 4 years, backloaded so most of it comes at the end; on April 16 2014 the share price was $323, so the grant would have looked something this:

  Apr 16 2015: 154 shares @ $323 = $50k  = $150k total comp
  Apr 16 2016: 248 shares @ $323 = $80k  = $180k total comp
  Apr 16 2017: 371 shares @ $323 = $120k = $220k total comp
  Apr 16 2018: 464 shares @ $323 = $150k = $250k total comp
But the share price has gone through the roof since then, so things look more like this:

  Apr 16 2015: 154 shares @   $383 = $59k  = $159k total comp
  Apr 16 2016: 248 shares @   $625 = $155k = $255k total comp
  Apr 16 2017: 371 shares @   $901 = $334k = $434k total comp
  Apr 16 2018: 464 shares @ $1,440 = $668k = $768k total comp
That mid-level, totally normal software engineer is making more than $750k this year because the stock price has gone up so much since 2014. They're likely to put up with a lot of bullshit to get that kind of financial security - that's not just a down payment on a house, it can be the whole thing in cash in the east side suburbs, with great school districts.

Amazon (and Seattle in general) could be in big trouble if the stock price turns around. I don't think that's likely, but it's kind of scary to me.

techsupporter 243 days ago [-]
Are those numbers real? As in, does (did?) Amazon really do $400,000 in stock grants for routine (I don't mean that to sound harsh, I just mean "not as a super-exceptional process to land a world-famous developer") software engineer hires?

If they are, holy shit. I thought the meteoric rise in housing prices around here was almost entirely due to the influx of people compounded by this region's seeming inhospitable allergy to building housing stock at anywhere near a reasonable rate.

But, damn, if your table is even within 80% of reality, I am floored. No wonder it's virtually impossible to rent or buy anything for a "realistic" (for me, and I make a pretty good income, or so I thought) price anywhere between Edmonds and Auburn. The rest of us, even those employed in the technology industry, simply cannot compete with that kind of cash on the barrel.

spenczar5 242 days ago [-]
Yes, this is typical, more or less. Amazon tends to pay with a low base salary and high stock component. What I described would be somewhere between “pretty competent developer” and “tech lead on a team of 8,” not anything unusual like hiring a superstar principal engineer.
skookumchuck 243 days ago [-]
Amazon is minting millionaires like crazy. Of course people want to work there.
YetAnotherNick 243 days ago [-]
Anyone could have bought this stock if they would have known the price. Yes, the decision to join amazon turned out to be great money wise, but still doesn't explain why the top talent works there.
spenczar5 243 days ago [-]
Hm, I don't understand what purchasing stock has to do with it. If someone bought the stock then they would own it. But that's not what happens when a company grants you stock - it's a promise to deliver you shares later.

If this hypothetical employee quit on April 10th, 2018, they would not get the 464 shares (== $668k) on April 16th, 2018. They also would probably not get a comparable offer if they quit to join Facegooglesoft. So, if they quit, they lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's enough to keep many people even if the work is unpleasant.

YetAnotherNick 243 days ago [-]
I am saying you could not anticipate which company's share will rise above the rest.
codedokode 243 days ago [-]
The contrast between payout to engineers and unqualified workers is impressive. Especially if those workers live in a place like California with high living costs.

I think growing housing costs are much more scarier for a worker than an idea that some engineer gets 200-300k less.

rosser 243 days ago [-]
How professional technologists are treated by their giant tech employer is utterly orthogonal to how lower-skilled, hourly warehouse workers are treated by the same company.

Why do technologists reliably chime in with completely irrelevant details of a technologist's experience of working for a tech company, in response to articles talking about how poorly those companies treat their non-technologist staff?

What does the one have to do with the other? "Amazon can't be all bad, if they aren't abusing (some of) the subset of their workforce that can meaningfully vote with its feet"?

EDIT: not singling you out specifically, but you did the thing here, so you get the follow-up.

Sharlin 243 days ago [-]
People are really, really good at assuming that their experience of just about anything is a representative sample. And because their experiences are subjectively pretty important to them (naturally) they must be objectively important and relevant in the grand scheme of things as well.
243 days ago [-]
dastbe 243 days ago [-]
I think everybody is doing this? Looking through the comments and its nothing but people talking about SDEs and other well compensated employees, when the crux of this article and others like it are the issues faced by warehouse workers, which I'm betting make up a large majority of the ~550k workers employed by amazon.
sudhirj 243 days ago [-]
At the risk of rehashing other comments here, software devs at Amazon are profit centers - when they work the company gains exponentially more value than it pays them. A good engineer retained can often deliver 2X to 10X the value of a new hire. The company treats them them accordingly.

Warehouse employees are cost centers. They're replaceable pseudo-robots that are filling in the gaps until the engineers mentioned above finish building the real ones. A new worker at a cheaper rate is objectively better than retaining one, because the number of boxes packed tends to increase inversely proportional with age and tenure. The company treats them accordingly.

awat 243 days ago [-]
Piggybacking on what you were saying I don’t disagree from a purely business sense. But I find it ironic society seems to have this constant droning fear about actual robots becoming sentient and dissenting but doesnt fear the droves of these sudo-robots who are already able bodied and sentient and being actively antagonized (piss in bottles, etc) to dissent.
snoman 243 days ago [-]
> A good engineer retained can often deliver 2X to 10X the value of a new hire. The company treats them them [sic] accordingly.

The turnover rate is generally less than 2 years.

sudhirj 243 days ago [-]
We’re mostly talking about large comp packages here, and I’m guessing they all vest over 4 years? I’m not saying devs are particularly pampered, just that there’s no comparison with the warehouse workers.
nlowell 243 days ago [-]
The people in my recent college graduating class who were planning on going to Amazon for software engineering were going there with a plan to burnout after 2-3 years and take their experience elsewhere. It was seen as worth it for the money + resume, even knowing those years would suck.
delecti 243 days ago [-]
My Amazon RSUs more than knocked out my significant student loans, so I have to say that's a reasonable strategy.
noir_lord 243 days ago [-]
Bit like been a lawyer for one of the big firms.

They work you like a dog but proof that you can 'graduate' from them gets you better offers afterwards.

Crazy system when you think about it.

delecti 243 days ago [-]
I think it largely comes down to a few factors: Amazon does a lot of hiring, changing jobs is a hassle that many people won't do just because of momentum, and we naturally only hear about the very worst of what it's like to work at Amazon. If you keep hiring enough developers, enough of them will stick it out thanks to momentum (through possibly sub-optimal but not necessarily tortuous conditions) for long enough to have a large number of developers at any given time.

I worked at Amazon for ~5.5 years, and it was fine. I wasn't in bliss, but it wasn't awful, it was fine. I eventually left not because conditions worsened but because my team's responsibilities eventually shifted to work I disliked enough to overcome the momentum (web ads), and I found out they have a very generous severance program if you know what to ask about.

stone-monkey 243 days ago [-]
>> I found out they have a very generous severance program if you know what to ask about.

What do you mean? Are you referring to the severance you get if you leave on a PIP?

delecti 243 days ago [-]
Yes, but you can also opt-in to that. I told my manager I was dissatisfied and thinking of leaving, he suggested I talk to HR about the pivot program. They then put me on a PIP so I could accept the severance option.

Also I had been on an actual PIP before and I'm pretty sure that option wasn't mentioned.

jackgolding 243 days ago [-]
this is crazy to me, check out /r/consulting they view being on a PIP as a doomsday clock where the company will find any excuse to fire you in the next 6 months.
delecti 242 days ago [-]
I can't speak universally, but I "passed" mine, and lasted another full year before leaving willingly. My manager seemed to very earnestly want me to pass, and implied that most people do.

All that said, I would advise that if you get put on a PIP, just take the severance right away. You're ineligible for a raise or additional stock grants in the cycle following the PIP.

xg15 243 days ago [-]
I think the conditions apply more to the warehouse workers than the software engeneers.

Presumably both groups are vastly different regarding qualifications, income, ability to switch jobs and freedom to structure their work, so I think they should be taken separately when discussing workplace conditions.

(As an analogy, during the industrial revolution, the people that designed the machines probably weren't the ones that were working 18-hour days in hazardous conditions either.)

pg_bot 243 days ago [-]
Not to offend you or your work, but IMO Amazon makes the worst software out of all the big tech companies. I think that this is related to their ability to attract and retain talent due to their poor work culture.
manigandham 243 days ago [-]
What software specifically? The AWS cloud is still the leader in most products.
pg_bot 243 days ago [-]
AWS is the leader in the cloud because of its 6-7 year head start on the competition, not because their product is better than their competitors. There was even a company built on top of AWS that made money by creating a reasonable UX on top of that product.[0]

walmart.com is better designed that amazon.com. I don't know when that happened but you can take a look at two product pages for the same book and be the judge. [1][2]

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I could rant about Amazon's software for days, but in the end software doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad company. If I order something from amazon I expect to get it quickly and in the case something goes wrong I can talk with someone who will be more than agreeable. That is why they are successful, not because of their software prowess.

[0]: https://www.heroku.com/

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp...

[2]: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Thinking-Fast-and-Slow/20530246

manigandham 243 days ago [-]
Heroku is PaaS while AWS started as IaaS and these are completely different. AWS has some PaaS offerings now and is leading the way in an even lighter abstraction with FaaS/serverless. Azure and GCP definitely have unique products but AWS still has plenty of leading tech and I think it's rather misleading to say they don't have anything better. In several instances they're the best simply because there isn't even any serious competition for that niche.

The design of a webpage for companies doing 100s of billions in revenue will be rather subjective and hard to change without materially affecting that revenue so I'm not sure how valid that comparison really is, or what it has to do with "better software".

I will say that building the infrastructure to power such an efficient ecommerce empire along with AWS is not trivial and you're likely vastly underestimating the quality of their systems based on what seem to be rather surface-level observations.

dastbe 243 days ago [-]
Heroku was targeting a much different audience from what AWS was targeting back in 2007 (yes everyone, its been over a decade!). AWS has gradually crawled up the stack over the past few years, but I'd still say Heroku is targeting customers for which the Heroku model is exactly what they want/need.

I'd also say that if AWS had a 6-7 year head start on the competition, then that was the competition being lazy. It's not as if Microsoft/Google didn't have the ability to deliver a cloud platform back in 2007, and history shows they were delivering cloud products around this time. Microsoft Azure was announced in 2008 and launched in 2010; Google App Engine launched in 2008, storage in 2010, and VMs in 2013.

GSimon 243 days ago [-]
Those product pages aren't really self evident as to which is better, I actually prefer Amazon's also, it seems to have more details about the item in addition of course to the 1000s of reviews.
sgtmas2006 243 days ago [-]
While this isn't a direct problem with Amazon vs Walmart site design, I'm more likely to use Amazon due to the amount of reviews.

Walmart can do one thing right, while Amazon has the majority of it right for me. It's going to take a lot to sway me away from Amazon.

BookmarkSaver 243 days ago [-]
>Judging from some of the comments here, software engineers working in Amazon must either be stupid or irrational to continue working there, given the market for software engineers.

Hacker News hates big companies, Amazon being evil is in the zeitgeist, and people are unable to contextualize criticisms properly.

Being a software engineer at Amazon is fine (yeah, yeah, congrats, out of the tens of thousands of engineers you were able to uncover a few horror stories and terrible teams. Shocking) and very lucrative.

laythea 243 days ago [-]
Does the treatment outlined in the article apply to just warehouse workers or does this policy apply to software engineers/office bods also? (pee in a bottle etc?)
Sea_Wulf 243 days ago [-]
There have been reports of toxic management [0] and at least one suicide attempt over the years [1], which indicates that the problem is not purely on the warehouse floor.

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-...

[1] http://fortune.com/2016/11/29/amazon-employee-suicide-attemp...

FilterSweep 243 days ago [-]
> Judging from some of the comments here, software engineers working in Amazon must either be stupid or irrational to continue working there

This is sparing the employer at the expense of the employee. Employee's employment status is.....far more sticky.

gourou 243 days ago [-]
> Amazon is incredibly anti-employee

They prefer calling it 'customer-centric'

> Amazon, Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company

Lionsion 243 days ago [-]
> They prefer calling it 'customer-centric'

If they'd like to be actually customer-centric, they can start by implementing a search that doesn't rank counterfeit products with a single 5-star review over real ones with 5000 reviews and an average rating of 4.9.

I feel like Amazon's reputation for being "customer-centric" doesn't actually reflect their current practices, but instead it leans heavily on past reputation (when their competitors were worse) and a convenient return policy that papers over problems.

nasredin 243 days ago [-]
Next you gonna ask for something crazy like "sort by number of reviews" and "consistant UI on product pages"?

The technology is not there yet man!

faster 243 days ago [-]
I'm not ignoring your point, but I use a Chrome extension to sort by number of reviews.


prklmn 243 days ago [-]
Apple complains Amazon's US site is selling fake products


243 days ago [-]
losteric 243 days ago [-]
FWIW: I think Amazon's stock vesting schedule for ICs is reasonable considering the sizable hiring bonus (iirc ~$20k for new graduates). Stock grants are intended to reflect an employee's ownership in the company, and rapidly increase with tenure.

That said... Amazon is definitely not human-oriented. Leadership within established business units is brutally efficient, with far too much faith in their metric goals. Ask any engineer about HR's survey tool, I think that's a prime example of cultural decay within Amazon.

Amazon used to be "customer obsessed" with a strong engineering culture... these days the cultural values are "maximize revenue, minimize costs".

decebalus1 243 days ago [-]
> I think Amazon's stock vesting schedule for ICs is reasonable considering the sizable hiring bonus (iirc ~$20k for new graduates)

One can get this bonus basically everywhere else in the area with similar sized companies. Hell, I got way more than that 8 years ago.

The vesting schedule is diabolical:

> 5% 1st yr, 15% 2nd yr, then 20% every 6 months

coupled with the turnover rate: http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/business_inside...

I can't imagine anyone rational and with reasonable technical skills thinking this is a good enough incentive to join the company.

basseq 243 days ago [-]
My company's vesting schedule used to have a 3-year cliff: 0% first year, 0% 2nd year, 75% third year, 25% fourth year.

It's a much more reasonable quarterly vest with a 1-year cliff now.

rossbmiller 243 days ago [-]
I think it's brilliant. If you live in Seattle and know anyone who's a mid-level corporate employee at Amazon, you should notice that it's a great way of selecting talent who are committed to the company and who will stick around. Also, contracts are re-negotiated every two years, so if you chain them up, you're getting a pretty significant annual payout.
decebalus1 243 days ago [-]
It's brilliant for Amazon, not so much for the employee and it doesn't matter if you're committed to the company if the relationship is not bilateral (and it's often not). You can re-negotiate your pay and stuff but if the company has a financial incentive not to, there are several HR devices to keep you from doing so. Let's not bring up the regular reorgs which are notorious for wiping out careers.

I've been living in the Seattle area for a really long time and I've heard so many horror stories coming from Amazon that I could fill a book.

Also, I am aware of the 'Amazon is not for everyone' narrative. Yes, I agree, it's not for people who value their work/life balance and expect to be treated as a human at their workplace.

I am also aware of the 'it depends on the team' narrative. That's bullshit. Indeed it does depend on the team but 'generally' (to quote Zuck) it sucks.

laythea 243 days ago [-]
I am in no way an Amazon supporter, however I fail to see how any single company can "wipe out your career". As a skilled engineer, you have many options. And incidentally, from the sounds of it, it seems like if they let someone go, they would be doing that someone a favor.
xenostar 243 days ago [-]
Pretty sure he means to wipe out your career within the company.
decebalus1 243 days ago [-]
Exactly what I meant. And this results in wiping out your unvested stock.
Aunche 243 days ago [-]
That works in theory, but in practice, Amazon still has shitty employee retention. Top software talent is a seller's market. Most people who have the choice would choose Facebook, Google, or Microsoft over Amazon because Amazon is stingier.
Latteland 242 days ago [-]
Companies are not committed to employees. The easy example is that they have layoffs, even amazon and microsoft. a committed company would do what microsoft used to do, since they had basically endless openings, if your project was canceled you had 2 months to find another job. and you could always find another job.

The other reason to consider carefully before going there is they sometimes try to scare people by enforcing non-competes. So what are you going to do, deliver papers? Here's a recent article - https://www.geekwire.com/2017/business-personal-amazon-web-s...

edit - here's an example of layoffs in seattle https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-laying-o...

243 days ago [-]
ghostbrainalpha 243 days ago [-]
I don't know about that joke anymore. Being an Amazon customer used to be great, but the deliveries are bordering on ridiculously horrible now.

I order something on Prime, then it doesn't show up when I expect it to, I get no notification of any delays, and then when I log in to see what's going on they have changed the original expected date so I can't even see what I was originally promised unless I took a screen shot.

This has been the case on 2 thirds of my deliveries over the past 3 months. And I'm not even going into the sham that is 3rd party selling.

lostapathy 243 days ago [-]
I'm seeing this as well - and ironically, I live within walking distance of an Amazon fulfillment center.

The scummiest part, though, is that when packages get completely lost, half the time I can't request an automatic refund, I have to work with a customer support rep to get it issued.

Realistically, it should be completely automated. If Amazon knows my package was lost (in my most recent case, it never even shipped!) not issuing the refund automatically is anti-consumer greed.

Murdodc089 243 days ago [-]
"....I have to work with a customer support rep to get it issued"

I'm finding more and more (or maybe it's always been this way?) that the onus for correcting or making sure something is correct, is ALWAYS placed on the last person in the chain.....the individual.

cbanek 243 days ago [-]
This is especially true for medical and insurance problems. You don't pay the individual/customer, and you have no incentive to help them (other than they might go somewhere else a little less bad). For people that haven't had to go through this yet, such as a claim gone wrong, everything seems fine. One example of this has been life insurance companies verifying eligibility only after the person has died and someone has made a claim. It seems part of the business model to make life so miserable for customers that they give up trying to get what they were promised.


mrfusion 243 days ago [-]
My biggest peeve is that every time I go to reorder something the price has gone up another 10%.

I never hear other people complain about this though. I wonder if it’s not widespread?

Lionsion 243 days ago [-]
> My biggest peeve is that every time I go to reorder something the price has gone up another 10%.

> I never hear other people complain about this though. I wonder if it’s not widespread?

I've gotten increases like this on some items, though not as consistently as "every time."

I no longer consider Amazon to be generally price-competitive with other online retailers and big-box retail. I pretty much only shop at Amazon when I have no idea where to buy the item I'm looking for (such as weird informally-imported things).

Ironically, I'm actually starting to use Amazon as an "online showroom" for general searching, but actually make my purchases elsewhere.

pkaye 243 days ago [-]
Also they don't give price adjustments for most of the products they sell. I bought a book and the day after I received it, the price dropped 30%. The customer support would not refund the difference. Instead I had to ship back the product first and buy it again. Now to ship it back, I have to pay the shipping unless I lie and say it was defective or go to their Amazon store in San Jose to drop it off.
astura 239 days ago [-]
FYI - Check your credit card benefits! Most offer free price protection for items you buy with the card, its saved me hundreds of dollars over the years. In fact, I just got a $40 check in the mail the other day for a price protection claim on a TV. And the price protection works on other retailers too - so if you bought the product on Amazon and it goes on sale at Walmart next week, you can make a claim for the difference in price.
BatFastard 243 days ago [-]
I have had absolutely no problems with package delivery.

The one thing I returned was a breeze.

j45 243 days ago [-]
Deliveries are not done by Amazon where I live - it's usually 3rd party.
kmonsen 243 days ago [-]
That doesn't really change anything. The customer interaction is with Amazon and they own it including paying for it either with Prime or directly.
isostatic 243 days ago [-]
Those third parties likely owe pretty much their entire business to amazon. When a company can't exist without a specific client, is it really a third party?
j45 243 days ago [-]
I think delivery companies may vary - in my area, some deliveries are still completed by the national mail, major couriers, however small (and often incompetent) carriers are starting to.

The reason for my comment was that my experience receiving a shiny package doesn't really overlap with what employees are being put through. Both reflect poorly on Amazon, the conversation about employees is a valid on it's own as there are avenues with Amazon to already complain about poor delivery and have a recourse.

TaylorAlexander 243 days ago [-]
Is is all on Bezos or does the way we structure society also affect why people are willing to endure this treatment?
dimal 243 days ago [-]
When you have $100B, you're one of the people structuring society.
partiallypro 243 days ago [-]
People I am friends with in management make a lot of money, with great stock options and bonuses; floor workers are the people that get crapped on. If you're in logistics, you're making a killing, and generally have a good work life. So I'm told. Same applies to Alexa and AWS teams.
gorbot 243 days ago [-]
Not all employees are treated poorly. Yeah, the stock vest is back loaded, but they typically give cash upfront, which you could just turn around and buy stocks with..
kelukelugames 243 days ago [-]
That's a poor argument. I've gotten offers from many tech giants. They all included a sign-on cash bonus. Often much bigger than Amazon's.

Amazon's total offer was usually about 100k lower. Sometimes more. Amazon SWEs still earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. So being treated poorly and paid less is relative.

In Amazon's defense, I have friends who enjoy working there. The MBAs especially love it. Again, it's not like anyone is stuck in some Nike sweatshop from 1974.

isostatic 243 days ago [-]
White collar jobs are somewhat different than. We have choice, we have power.

The best bet for amazon warehouse employees, and delivery drivers, would be to unionise. This would lead to either 1) More investment in robotics, taking away menial jobs 2) Better conditions for shelf-stackers.

Both are good -- as a society we should not be making people work when the work could be done by robots.

aquadrop 243 days ago [-]
More automation -> less jobs -> more pressure to keep working at the awful, but paying job you have.

I think best solution is universal basic income, but that of course is far from being accepted in USA. But it gives power to people, it make them not being so afraid to lose a job, so employers have to act accordingly.

Mediterraneo10 243 days ago [-]
> I think best solution is universal basic income

I have said before here that I cannot imagine universal basic income working in the USA unless American culture changes drastically to favour heavy state subsidy of arts, culture and community centers. In the Nordic countries where a substantial portion of many communities are on the dole, the state generously provides concerts and theatres and social facilities so that those people have something wholesome to do, they don’t just all sit home and drink (some do, of course; you can’t win every time). What would small-town Americans do with their time if they weren’t working?

aquadrop 243 days ago [-]
They won't be just not working, they also won't have to work, for life. That might cause change of behavior.
isostatic 243 days ago [-]
Possibly, UBI or negative income tax (which is probably easier to administer) may be required, but it may not. In India, they still employ someone to sit on a chair in a lift pressing the button. Even in the western world we employ doormen.

Of course while people vote against their best interests (the false belief that hard work guarantees success) I'm sure that those with the power will continue to exploit those without.

Mediterraneo10 243 days ago [-]
> In India, they still employ someone to sit on a chair in a lift pressing the button.

A culture of makework can be harmful in that it would push some people to do pointless jobs when they might actually do something beneficial for society (but perhaps not profit-generating) if they were given free time.

For example, I am fortunate to work remotely in a job that pays me a lot of money, but I am in a country with low cost of living. That means I only work 2–3 days a week. All the rest of my time I am busy with obsessively editing OpenStreetMap, writing the occasional journal publication in the field I trained in at university, and participating in the local arts scene as an audience or writer. I know that if I got to receive UBI, I would still be doing things with my time that are overall contributing to society. Please don’t make me sit in an elevator all day to press buttons instead.

isostatic 243 days ago [-]
Yes, pushing buttons or boxing amazon deliveries is a waste of humanity's time. The question is will society allow us to move to a system where we work 20 hour weeks doing the same amount of productive work we do now.

I would like to think we will. I suspect we'll have people doing 60 hora a week of breaking rocks for no reason other than making those higher up the food chain think they aren't hetting a free ride.

aquadrop 243 days ago [-]
UBI should be there to fight exactly that, those pointless jobs. It increases value of people's time, so even if there will be a doormen, they will be paid very good and that will be choice of the people.
crankylinuxuser 243 days ago [-]
Roboticization is great for the long-term, Star Trek style economy.

It's the Bell Riots and Sanctuary Districts I'm worried about.

krapp 243 days ago [-]
Of course... Star Trek's economy didn't run on robots, it ran on magic wish boxes that would defy the laws of physics in the real world.

Which is why I suspect when it comes to Star Trek's future, we'll get to the dystopia, but not the utopia.

acdha 243 days ago [-]
I disagree only in the assessment that unionization isn’t also good advice for people with desk jobs. The C-level sees us as expensive workers who need to be treated better but still an expense rather than peers.
jhall1468 243 days ago [-]
> Amazon's total offer was usually about 100k lower.

Come on, that's so misleading. Offers from the big tech companies come in 4 year bundles. There's no way your offer was $100k per year lower unless you didn't get leveled the same at Amazon as you did Google.

I got an offer from Google in Mountain View and despite being CONSIDERABLY higher, the COL difference made Amazon's pay higher. And that assumed stock prices remained the same. They've doubled.

kelukelugames 243 days ago [-]
It's not. I had offers from multiple companies at sde 2. Amazon's was so bad that the recruiter was embarrassed to tell me they couldn't up the offer. I'm sure there are huge variances but the last comp survey on hn showed Amazon is a bit behind.
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
> which you could just turn around and buy stocks with.

Which just benefits the company even further?

Edit: if you downvote please reply. How will I correct my stance if I get no feedback? I'm not sure why I'm getting down voted.

Edit: Thanks for the comments. I did assume this meant Amazon stock. Didn't think my comment sounded so combative until I was told.

mistersquid 243 days ago [-]
I did not downvote you, but I will speculate that the single question does present as somewhat confrontational and, depending on mood, might have been interpreted as combative.

If I understand your meaning and if your post's "confrontational" mood is/was the issue, you might have cast your post declaratively instead of interrogatively.

For example,

> Using compensation to buy stocks would benefit the company even further even though the company may unfairly exploit its employees. This would run counter to the employee's own interests.

Or something along those lines.

Recasting questions as statements sometimes reduces the rhetorical signals which can be interpreted confrontation.

EDIT: Remove double quotes; add emphasis. Clarify last sentence. Use past perfect in first sentence. Recast second sentence.

schwarzmx 243 days ago [-]
They didn't say to buy Amazon stocks.
timdorr 243 days ago [-]
If you're buying AMZN on the market, that's coming from other investors, not the company itself. It's already sold that stock (the IPO was back in 96) and benefited directly from it at that time.
greedo 243 days ago [-]
Well, increased buying of AMZN would drive the price higher, and ostensibly, this percolates up to Amazon and it's employees.
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
Not trying to be combative! Just providing a counter argument. Although it doesn't directly and immediately benefit a company, doesn't having lots of buy interest keep the stock price high, which _is_ beneficial for the company in general?
timdorr 243 days ago [-]
Yep, you're totally right. I was only distinguishing on direct benefits (cash flow). There are certainly many more indirect benefits to performing well on the stock market.
knuththetruth 243 days ago [-]
Well, him and the people higher up the food chain that enable him. Tech workers at Amazon could organize to prevent this kind of mistreatment of warehouse employeees. If the AWS team alone walked off the job in protest, the resulting panic and media coverage would squeeze Amazon to improve.
staticassertion 243 days ago [-]
Sad to see this post downvoted when it seems obvious.

If you work for Amazon as a developer make this issue known. Few people have as much power to impact the company as a group of developers - we all know what a pain in the ass it is to hire.

I'd never work at Amazon knowing how it treats its workers. Given the market we're in I don't get why others would - if you work for Amazon you should be able to jump ship for another good company.

knuththetruth 243 days ago [-]
Part of what they’re so highly compensated for is also to turn a blind eye to the poor people who suffer under these conditions, to ignore the abuse that undergirds their work.
staticassertion 242 days ago [-]
I don't think they compensate so much better than other similar companies. Their vesting cycle sucks too.
aqme28 243 days ago [-]
How does their stock vest?
jld 243 days ago [-]
It's backloaded. 5% of the stock grant vests in year 1, 15% in year 2, and then 40% on year 3 and 4.

The argument is that they have a demanding work culture which people want to leave after a year or two, but are then incentivized to stay to earn out the bulk of their grant, or alternatively that they promise huge grants knowing that many people will not get to the point where they are collecting the bulk of it.

mistersquid 243 days ago [-]
Amazon offers a RSU vesting schedule of 5%, 15%, and 40% over 4 years. [0]

[0] https://www.quora.com/Amazon-offers-a-RSU-vesting-schedule-o...

debt 243 days ago [-]
Bezos’ great business leadership is exalted and his methods picked apart and adopted throughout Amazon.

But I do wonder how insightful, clever or useful those methods are when towards the edges of his empire people work in constant fear and pee in bottles to survive.

dpeck 243 days ago [-]
| I live in Seattle and often hear this joke: Being an Amazon customer is the best. An investor is great. An employee not so much.

The ever-increasing home price in the Seattle area seems to indicate it isn't bad enough to stop them from working there.

hueving 243 days ago [-]
Because home prices in Seattle are dictated by the quality of the Amazon employee's work environment.
IncRnd 243 days ago [-]
Take a look at the operating margins for international(negative), NA(barely positive even), and AWS.

Graphs for this are shown here: https://www.recode.net/2018/2/1/16961598/amazon-jeff-bezos-r...

This is also in the article:

The e-commerce giant posted a record profit of $1.9 billion during the last three months of 2017, marking the 11th straight quarter of positive net income for Jeff Bezos’s company.

About $789 million of that can be attributed to a tax benefit resulting from President Trump’s tax plan. But even without the benefit, the profit number would have been the largest in the company’s history.

opencl 243 days ago [-]
Meanwhile they shove all of their software developers into one of the highest cost of living cities in the world and pay them six figure salaries.
umanwizard 243 days ago [-]
Maybe it's changed since I lived there, but I don't really think Seattle is "one of the highest cost of living cities in the world". It is (or was) quite a bit cheaper than NYC or SF, for example.
bhandziuk 243 days ago [-]
Seattle might not be the most expensive city to lie in but it is right up there. Same price as LA accoring to this data:


And depending on how you break this list down (Exclude Bermuda from North American cities,bundle Bellevue/Seattle, Brooklyn NYC) it's in the top 10


FireBeyond 243 days ago [-]
Then again, it's quite a bit higher... "Cost of a gallon of gas in Seattle: $2.40"... try $3.79 this weekend.
bhandziuk 242 days ago [-]
I bet those gas prices are fixed to some point in time. Might be too much work to keep up to date gas prices but not instantaneously update other parameters.
conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Its going to get so , because even though its not as bad property wise as california, it is following the same path of increasing taxes and expenditures by the local government. I could already see a stark homelessness growth in just one year.
ArchTypical 243 days ago [-]
Cheaper than Irvine, CA as well.
lr4444lr 243 days ago [-]
You would think Amazon would be a pioneer in remote IT work, wouldn't you...
qudat 243 days ago [-]
> Are Amazon's margins razor thin?

They don't make any money on distributing products.

bluedino 243 days ago [-]
Same as Walmart.
ProAm 243 days ago [-]
This is how you get your Amazon Prime same day/two day delivery.
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
I'm pretty sure they could still offer this service and treat employees well. Implying Amazon _needs_ to be like this is largely turning a blind eye to the problem.
ProAm 243 days ago [-]
I agree, but Amazon maximizes their profit by using these conditions. They eek out profit margins by using human sacrifices.
babygoat 243 days ago [-]
If that’s true, then charge us more and be a real human.
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
Thing is they don't need to. They could just tap a bit into their huge revenues before re-investing them in making planes or making huge acquisitions.
progval 243 days ago [-]
If you have Amazon Prime, you can choose to have a longer delay (ie. the same as non-Prime consumers) when selecting shipment options.
babygoat 242 days ago [-]
My choices will not improve the conditions of warehouse workers.
TaylorAlexander 243 days ago [-]
My fear is that the future of work for most people is not unemployment, but shitty jobs like this.

My feeling is that in order to avoid this and prosper, the people need to own the robots that do all the work (Marxism heyy). If robots provide huge productivity gains, then they will provide those gains for their owners. If it’s the big corporations that own them, they will see the gains. But as long as people are treated like machines, they will be left out of this prosperity. Instead, if the people own the machines collectively, then they can enjoy the productivity gains themselves as a group.

What do you all think of this?

temp-dude-87844 243 days ago [-]
Well, Marx and Engels did accurately identify that a large reserve of under-employed workers, or people who didn't previously participate in the labor force, is what enables the most exploitative jobs.

All necessities in life cost money: food, housing, childcare, healthcare; and those in the most precarious social positions are the people most willing to accept abusive employment for reasons directly tied to their survival. This is a natural consequence of a socioeconomic system that asks everyone to fend for themselves.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Please, the world had 94% extreme poverty in their time, and its down to less than 10%. The model of exploitation they have cannot possible account for that.

I have tremendous sympathy for the empathic pain they had by seeing those levels of exploitation. Das Kapital's first volume is basically 50% accounts of child labor and exploitation. But they had no way to know that when the state holds the capital the results are even worse, had marx seen the soviet union at its prime he would have probably revised his own theory.

Marx's reserve army doesn't hold water. And he himself denounces that one of the most common ways of the exploitative model was precisely how much the aristocrats ignored private property rights and pushed people to extreme poverty and marginalization.

He had and still has many interesting ideas, but he was very much wrong about many of them. Which is fine, all these economists got things super wrong.

And another interesting point Marx made: Look how well America is doing! Europe should be like that.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
Extreme poverty is defined as someone living on less than $1.25 a day. Do you think that exploitation isn't occurring as long as someone isn't living in extreme poverty?
conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
The exploitation model needs self-generating poverty. If it is lifting people out of poverty then it is destroying itself, as it will run out of the required poor people.

You can argue its not going fast enough, but the direction is unequivocally upwards so far.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
Well now you're conflating extreme poverty with poverty. There are millions of people living in poverty in the united states. And you don't really need someone to be in complete poverty to exploit them.

Also, the direction currently is towards stagnating wages and growing wealth inequality.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
> Well now you're conflating extreme poverty with poverty. There are millions of people living in poverty in the united states. And you don't really need someone to be in complete poverty to exploit them.

After extreme poverty ends, you get poverty to uplift and so on.

> Also, the direction currently is towards stagnating wages and growing wealth inequality.

The problem with such nice catchphrases that are repeated over and over by interest groups is that they are inaccurate, and often end up advocating for even higher inequality.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
> The problem with such nice catchphrases that are repeated over and over by interest groups is that they are inaccurate, and often end up advocating for even higher inequality.

What specifically is an "inaccurate catchphrase" in what I've said?

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Stagnant wages are the cause of multiple effects, many of them that are extremely localized. The US has had this effect, but the world has had it go extremely upwards in the last 5 decades. And along lower wages, have come increased value. The internet, for example, is super cheap and might not count as much into the budget of a person todaY: but tv and entertainment was a much higher cost between cable, newspapers, etc etc.

Smartphones, safer cars, cheaper travelling. Have to be very careful to look only at nominal bills to make economic judgement.

And maybe the most problematic and expensive things americans suffer generationally, housing and healthcare, are the defacto most intervened and regulated markets of all. It is the state, in its magnificent regulatory capture, that its pushing poverty unto people.

Also inequality has always been a topic of conversation, what is new is income inequality, and its still an open problem, not something there is economic consensus about. There are other things that have economic consensus, for example, getting rid of corporate taxes. But you dont hear that coming from "high inequality and stagnant wages" guys.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
So "stagnant wages" was what you called an inaccurate catchphrase?

>housing and healthcare, are the defacto most intervened and regulated markets of all. It is the state, in its magnificent regulatory capture, that its pushing poverty unto people.

I won't defend much of anything about the state of housing or healthcare in the US. The government is certainly a huge part of the problem, I have no issue accepting that.

Here's the thing: I don't think that all government programs are good. Some are designed to push poverty unto people like you said. But the solution isn't to get rid of all regulation or the idea that government can be used as a tool for the masses.

We need to have a government that is much more aligned with the interests of the people than the interests of large corporations and capital. To me the way to do that is to expand the limits of democracy to include how the economy is run, how natural resources are used, and what the relationship between capital and workers should be.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Expand the limits of democracy as a way to vote expropiation?

When democracy is used to plunder, there is no way back. It will be living for the purpose of robbing others, and the poor have never fared well in such systems.

We live in a world with relative freedom but still very constrained. Look at the US spending 25% of its GDP through the state. And european countries reach 40 and even 50%! Half of every thing produced consumed by the state. The State is the enemy. It really is.

The most positive effect I can imagine is people being stroung enough to resist the powers of states and pit them against each other. The most scary future I see is the collaboration of countries. Concentration of capital is bad, but concentration of power is the true danger. And the State garners its concentration with the power of might.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
What has more concentration of power, monarchies or representational democracies?

I'm suggesting that we can create a new form of governing that further decentralizes power.

conanbatt 242 days ago [-]
Democracies are not powerful with a strong central government. If everyone votes something the state cant enforce, it would be pointless.
frgtpsswrdlame 243 days ago [-]
>had marx seen the soviet union at its prime he would have probably revised his own theory.

Actually I don't think so. Even Marx saw that socialism was a stage of history which followed from capitalism. In the same way that feudalism's aristocracy provides the conditions which create a merchant class that eventually overthrows the aristocracy, Marx sees capitalism and capitalists as providing the conditions which create a working class which eventually overthrows the capitalists. He would probably be annoyed with the soviets for trying to skip most of a phase and he would probably be annoyed with us, modern westerners, for not recognizing where in history we are - with rising inequality, increasing productivity but stagnating wages and the general increasing returns to capital.

>Marx's reserve army doesn't hold water.

Doesn't it? With chronic unemployment persisting since our most recent crash and now that we're finally reaching low unemployment ten years later, wages haven't moved much. If you explained the idea without mentioning Marx I think most people on the street would intuitively agree.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
He would have revised his economic modeling I mean, not his historical argument which is still sensible to me, albeit potentially irrelevant.

I dont think the reserve army makes any sense in todays world. But it did in his were labor was so interchangeable that people migrated for labor in masse all the time. I dont think out of work janitors put a lot of pressure on software engineer jobs. That unemployment in general drops wages, or that full employment increases wages, is a much older concept than Marx's.

fastball 243 days ago [-]
You don't think stagnation in wages can be attributed to the massive increase in women in the workforce?

Supply and demand, after all.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
It might have had some effect but decline in Union membership and collective bargaining power are much more important. After all, we're seeing record profits and a massive transfer of wealth to the top 1%. If workers could effectively organize, the increase in workforce wouldn't matter.
conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Ridiculous, thats not how unions work. Look at the history of argentina, where unions have constitutional protections, and tell me thats what help grow the economy.

Unions can only raise a workers wage in two ways: by increasing productivity (which they seldom do) or by restricting the amount of workers.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
I don't really know anything about the situation in Argentina but I don't think Unions are an unequivocal good no matter what form they take. Unions in many cases have leadership that don't have the interest of the workers at heart. What I really mean is that workers organizing together and using collective bargaining is a proven way to increase worker conditions and pay.
fastball 243 days ago [-]

  leadership that don't have the interest of the workers at heart

  workers organizing together and using collective bargaining
So what you're saying is we need decentralized unions on the blockchain?
bbddg 243 days ago [-]
Uber for Unions :)
conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
They do account for some, but not for all the changes. This is significant though, and often avoided to be spoken because of its pseudo-sexist interpretation.
ArchTypical 243 days ago [-]
That was a result of the incorporation of one of these reserve armies. Over time, new centers of industry will be born to serve the decentralized burbs that aren't cost-efficient to serve by existing infrastructure and the cycle repeats. We just happen to be living in one part of the cycle.
frgtpsswrdlame 243 days ago [-]
Overall I think the point is who cares what caused an increase in labor supply? It doesn't matter from where Marx's reserve army originates, just that capitalists desire and ensure that it exists to the detriment of the working class.
fastball 243 days ago [-]
You really think that women as a group qualify as a reserve army?
frgtpsswrdlame 243 days ago [-]
Again, the composition of the industrial reserve really isn't the point. They're the able to work and unemployed. Whether we have at times integrated previously unused reserves on the basis of race or gender or class is basically irrelevant. The point is the fact of the reserve - that it exists. Look at 2008 on, we've had quite a substantial reserve with quite a diverse composition. But it's there, ensuring that wages won't rise (or rise much) during the boom times.

Perhaps we might have a better discussion if you told me what it is you're actually driving at because I'm not quite sure I see it.

tomaskafka 243 days ago [-]
The model said that

> large reserve of under-employed workers, or people who didn't previously participate in the labor force, is what enables the most exploitative jobs

This still holds.

vkou 243 days ago [-]
> The model of exploitation they have cannot possible account for that.

No, what accounts for that is access to incredibly cheap energy, in the form of fossil fuels and electrification.

Energy is what lifted people out of poverty, not any of that other nonsense. Without coal, oil, and hydro power, most of us would still be subsistence peasants, regardless of whether or not we would live in Communism, Feudalism, Capitalism, Fascism, or some other -ism.

wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
Out of curiosity, what is your model for the dramatic examples of India and China, which were faced with relative stagnation and incredibly dire, largely-intractable poverty for decades after WWII; followed by liberalizing (incrementally) their markets and explosive growth+massive declines in extreme poverty thereafter?

I don't know a ton about the economic history of these two countries, but prima facie this seems to belie your claim that it was simply energy availability.

vkou 243 days ago [-]
India's explosive growth [1] followed electrification, not lead it. [2] It's 'intractable poverty' following WWII was only 'intractable' because of colonial exploitation - the British Empire squeezed it for cheap resources, labour, and wealth (By forcing Indian markets open to imports, and by banning some forms of local production - Gandhi's salt march was an example of resistance to that.) At the same time, the empire did not actually invest in the same kind of infrastructure that Europe enjoyed for close to a century.

China's a bit of a different case - but for contrast, compare it to the USSR. Despite three decades of war, civil war, near-genocidal purges, and some more war, by the 60s and 70s, it has lifted millions of people out of a similar level of intractable poverty. Again, not on the back of its economic system, but on the back of industrialization.

It's hard to stay poor (Compared to world poverty in the 1800s) when you have running water, indoor plumbing, and electricity.

[1] https://tradingeconomics.com/india/gdp-per-capita

[2] https://www.slideshare.net/ashishverma061/growth-of-electric... - Slide 16.

wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
> It's 'intractable poverty' following WWII was only 'intractable' because of colonial exploitation - the British Empire squeezed it for cheap resources, labour, and wealth (By forcing Indian markets open to imports, and by banning some forms of local production - Gandhi's salt march was an example of resistance to that.) At the same time, the empire did not actually invest in the same kind of infrastructure that Europe enjoyed for close to a century.

You are extremely confused about the history here. The British left India in 1947; WW2 ended in 1945. India and South Korea had a similar GDP/capita in 1950; they were on opposite ends of the spectrum 50 years later after 50 years of a wide GDP growth gap (during none of which time did British India exist).

I believe more than most people in the path-dependency of politics, especially with respect to things like colonialism. A lot of the sclerotic, Soviet-influenced, bureaucratic strangling of the Indian economy during this period is at least partially attributed to (reasonable) democratic political backlash against the abusiveness of the British economic system, in the form of eg labor laws that have been harming the economy for half a century.

graeme 243 days ago [-]
Energy wasn't sufficient, but it likely was necessary. That said, the energy was lying around all through history, so something exogenous got people to use it. And to develop the technology to do so.
vkou 243 days ago [-]
> so something exogenous got people to use it. And to develop the technology to do so.

That was James Watt's steam engine, which was efficient at turning combustion into mechanical motion, and it was happenstance that it was invented in 1780, and not 1580, or 1980. People didn't suddenly develop a need to move heavy things in 1780 - it came around then because of advances in steelwork, precision manufacturing, and general refinement of the idea (Such engines were around for over a century, but were not compact, or efficient enough to be very useful.)

All of a sudden, the labour of a coal miner was enough to feed a 10, then a 50, then a 100 horse-power engine. It was the AGI of its era.

graeme 243 days ago [-]
Though why were they in development? This article says an early one was developed in 1698, to pump water from a coal mine:


Why was there a coal mine? Why not use wood or charcoal? Why didn't the Romans go down this path? They invented a toy steam engine.

These things have many causes. Obviously watson's invention was a big inflection point.

But, as for the question "were liberal markets necessary?" my suspicion is yes. But, I don't actually know. I think the answer begins before James Watt.

vkou 243 days ago [-]
Because people have been trying to invent ways to mechanically augment human power since someone had the bright idea to make a lever.

Why the steam engine did not succeed because Watt, was because the same reason that tri-deck galleons and gunpowder did not exist in the bronze age. Non-trivial practical inventions require a massive pyramid of other non-trivial practical inventions, each of which requires a pyramid of other non-trivial inventions, all of which have to solve a contemporary problem - cheaply then their alternatives.

If liberal markets were necessary for the invention of the steam engine, why was it invented in England, and not in Renaissance Italy? It had liberal markets, access to capital, and was a center of technological and cultural progress for hundreds of years.

There's no particularly satisfying answer to that, other then 'happenstance.'

wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
Right, this is close to my model too, but it's in contradiction to the GP claim that energy is the reason and economic structures are behind the point.

It's almost tautological to say that energy is behind growth, but it's also independent of economic structure, which effectively boils down to "the manner in which we convert energy to utility".

Retric 243 days ago [-]
There are counter examples to India and China that resulted in high standards of living without liberalizing markets, generally from valuable natural resources and low populations. There are zero examples without access to cheap energy.

PS: The China boom looks 'good' mostly due to how terrible the country was run prior to that. Expand the time scale and compare to other countries and things don't look nearly as good.

GuB-42 243 days ago [-]
I don't think it is completely true. In shitty countries, most people have a "job" working for the local dictator. They are exploited by force. It works because most work is just manual labor, they don't need highly skilled, well educated workers.

It is not the case in developed countries. For example, we don't increase food production by just adding more farmers with hand tools. We have mechanical engineers making more efficient machines, chemists producing better fertilizers, scientists studying plant growth, etc... These people need a high level of education, which mean they need the time and resources to study. People starving won't make the skilled workers employers need.

What really enables exploitative jobs is the need for exploitative jobs.

knieveltech 243 days ago [-]
Please explain this "need" for exploitative jobs. Edit: No, I'm serious, I want someone to supply an internally consistent rationale that explains why corporations or society in general requires someone getting fucked over to function.
fastball 243 days ago [-]
In OP's parlance, a shit job is an exploitative job.

He is saying that through progress there are fewer "shit" jobs, so there are fewer people exploited.

It never has been and never will be economically viable to pay a ditch digger the same amount as a doctor. So as long as jobs like ditch-digging exists, people must be "exploited" to fill them.

knieveltech 243 days ago [-]
I don't think this meets specification. "it never has been and never will be economically viable" scans as handwavy, and I've yet to see anyone calling for "ditch diggers" (job automated out of existence by heavy equipment several decades ago, btw) a wage equivalent to what an MD makes. Your assertion, in essence, appears to be that people get paid low wages because low wage jobs exist. That does nothing to explain why a job sufficiently important to require a human being to perform is low-paying and so far nobody has advanced an explanation that takes into account historic levels of corporate profits and income inequality while wages have been basically stagnant since the 70s.
castle-bravo 243 days ago [-]
I think what the parent post is saying is that exploitative labour practices enable the existence of elites with enough leisure time to create philosophical and technological progress. It's basically the argument that there would be no great classical civilization without slavery, so slavery is justified by the achievements of the civilizations that used it.

I would like to think that in the 21st century we could have idleness for many, and abusive exploitation for none.

jpao79 243 days ago [-]
What's interesting is if you look at percentage household spending, food and healthcare are really the only recurring ones that are not trending downward:

- housing - trending downward when not attempting to live in dense urban area (i.e. prefab modular homes)

- energy - trending downward once renewables and battery technology catch up

- transportation - trending downward when looking at non-luxury cars as well as on demand (Uber, etc.) and electric cars powered by renewables

- childcare/education - trending downward when combined with homeschooling and MOOCs like Coursera, Udacity)

- clothes - trending downward when you focus on store brands

- entertainment - trending downward (Youtube)

What happens if you could build an automated machine that you owned that farmed for you in your backyard and its cost trended downward?

Then really the only cost that needs to be managed is healthcare.

otalp 243 days ago [-]
It's interesting because Marx was writing in a time where automation was considered to even more imminent than it is today. Most intellectuals of the time were of the opinion that work weeks would reduce to 20 hours in a few decades, and people would live in leisure.

One thing Marx got right was this: He said that as long as Capitalism is the dominant system, there will always be full-time employment for the masses. There will be new jobs created in new fields which are far removed from producing goods(jobs like advertising, insurance, etc.). Marx thought that humans as a whole will never work for significantly fewer hours as long as capitalism exists.

Incidentally, Marx was vehemently opposed to things like Universal Healthcare, better Labour laws, Mandatory Vacation and a higher minimum wage. He famously said that if these things were considered Marxist, he himself was 'not a Marxist'. The reason? Because these measures are beneficial to capitalism in the long run because workers are more likely to stay working under a capitalist as their life is bearable. When conditions deteriorate, that is the time that workers are going to revolt and try to own the means of production.

So in reality most of the stuff liberals advocate like better pay and healthcare are decidedly anti-marxist and pro-capitalist. It is opposed by some corporations because they care more about short term profits rather than the long term sustenance of capitalism.

java_script 243 days ago [-]
Yup, ideologically, liberals are the enemy of leftists unfortunately. And much closer to neo-cons. It’s why you’ll never see an actual Marxist anti-Imperialist on the masthead of so-called left-leaning (by some) pubs like NYT, WaPo, the Atlantic, etc. But they’ll happily hire tons of right wingers in the name of “ideological diversity” (see Kevin Williamson, Bari Weiss, plus the ones that have actually stayed on)
TaylorAlexander 243 days ago [-]
I believe it is technically possible to construct machines that produce most of life’s basic necessities at zero marginal cost. I am generally interested in finding others who want to work with me to design the first prototypes of these machines.

We can build any system we’d like.

josephv 243 days ago [-]
So you have whatever mental model you have dreamed up for zero marginal production costs. Does this zero cost production include zero spoilage during the zero cost logistics to move the zero cost food, water, and shelter?

Of course, we can build all of those things because we'd like it. Zero marginal cost world peace awaits us!

I encourage you to chase this! I also encourage a backup plan.

allthenews 243 days ago [-]
The "marginal" costs come from gathering and refining the raw resources that the machines operate on, and maintenance.

We already have machines that produce food. Why do you think they are still manned by an entire workforce? Out of sadism?

jpao79 243 days ago [-]
I find these guy inspiring:

Backyard aeroponics: self-sustaining farm for Wisconsin cold - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4gsnFJRAB0

Internet of Farming: Arduino-based, backyard aquaponics - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2wWTadsBDA

ataturk 242 days ago [-]
Which socioeconomic systems don't force everyone to fend for themselves? Are you talking about communism? Because under communism, not only are you completely naked and on your against the full coercion of the state, when things inevitably go bad, they murder you and throw you and 10,000 other people into the same ditch.
komali2 243 days ago [-]
>accept abusive employment

My friends and I tried to "end game" the conservative mindset and I hadn't thought of this option.

Our exercise was: if hard conservatives achieved their goal of, say, eliminating food stamps, what would happen? Presumably private churches etc couldn't pick up all the slack so the only thing we could think of was skyrocketing crime. What, are people going to just starve to death when they could simply walk out of Safeway with ten loaves of bread and a jar of peanut butter?

fastball 243 days ago [-]
Why is getting a job not an option?
komali2 243 days ago [-]
Do you think the only people on food stamps are the unemployed?


Felony conviction, kids that need watching, physical disability, mental disability, age, lack of language skills, lack of any working skills, lack of available jobs for education level, lack of jobs at all, explicit or implicit racism, off the top of my head.

If you think "laziness" belongs on the list, pm me and I'll send you a digital copy of "Evicted."

fastball 243 days ago [-]
All of those things make getting/holding a job harder.

None of them make it impossible.

I never claimed life is fair, but does unfairness really justify criminality?

Also, as the underlying discussion is "why might honest people need to steal food?", it's not very reasonable to include felony convictions as the first item on your list.

komali2 243 days ago [-]
I know honest people with felony convictions. Do you think a marijuana smoker can't be honest?

I'm not arguing morality, I'm arguing reality. Just like a stock broker would be a fool to expect rationality in the markets, so too would a government be foolish to expect everyone to fall in line when the screws start to turn.

If you grow up a black kid on a street in Atlanta, and you watch your friends get snatched up by the cops for smoking pot, or shot in drive-bys or harassed for standing on corners, and you don't get to go to school cause they don't do bus service in your neighborhood, would you care about "fair?" You care about eating. You're a human. You need to eat.

fastball 243 days ago [-]
I guess by honest I meant "law abiding". Obviously someone that committed and was convicted of a felony does not qualify.

From your example, it sounds like the real issue would be behavior from law enforcement / public officials that encourages criminality. The issue there is not "no food stamps". It's a bad system. Fix the system that you think is broken, and then you won't need food stamps, no?

komali2 243 days ago [-]
Yes, exactly. But, I don't hear arguments to fix the system. And, the system must be fixed before dam plugs can be removed.

Another note, I think it's dangerous to simply conflate "law abiding" with "honest." The system that creates and upholds the laws is simply too flawed to allow it to be considered 1:1 with the country's moral code. See: rich people getting away with sexual assault for ages, the useless "war on drugs," illegal and immoral activity by federal agency followed by the persecution of whistle blowers exposing that activity, etc etc etc.

A system of laws is necessary, but not necessarily good. It should always be questioned and evolving.

aswanson 243 days ago [-]
Causing a rapid increase in gun sales. Two tenets of the platform hit with one stone.
noonespecial 243 days ago [-]
But I do already own some of the robots. I have Amazon stock in my 401k. That's what "the people owning the robots" looks like.

What you're getting at is that there are many people right now who are too poor (and are going to be too poor) to ever own any part of the robots.

This century's great debate is forming up to be whether or not we should give them some anyway even though they can't "earn" it for whatever moving value of earn society is currently accepting.

ihm 243 days ago [-]
Around 80% of stock is owned by the top 10% wealthiest individuals[1]. More recent work[2] puts the percentage even higher. You might own some of the robots but most people don't.

[1]: https://appam.confex.com/appam/2012/webprogram/ExtendedAbstr...

[2]: http://time.com/money/5054009/stock-ownership-10-percent-ric...

gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
But you know what most people DO own? Unnecessary consumer debt that stunts their ability to save and invest. When the average car payment in America is around $500 a month, it's clear evidence that people have a spending problem rather than an income problem. Here's an idea: Teach people not to finance $500 worth of car each month (plus gas, plus insurance, plus maintenance, plus healthcare costs) and suddenly people will be able to amass multiple millions of dollars in investments over their working career.
hfdgiutdryg 243 days ago [-]
Teach people not to finance $500 worth of car each month (plus gas, plus insurance, plus maintenance

How? Keep in mind, I drive a car I bought for $1700 cash and I've restored and maintained it with my own hands.

Most people don't have the time, knowledge, tools, or space to maintain an older car, so a new car with a warranty is a smart move.

New cars are safer and more fuel efficient. They last longer than ever before. Not having a car is not an option for most Americans.

I don't see how a car payment is indicative of poor decision-making.

ytNumbers 243 days ago [-]
I have concluded that, in the USA, most ordinary folks have, much to their detriment, never heard of Dave Ramsey.


athenot 243 days ago [-]
He's a mixed bag. Some sound advice, in particular the parts about living within one's means; but there's also things that are utterly unrealistic, like:

> If you were to invest that (...) into a good mutual fund with a 12% rate of return, you would have over $100,000 in 10 years! At 20 years, you would have made $470,000. And at 30 years? That mutual fund would be worth $1.6 million!

Maybe I'm not savvy enough but I have not encountered mutual funds that will reliably sustain 12% over three decades.

logfromblammo 243 days ago [-]
"Cash for Clunkers" took a lot of wind out of this particular sail. It crippled the used car market for years, and propped the door wide open for predatory "buy here pay here" auto sellers.

Nevertheless, I haven't had a car payment for so long that I can't remember the last time I paid one. Trips to the mechanic are frequent and costly, but at least I'm not uselessly paying interest.

I'm surprised Ramsey can have a successful national brand saying little more than infinite variations on "spend less than you earn", but there he is, and I guess some people need to hear it like that.

wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
I've never personally owned a car, but I did grow up in a pretty car-centric area and am generally aware of my parents' purchasing decisions, in an environment where there wasn't a lot of money to go around.

If you must have a new car (we bought used fairly often, with good results), there are a dozen cars you can buy for around $15k, which works out to $270/mo with a 3.1% loan. I'm really stacking the deck here: I ignored cars that are too small, since I assume a family with children, I'm using a pretty high interest rate, and I'm ignoring used cars. Bear in mind that the _average_ payment means that it's ignoring the substantial amount of people who don't have kids and would be fine with a smaller car, or those with better credit who can get a better rate.

That being said, I don't know enough about the distribution of the discussed figure to say whether it makes sense in the way we're using it: $500 is the mean payment, not the median, so it would be a mistake to assume that there's an "average person" who pays $500. It's just as likely that some people have higher payments (that they can afford easily) and poorer people have lower ones.

gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
You can buy excellent cars that will last a long time for far less than $500 a month. $500 a month for much more car than you need is a very poor decision because you can get by with much less and invest the rest.
frgtpsswrdlame 243 days ago [-]
You're really misusing that figure, here is the quote from the article you linked below:

>The average new car payment in America has crept above the $500 per month mark for the fist time, settling in at $503, according to a recent study by Experian.

and here's your statement:

>When the average car payment in America is around $500 a month

See the mismatch? This is not evidence that people (especially poor ones) are overspending on cars. It doesn't say anything about people without car payments, people with used cars, people who bought outright or even how many people exist in those categories. Besides I just put $500/month on a 5 year auto loan into googles calculator and I got a cost of $27,751. This isn't exactly an extravagant purchase for a new car.

Besides this notion that most people will ever be able to cut their expenses enough to "amass multiple millions of dollars in investments over their working career" is just painfully out of touch.

komali2 243 days ago [-]
Isn't education the government's responsibility?

So, the American people don't have a spending problem, America has an education problem. (America has many education problems, really)

People only do what they know how to do. If you let a street worth of kids grow up on the street without giving them another opportunity, how are they gonna put food on their table? The ways they learned on the street. Same idea.

tsnont34nt 243 days ago [-]
Can you post a reference to that $500 number? I find that hard to believe. I was leasing a luxury car for around $400/mo a few years ago. What kinds of cars are average Americans leasing? Rolls Royces?
sjg007 243 days ago [-]
$500 a month is basically a 4 year loan on a $20k car. That's a lot in a real sense but not a lot today in terms of a car. The only good thing is that cars post 2002 seem to be more way more reliable on average, however, finding low mileage cars is difficult. Suburbans/minivans and other family transport vehicles tend to hold their value fairly well (except maybe Dodge minivans)...
syshum 243 days ago [-]
> The only good thing is that cars post 2002 seem to be more way more reliable on average

The manufacturers needed to make them last more than 100K because most of the manufacturers are closely if not directly tied to the financing, and if they wanted to make loans at high interest and 96mos they needed a car that would last at least long enough to cover the majority of new 65+ mo loans people are getting.

wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
The figure is for purchase, not lease. You can get more car for your lease dollar because at the end of the lease, you have no asset that you own.
gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
CJefferson 243 days ago [-]
You've replied to multiple posts about these poor people with $500 month car financing. Prove it. And show what they should be doing instead.
gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]

Instead, buy a used car for $5,000 to $10,000 and use it. Invest the rest. Hell, financing a car for $200 and investing the rest would be much better than financing $500 worth of car per month.

learc83 243 days ago [-]
The OP said prove it. You didn't do that.

Poor people aren't financing cars for $500 a month. $500 a month is the average monthly cost for a new car loan. Poor people aren't financing cars for that much.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Owning stock is really a very messy proxy for wealth. What do you think would happen if they all sold their stock? They would plummet their paper networth..

And its also not given that such a money, well gotten, has been produced by giving something in exchange, so it has removed tat money from less inefficient hands. It was still owned by someone, just changed hands.

Bastiat was right about something, using money as a measure of economics is just an invitation to confusion.

TaylorAlexander 243 days ago [-]
I think there are some differences between owning stock and owning the machines. Stock gives you abstract control through voting, and the board has much more power than you. When you own the machine, you can physically operate it yourself. It’s like owning a car versus owning stock in Uber - when you own a car you reap the benefits of cheap travel much more directly and in a very different way than getting a dividend check.

I think stock schemes can work as an abstraction, but only when combined with other bylaws that grant clear powers to shareholders (like a bill of rights). I write a little about that in one of my speculative fiction stories on automated society here:


sigstoat 243 days ago [-]
> I think there are some differences between owning stock and owning the machines. ... When you own the machine, you can physically operate it yourself.

i... sure?

if i'm not an expert in using (and maintaining) that equipment (who also happens to own a space which is large enough and zoned for that equipment, and proximate to the customers or raw inputs for the equipment), owning the corporation that owns the equipment is better than owning the machinery, because it means i also employ people to run (and maintain) the semiconductor fabs and wire bending machines and shit (which have been located in cost effective places) for me, so i can go off and do the things i know how to do well.

> ...when you own a car you reap the benefits of cheap travel much more directly and in a very different way than getting a dividend check.

i also accept all of the risks and responsibilities directly. if i buy into a hypothetical publicly traded ride sharing company, i don't have to worry about any of that.

noonespecial 243 days ago [-]
>When you own the machine, you can physically operate it yourself.

Can I? I've got no clue how to run a Kiva, I just know that somewhere, there's one making me a few pennies right now being run and maintained by people who know what they're doing.

TaylorAlexander 243 days ago [-]
Following the car analogy, many people don’t know how to change their oil, but they could if they wanted. That is a freedom a piece of normal stock does not give you. If your stock truly represented an equal share of the operation, you could work with other shareholders and manage the local warehouse to your liking. It sounds like you’re satisfied with Amazon, so perhaps you won’t get involved. But it would give the warehouse workers a voice if they felt they were being abused.
noonespecial 243 days ago [-]
I'm not exactly disagreeing. I'd absolutely explicitly dump my Amazon (the whole mutual fund its in actually) if a robot-owning stock with a "shareholder bill of rights" as you describe existed.

A product/brand independent "means of production" type investment is an interesting idea. It still doesn't fix the fact that there are people who are just never going to have the resources to buy into such a thing, which I think is really the core of the issue.

Clubber 243 days ago [-]
Yes, shareholder voting can be heavily manipulated just like political voting can. It's between guy A who does what the board wants and guy B who does what the board wants a lot of the time.

Of course if you are a common stock holder you are at the bottom of the barrel as far as value goes. Preferred stock holders get all their money first, and then common share holder get what's left (at least in a liquidation).

baby 243 days ago [-]
In a few centuries students in history classes will look back and try to understand why we let our people die in the streets.
pascalxus 243 days ago [-]
SF spends 240 million dollars every year to help the homeless. That's more than most city's entire budget. The reason that money doesn't help anyone is because it won't go very far in a city where housing costs 2000$ per square foot. And it really doesn't need to be like this at all. It's an entirely man made disaster of colossal proportions.

There's plenty of blame to go around. You can thank all the NIMBYs and countless housing regulations that prevent cost effective shelter from being created.

It's within our technological power to create housing for a tiny fraction of what it costs today in SF: just look at the tiny house movement. Just imagine how much cheaper it would be if something like that was built but stackable. Housing, A potentially multi-trillion dollar industry, completely unassailable, very few companies or investors are investing in this, all thanks to: Regulation.

Regulations and land use policy hamstring developers, increasing costs endlessly. Instead of working against them, we should be working with them to streamline and reduce their costs and finding ways to create more competition between them, to ensure that people get the very lowest prices. It can be done. Places like Dallas are growing every bit as quickly as SF/bay area and can still create housing for 100$/sq foot. I suspect even lower prices are possible with the removal of regulation: which would finally allow humanity to innovate in this area, rather than creating yet more cat video apps.

This harmful idea that real estate is something that should go up and up forever is wrong: morally and economically. In a world that is progressing, things should be getting cheaper, even real-estate.

Right now, your options in SF are a 200$ tent under a bridge or a 2 million dollar condo. There, really ought to be more options between those two extremes.

CobrastanJorji 243 days ago [-]
> just look at the tiny house movement. Just imagine how much cheaper it would be if something like that was built but stackable.

Say, did you ever read or see "Ready Player One"?

pascalxus 243 days ago [-]
I see your point. but, I'd rather live in a small apartment trailer (which could have heating, water, electricity, etc) than a tent.
piracykills 243 days ago [-]
I don't think so, reading real statistics on this kind of thing instead of alarmist and politically slanted headlines paints a very different picture of how the world is doing.


toomuchtodo 243 days ago [-]
As global average quality of life trends upward, the American lower and middle class are dying quietly in the streets.



wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
So you're thinking that people in the future will wonder why we weren't more parochial in our sphere of concerns? More precisely, they'll be morally shocked at the notion that we were too close to treating all humans as of equal moral worth, instead of prioritizing those that are located closer to us geographically?

Don't get me wrong, I'm very aware that most moral systems have somewhat-principled reasons to prioritize those that are geographically closer to you. This is intended more to illuminate that side of the argument than as a full-fledged suggestion for how to set our priorities. But the claim being discussed here, that the future will wonder why we let people die in the streets, is still bizarre to me in the context that you're framing it in.

Dylan16807 243 days ago [-]
You act like we're putting in enormous efforts overseas to improve life, when we really aren't.
wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
No, I'm not. You're projecting your overly simple-minded model of the economy and the world onto me.
Dylan16807 243 days ago [-]
toomuchtodo pointed out we're not doing enough about a problem that exists locally.

You argued that thinking globally is more important than thinking parochially, which is fine by itself. But it's totally unrelated to what toomuchtodo is saying unless we were taking global action in lieu of local action.

So I assumed you meant that, because it's critical to your comment being relevant.

If you didn't mean that, then your argument falls apart. toomuchtodo is not arguing for being parochial, they're arguing that we should be making it a priority to fight this problem at all.

piracykills 243 days ago [-]
That's a very niche problem in comparison - we're talking hundreds of millions of people leaving poverty across the globe compared to under hundreds of thousands dying of opioid overdoses. Perhaps it's because I'm not American, but I just don't find it that concerning when put into the larger picture.
toomuchtodo 243 days ago [-]
Perhaps you not finding it concerning emphasizes the problem. As an American, it greatly concerns me. It’s also why populism and nationalism have taken hold in first world countries.
piracykills 243 days ago [-]
That some tiny portion of the deaths in your country are from opioid overdoses? People voluntarily injecting themselves with drugs and fucking up? Why exactly does this concern you so much? It's hard to see it as representative of a larger systemic problem beyond the American drug enforcement and medical systems resulting in over-prescription of opioids and fenantly entering common usage. Not much beyond that, is there? I don't see a larger trend to extrapolate from that.
toomuchtodo 243 days ago [-]
The opioid epidemic is a symptom of underlying socioeconomic and societal issues. That is why it concerns me so greatly. It’s a canary in the coal mine, if you will.
piracykills 243 days ago [-]
I don't think so - over-prescription of opioids and more common usage of fentanyl seem to the be the key factors in the death increases. Nothing to do with underlying socioeconomic conditions nor societal problems. I don't understand how you're making that leap - care to elaborate?
toomuchtodo 243 days ago [-]
The Guardian has an excellent piece far better than me rehashing it.


“Is the US facing an epidemic of 'deaths of despair'? These researchers say yes”

243 days ago [-]
Domenic_S 243 days ago [-]
The whole lower and middle classes? What do you mean by this? What does "quietly" mean -- there's been a ton of activity on the opioid crisis in Washington lately?
243 days ago [-]
knieveltech 243 days ago [-]
It is fascinating how frequently modest increases in quality of living in third world countries is wheeled out as justification for the predations of capitalism. If we're going to have a serious conversation about how the world is doing that has to include the fact that the global economy is predicated on continuous growth despite finite natural resources. There is also a few environmental issues that might be relevant.
piracykills 243 days ago [-]
I'd advise reading the article I linked, the increases are far from modest in many cases.

I'll agree with you on the environmental issues, but I think we're well on the way to solving those too and largely via the same mechanisms, Chinese solar is close to pushing coal out of business on price. That's not to say there's no role for regulation in the environmental direction though, I certainly think there probably should be, but how to do so globally and fairly is a bit of a catastrophe.

knieveltech 241 days ago [-]
I would be honestly delighted to know through what mechanism you believe collapsing marine fisheries, coral bleaching, the Pacific trash gyre, global warming accelerated desertification, aquifer depletion, topsoil depletion, and a whole host of other issues I can't name off the top of my head are on the cusp of being "solved".
243 days ago [-]
ekianjo 243 days ago [-]
we just halved poverty in the world in the past 20 years. Time to check your facts again.
eeZah7Ux 243 days ago [-]
halved != eradicated.

Given the incredible amount of energy and resources being wasted by some of the richest countries this level of inequality is far from acceptable.

progval 243 days ago [-]
You're assuming it will get better in the future.
243 days ago [-]
potatolicious 243 days ago [-]
I too am afraid that our future descendants will look at our actions with disdain.

But I am even more afraid that our future descendants will live in the same rampant callousness and cruelty that we've created and perpetuated.

If they live in a better world than ours and look at us like savages, then I think overall things will have gone pretty well.

drharby 243 days ago [-]
I disagree
dvdhnt 243 days ago [-]
Care to elaborate?
drharby 243 days ago [-]
They didn't - so no
Domenic_S 243 days ago [-]
Who is dying in the street in substantial numbers?
ItsMe000001 243 days ago [-]
Poor people die earlier. More importantly though their quality of life sucks, especially in a country with tens of millions without health insurance. They may have rotten teeth and loads of stress, but hey, they are not dead yet so what's the problem?

Sorry that it's all The Guardian but they had a series that I happened to remember, and I think that publication has a good enough reputation:




Of course, if we find the slightest mistake or hyperbole (if there even is any) in an article or comment about the plight of the poor we can discuss THAT instead and dismiss the entire thought. Another form of bike-shedding, instead of using good faith for the discussion use every tiny opening of the "opponent" to sidetrack the discussion and to dismiss the issue.

So, where are the people of the masses of dying in the streets? None? Even in San Francisco they look shabby but very much still alive? Well, case closed I guess.

Domenic_S 243 days ago [-]
You're moving the goalposts. The person I replied to implied that people are literally dying in the gutters, so of course future humans will look at us with genuine confusion -- who steps over a dying person in the street? How does that make sense? It trivializes the problem and handwaves away the millions of people who help the poor/homeless, and the millions of dollars we spend on that.

If future historians look at any part of this with confusion, it'll be the part where we ignore mental health and think dumping cash/housing/whatever on a person will solve everything.

bitwize 243 days ago [-]
Go to San Francisco. You'll meet them.
Notorious_BLT 243 days ago [-]
You mean the progressive city that still refuses to build housing?
arielweisberg 243 days ago [-]
That assumes the profits go to the shareholders. I don't think that's a safe assumption and I don't think that will necessarily persist.
progval 243 days ago [-]
> I have Amazon stock in my 401k.

It's weird seeing someone writing this in a thread about how Amazon exploits its workers for profits (ie. in part for its shareholders).

noonespecial 243 days ago [-]
Its not lost on me... I first thought "those bastards", then had a flash of insight, checked the breakdown of the biggest mutual fund I'm invested in and realized, I'm one of them.
rwmj 243 days ago [-]
As a thought experiment I wonder if it will be better or worse when Amazon eventually automates all those jobs (yes, maybe even the programmers' jobs one day).
SubiculumCode 243 days ago [-]
With truly advanced multi-purpose robots (like in sci-fi), it would take just one donation of a robot to a charity to start a 'robot self-replication for poverty movement', where one robot build another with its own labor, doubling, and doubling again, until every down and out has their own pool of robotic laborers.
bbddg 243 days ago [-]
This implies a world with unlimited energy and natural resources?
SubiculumCode 243 days ago [-]
I didn't mean to imply doubling forever. Also, yes I assumed that the robot would have to be employed at least initially to earn a wage, so that it could buy materials and components off alibaba.
bbddg 243 days ago [-]
How much do you think raw materials are going to cost in a world with free labor? What's to stop rich people from just buying up all the resources? With free labor they can use as much resources as they get their hands on.

There are structural problems in our society that cannot be solved with new technology.

SubiculumCode 243 days ago [-]
Space is big. The asteroid belt plus robotics. There is a lot of energy from the sun. There is a lot of iron.
bbddg 242 days ago [-]
Fully Automated Space Communism.
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
> But I do already own some of the robots. I have Amazon stock in my 401k. That's what "the people owning the robots" looks like.

Is it though? Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't stock only generates value if it increases in price (or the company decides it wants to pay dividends), and not directly from the productivity of robots?

To put it a bit more clearly, your stock only makes you money if Amazon keeps growing. Let say Amazon were to reach a theoretical maximum size: profits and value stop growing. It would still generate massive amounts of money but would it be obliged to give you a cut of it?

lr4444lr 243 days ago [-]
To put it a bit more clearly, your stock only makes you money if Amazon keeps growing

No, I think you have it incorrect. As long as revenue > costs and internal expenditures, you make money by dividends. That's the whole reason we buy stocks. Price growth is ultimately just a projection of the belief in higher future dividends.

teemwerk 243 days ago [-]
I don't want to split hairs because you are correct, and this isn't really directed at you.

I'd just like to point out that if you believe in roughly efficient markets, if your enterprise maintains its value, if you amass a pile of cash, that will be reflected in your share price.

The dividends come directly out of that share price whenever issued. You can theoretically amass a pile of money that would make Smaug blush, and this will increase your share price to reflect. But that cash isn't being reinvested, it's only going to increase linearly with respect to that cash position. Which is why in many circumstances investors frown upon it.

m_fayer 243 days ago [-]
Many tech stocks pay very little in dividends or none at all, even if the company is quite profitable. In tech it's all about share price.
Sargos 243 days ago [-]
That's because they are growing at a large rate. When that growth stops the only option they will have is to pay dividends. The investors make money either way.
teemwerk 243 days ago [-]
There's also buybacks, which has mostly been tech companies' weapon of choice when it comes to capital return.
eberkund 243 days ago [-]
If it stops growing and the "massive amounts of money" it generates result in a profit, then shareholders like the parent could vote that the company starts paying dividends to shareholders. So to answer your question: Yes.
shamsalmon 243 days ago [-]
Due to population increase the revenues would grow. When a company stops growing and increasing revenue its not keeping up with population increase and may as well be dying.

There are also stocks with high dividends, which are paid out based on profit and not by the stock increasing in value.

This is obviously ignoring the fact many people either make horrible financial decision or are too poor to invest in stocks.

aylmao 243 days ago [-]
> Due to population increase the revenues would grow. When a company stops growing and increasing revenue its not keeping up with population increase and may as well be dying.

I'd like to retort this because I think it's important to have a bit of perspective here:

1. Population growth doesn't imply market growth.

If I sell polio treatment, my market are the number of people with polio, which thankfully hasn't been correlated with population growth.

2. Market growth doesn't imply revenue growth.


3. Revenue growth doesn't imply profit growth.

Say, for example, I run a company building cheap computers for the children of low-income families. As I move into new countries and expand my revenue I might want to, instead of increasing profits, make my computers cheaper so more children have access to them.

2 and 3 are usually not true when companies are trying to maximize profits, but I don't think 1 should be at all rare.

Anyway, this is besides where the discussion was meant to go, but thought I'd share.

didibus 243 days ago [-]

The revenue is used somehow. The board decides how. And shareholders elect board members.

Thus, if growth stalled, but there was excess revenue, the board would need to decide where it goes. It could be used to help growth revive, by using it to invest in future prospects, it could choose to use it towards employee compensations, maybe if it believes its required to retain talent, or it could choose to give it to shareholders as dividend.

If the board does make decisions the shareholders don't like, they can eventually be booted out and replaced by a new one.

stale2002 243 days ago [-]
Yes it would.

This isn't a new problem you are talking about. Stocks have worked like this since they have existed.

Go take a look at any major company that "stopped growing" but is still making money, and see how it works.

243 days ago [-]
bbddg 243 days ago [-]
Well maybe the problem is that you own part of the company instead of the people who actually work there.
gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
The average working class American is financing their car. The average car payment is $500. That is way too much car, yet people are financing that. Over the average working career, this $500 per month represents a foregone multi-million dollar net worth at retirement. So the average working class American is poor or struggling for cash not because of income issues, but because of spending issues. We have a spending problem in this country. If everyone working in Amazon's warehouses prioritized wise financial decisions, like not financing a car for $500 a month or more, they'd be able to demand better work conditions because they wouldn't be as dependent on the job.

Amazon needs to do better, but working class Americans also need to do better with their finances so they don't spend themselves into awful situations like this. Ultimately the idea that the average working class American will never be able to afford stock is just a fairy tale peddled by Marxists. The average working class American is more than capable of amassing a multi million dollar net worth by retirement by making wise decisions and investing, instead of crapping away all their income on things they don't actually need.

icebraining 243 days ago [-]
That average payment is for all Americans, not just working-class. The bottom 20% of American households spends only $3559/year on transportation (overall, not just on car payments). So either their car payments are much lower, or they just don't own many cars, but in any case they don't have many $500 car payments to forgo.


CamTin 243 days ago [-]
I can't find a way that $500 per month adds up to "multi-million dollar net worth". Even at a very optimistic 10% return rate, it comes to just over 1.1 million over thirty years. What assumptions are you making in your calculation to come up with 2million+ at retirement from $500 per month of savings?
rconti 243 days ago [-]
... and how is spending $0 on transportation a reasonable solution, anyway?
wehadfun 243 days ago [-]
It's not. Even if you walked to your job. The additional money you would pay in rent / time / uber is not worth it. Just buy a car unless you live in an actual pedestrian city.
ThrustVectoring 243 days ago [-]
In order to finance a dollar of monthly spending, you need roughly $300 invested. Actual returns are generally somewhat higher, due to requiring a lower amount of variance to handle sequence-of-returns risk in distribution, but the rule of thumb holds. Which suggests the car-buying habit puts you roughly $150k in the hole.
gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
$500 a month is $6000 a year. $6000 a year invested from 26 to 66 at 10% interest per year is $2,921,110.87. At 12% it's $5,154,854.34.

Keep in mind this is just from a single decision the average person is making.

amvalo 243 days ago [-]
WTF kind of fairy land is this? 10% is already a dream, but at least it's a round number, unlike the 12% you just arbitrarily threw out there.
phinnaeus 243 days ago [-]
Just for clarification, where is 10% interest coming from? Mutual funds? 401k? Something else?

Serious question, I am not financially knowledgeable but I know you'd never get 10% interest in a savings account (for example).

gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
Mutual funds / index funds / real estate
ummonk 243 days ago [-]
So you're expecting people to make 10-12% in after-inflation returns?
gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
Making 7 to 10 percent after inflation is possible and it is sufficient to amass more than 1 million dollars by retirement just from changing this one habit. The point was that the average financed car is worth a massive amount in opportunity cost.
wombatpm 243 days ago [-]
And isn't that 10% and 12 % growth assumption the reason all pensions are in trouble?
CamTin 243 days ago [-]
Ok so you're assuming 40 years instead of 30. That's where the discrepancy is. Thank you for clarifying.
gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
Yep. You can also assume 45 years if someone starts working at 20 and retires at 65.
dtech 243 days ago [-]
Not many places offering 10% ROI to people who can invest $500 a month.
gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
So invest it as $6,000 per year. Doesn't have to be $500 per month.
burke 243 days ago [-]
> Americans also need to do better

Blaming any problem of this magnitude on individuals is not reasonable.

There's a systemic pressure toward overspending through advertising, etc., and we've created a society where many people make an amount of money, that, if spent "wisely", procures a stressful and unfulfilling existence.

Clearly Marxism is not the right solution: our system isn't inherently and completely broken, but it needs adjustment. I think Piketty has the right idea. A progressive tax on capital would do a lot to equalize this inequality — if we could ever amass the political will to implement it — though it wouldn't correct our current situation where everyone is constantly manipulated to think they'll be happy if only they buy this one more object.

wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
> Blaming any problem of this magnitude on individuals is not reasonable.

This is just anecdotal, but I see this a LOT. The stubborn insistence that blame is paramount in any discussion and that the world should be made fair before action can be taken to improve one's life is a pretty substantial barrier to said improvement. Sometimes the deck is stacked, and working on unstacking the deck can happen in parallel with reacting to the world as it is now. Out of college, I had friends who made half as much as me and spent twice as much; income aside, we were both exposed to pretty much exactly the same environment, and somehow we made purchasing decisions that were completely swapped from what you'd expect. As the parent comment said, "Amazon needs to do better" too, but putting personal behavior outside of the realm of control of the individual isn't helping anyone, it's harming them.

I agree with your general point that simply wishing that people would do better for a behavorial issue at this scale is unlikely to do much, but I don't think that's implied by the GP comment's suggestion. There have been successful campaigns to cause large-scale behavioral shifts before[1], and recognizing personal choice as a potential mechanism of improvement doesn't mean we can't approach the problem in an intentional, structural manner.

Just an aside, but in all of this I'm taking on faith the power of advertising that the HN community at large seems to consistently think that we're helpless before; this has never been my experience; I don't care much about ads, I don't see any mechanism in which they could drive my purchase decisions, etc etc. To wit, I buy the cheapest option (that I haven't already tried and disliked) for cheap items and extensively research medium to high priced ones. There's no question that brand advertising affects my level of brand awareness, but it's _really_ not difficult at all to remove that factor from your purchasing decisions. If anything, my prior would be that all the people who blindly purchase based on brand awareness are shifting the value prop towards brands that are _less_ well-known, since theoretically they need to compete on something else (price, features, quality, whatever).

[1] Spend any time with Europeans and you'll appreciate how impressive the American anti-smoking campaign was.

burke 243 days ago [-]
I think my actual position here is a little more nuanced than it came across before, and I pretty much agree with you.

I find it silly to blame individuals (if only they would do better!). The law of large numbers applied to these cases guarantees that there is a systemic issue, not an individual one — however — I think this sort of "you all should do better!" campaign can be a perfectly viable solution to a systemic issue in some cases, if it can effectively shift enough mindsets to turn a cultural tide.

Blame is a ridiculous concept when talking about large-scale social dynamics, and effectively shuts down the search for any systemic adjustment that would constitute a fix.

wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
Thanks for the response. I guess my main point of contention was assuming that the GP commenter was saying that it's 100% an individual blame problem, when that's belied by "Amazon needs to do better too".

> Blame is a ridiculous concept when talking about large-scale social dynamics, and effectively shuts down the search for any systemic adjustment that would constitute a fix.

I agree with you. Frankly, I rarely find the concept of blame to be all that useful for improving matters. For an example from the other side of the politically-coded spectrum, terms like "victim-blaming" are most often used as thought-terminating clichés, selectively applied to avoid having to justify one's point. For example, telling women not to dress provocatively when going out and telling tourists to keep their passport close to them and watch their bags are both just as "victim-blaming" as the other, but only one of these is given that label. (FWIW, the reason I disagree with the former and agree with the latter is that being able to dress as one pleases is a lot more core to my conception of fsirly fundamental rights than being able to avoid paying attention to one's belongings).

gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
The people who whine about systemic causes will never admit that there's elements of personal responsibility in these choices.
burke 243 days ago [-]
Personal responsibility on a large scale is a systemic factor. It's like quantum and classical mechanics. A single quark has probabilistic behaviour, but a million quarks behave in an aggregate, predictable way. You can tweak personal responsibility en masse through new systemic inputs, but I don' think personal responsibility nor individual blame map well onto discussions of issues involving large groups of individuals.
java_script 243 days ago [-]
The future of work is shitty jobs like this, but a la Uber you "get your side-hustle on" AKA have no rights or security as an employee ever anywhere.

e: Which, speaking of Marxism, this situation will keep you permanently alienated from your coworkers and will forever prevent community bonds from forming with them.

dvdhnt 243 days ago [-]
Which is basically the MO of those who are in power and control resources since forever, or at least in the U.S. - divide and conquer, project fault on outsiders, etc. For all that the internet has done, it has made weakening local communities easier.
chiefalchemist 243 days ago [-]
The sad irony of Uber et al is that it's only a matter of time before those drivers are replaced by AI.

The point being, those drivers are doing more for the (short term) future of that company than any other entity. In the long term? For those drivers? The long term is not being an Uber driver.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
What do you think these people were doing being being drivers for uber?
bmurphy1976 243 days ago [-]
Probably struggling from the previous 40 years of union busting, rights erosion, offshoring, financial manipulation, and discrimination.
conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Struggling doesn't pay. What where they doing with the productivity before Uber, thats the question. Are you saying they weren't doing anything at all and uber lifted them out of extreme poverty?
tsnont34nt 243 days ago [-]
Not the GP, but my guess is that they mean that they were doing equally bad jobs, but without Uber's pretense that it wasn't a bad job.
conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Poor them, being deluded from a job they had to a job they wanted. IF we could only enact legislation that forbid changing jobs.
ythn 243 days ago [-]
> AKA have no rights or security as an employee ever anywhere.

I get what you are saying, but somehow this attitude also rubs me the wrong way sometimes.

It's like "Hey, I'll pay anyone a nickle per piece of trash they pick up in the local forests"

Soon: "NiceNature is the worst company ever! They exploit their workers to pick up garbage without proper protection, the employees have no rights or securities and are forced to pee on trees because no bathrooms are provided! Worst of all, they aren't even paid a living wage! /u/ythn is the worst CEO ever, he gluts himself off of the labors of the socioeconomicly desperate!"

Like, all I really wanted was to fix a problem I saw with our local forests, not become a human trafficker...

throwaway2048 243 days ago [-]
The problem with your framing is that a lot of companies like to pretend they are about making the world a better place, when what they are actually about is making their owners money.
aisengard 243 days ago [-]
That's not a good analogy to something like Uber, because there's no profit motive. What you described is essentially a government works program, which is a great idea! But that's not what anyone seems to be talking about.
ythn 243 days ago [-]
You're right, the analogy is not good. I was more thinking about making an app for fun that solves some problem, makes you and your users a little money on the side, mostly intended for teenagers/college students, etc., but then the masses move into to squeeze every last cent out of it and I get demonized and accused of exploiting workers, etc, when it was never meant to be a life-sustaining employment opportunity to begin with.

I.e. "biting the hand that feeds you" syndrome. Can't we just make cool things that don't require you to give 401k matching to everyone who touches your cool thing?

Again, maybe this doesn't apply to Uber and they totally could be giving full benefits to all drivers, etc., but I'm just saying in general

throwaway2048 243 days ago [-]
this mentality becomes a problem when its pushing real jobs that people rely on out, especially when we are talking about the founders getting immensely rich off this.
aisengard 243 days ago [-]
Someone has to provide necessities to society. In absence of government directly providing it, we force companies to do it. What you want is, essentially, socialism, with a little bit of the market carved out for market capitalism. Sounds good to me!
djhartman 243 days ago [-]
This is a ridiculous comparison. How would you be enriching yourself by paying people to pick up trash? Did you get a contract from the government or the owner to pick up the trash? If you did, then yes you should probably take some of that money you made and hire some people to do the work or do it yourself.
jimmaswell 243 days ago [-]
> How would you be enriching yourself by paying people to pick up trash?

You get to have nicer forests to walk in?

djhartman 243 days ago [-]
I’m responding to their comment...

> /u/ythn is the worst CEO ever, he gluts himself off of the labors of the socioeconomicly desperate!"

eloff 243 days ago [-]
From the point of view of creating a society with least inequality all must own an equal share of production. This is straight up Marxism, and anywhere anything like it has been attempted, it made everyone equally poor.

The problem is capital owns production, and capital is not distributed equally. And if you forcefully try to change that too much, capital leaves for greener pastures or is no longer put to work.

I don't think equality is a good goal. I think a good standard of living for all citizens should be the goal. After that's been achieved, I don't care how rich the 1% are.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
I think this misunderstands economics. The day robots are in the market the value of what they produce will drop to nothing, much like most things done in high scale by machines today.

The value of things are proportional to the human labor expended to make them, if robots do free shipping and all of that, their cost will tend to drop to the cost of making the robots.

The public narrative that robots should be taxes is as logical as saying we should tax computer, or hammers. Its not economics. A more compelling argument is that the shift of work in the future will be even more detrimental than what we know, which might be true, but it has also been true in the past.

learc83 243 days ago [-]
>The value of things are proportional to the human labor expended to make them

That's one theory of value--there are many others.

netsharc 243 days ago [-]
Shitty jobs is already spreading. Uber driver, Deliveroo biker, and their hundreds of copycats, all of them where "you're not an employee, you're a contractor".
wombatpm 243 days ago [-]
Wait until the realize that the strip-club model of independent contractor would allow them to charge their contractors for the privilege of working in their environment.
wutbrodo 243 days ago [-]
My baseline intuition is that trying to jam equality into production instead of just doing so explicitly and intentionally doesn't make a lot of sense. To be concrete, I've never understood why (esp in America), we're so obsessed with trying to force social welfare solutions into the labor relationship instead of simply doing so directly, government action.

Your example of collective ownership of capital happens to horsehoe back to not being all that different from my suggestion, but what's the advantage of collective ownership over simply high tax rates (on capital gains, if you like) and redistribution?

The usual argument against something like this (e.g. a UBI) is the psychological effects on those who don't work, but that seems moot for the purposes of this comparison, since the exact same would be true of collective ownership of capital that you have no real-world experience with or connection to.

skybrian 243 days ago [-]
Thinking about what "owning the robots" might actually look like, the easiest way I can think to solve it would be for the government to buy index funds and use the proceeds to fund basic income.

This wouldn't own any robots from privately-owned companies, though.

ThrustVectoring 243 days ago [-]
Privately-owned companies not having publicly available shares for sale isn't really a barrier for the government - they write the tax laws. If the US government wants a piece of their profits, they can get it.
ComodoHacker 243 days ago [-]
>Instead, if the people own the machines collectively, then they can enjoy the productivity gains themselves as a group.

Isn't this basically a corporation?

leggomylibro 243 days ago [-]
I think we need to democratize the means of automation.

Building blocks spanning microcontrollers to motors to power converters to lighting to the rapid fabrication of small parts have never been cheaper or more accessible. And why would you buy remote-controlled lightbulbs from BigCo if you could make one yourself (or get a friend to) for the cost of a sandwich?

Because you can't spare the extra $3 to buy a fair-trade organic lightbulb every few months, would probably be the answer. And that would probably be because you're stuck in jobs like these. So maybe I'm just spouting baseless optimism.

madamelic 243 days ago [-]
>Building blocks spanning microcontrollers to motors to power converters to lighting to the rapid fabrication of small parts have never been cheaper or more accessible. And why would you buy remote-controlled lightbulbs from BigCo if you could make one yourself (or get a friend to) for the cost of a sandwich?

I think you need to step out of the engineer shoes.

The majority of people struggle to understand their computer works, let alone building their own robots and writing the software.

leggomylibro 243 days ago [-]
Sure, but education on those topics has also never been cheaper or more accessible. And these days, you could use something like MakeCode to automate simple tasks without ever touching a programming environment.

There still aren't many people muddling through the introductory online courses on those topics, but there could be. Encouraging participation in learning about useful subjects seems like another good goal which could be helped by the low cost-at-scale of things like MOOCs, and showing people how to make useful things actually happen in the real world seems like a good way to reinforce that encouragement.

icebraining 243 days ago [-]
These people are working in very stressful environments, often for 10-12 hours/day, and making a pittance (which also adds to overall stress). Add a kid, and the idea of having time and mental energy for learning programming starts to sound a bit far-fetched.
leggomylibro 243 days ago [-]
Fine, but what can anyone do to reach someone in that situation? Could we maybe start with people who work 8-10 hours/day, make enough for beer money, and can leave their children with friends or family to make room for maybe 4-8 hours out of a month?

Or should we just look at the situation, throw up our hands, and

rb808 243 days ago [-]
You're not the only one afraid.

However look at all the factories closing down and manufacturing jobs lost, plus coal mines etc. Many of those jobs weren't that great either.

nbardy 243 days ago [-]
I don't know if ownership of the actual robots is a key component. But certainly, have full access and power to customize the machines in use is important. Something similar is already happening now in the developing world where the first access to the internet and computing for most people is a mobile phone. There is a growing number of people who don't know how to type on a keyboard but know how to use a computer. Voice commands are a large part of their input. As great as voice command can be, there is power and flexibility you simply can't access without a keyboard.

The only way I learned to program and now have a career is because I had easy access to the internals of a computer. I could start tinkering. I started messing with the internals of the computer even before I started programming. My curiosity led me to the file system of games and I started replacing sound and image files to mod my games. If someone's access to computing is a mobile phone they download and install prepacked bins. The can't and don't get to look at anything under the hood. No matter how strong their curiosity is they can't just discover.

myoung63 243 days ago [-]
Personally I'm a proponent for basic income, and I think we're moving toward that in a more and more automated society. When we reach a point where more people can't work without high skill levels, the choices are either to let them die, live on welfare, or provide basic income.
andrewmcwatters 243 days ago [-]
Yeah, yeah, people own the robots, etc. You mean investors who own the shares of the company who own the robots? Because, frankly, I don't see any other model that works as society currently operates.

You'd have to shift to a model that, much like REITs, requires revenue to be distributed to the holders. By which point, you've just created an automation trust fund, and companies start selling ATFs.

monetus 243 days ago [-]
In the absence of strong incentives to start employee owned businesses, I don't see the problems that creates those jobs being assuaged...
creep 243 days ago [-]
Sounds interesting, but also like a lot of bureaucracy. What happens when the people want to change the way the robots are operating? What if the robots don't do exactly what they're told? Who manages manufacturing robots vs transportation robots vs communications robots? Would the people have to elect representatives to deal with the robots?
TaylorAlexander 243 days ago [-]
I assume that the engineering would be run like an open source project. Debian is a good example, or the Linux kernel. The best stuff is decided by the contributors and anyone is welcome to fork and compete. Actual labor of manufacturing and distribution is handled by competing companies (which may be democratically operated) but the tech is open source so “lock in” (which is a man made inefficiency in the market) can’t do easily occur.

Life always takes work to run. Getting to work every day to pay for food at the store and run errands etc just to do it all again tomorrow feels like beaurocoracy too. I’d much rather have a world where the work I do to support myself is to vote on local community matters (the next merge request, etc), instead of commuting through a zoo and looking out the window at the sunshine.

mnemonicsloth 243 days ago [-]
For every good piece of open source software there is an awful lot of crap. For every good open-source organization there are a lot of dysfunctional little groups that work at cross purposes and never get anything done. You're talking about appropriating vital infrastructure here. How do you know your open-source corporation will turn out to be productive?
krisdol 243 days ago [-]
If you replace "robots" with "employees", does that make your questions any easier to answer?
em3rgent0rdr 243 days ago [-]
This is why it is important for the robots to be open-source & open-hardware, to drive down the cost so that everyone can own their own robots. Imagine everyone having their own solar-powered FarmBot.

What we don't want is a society where the governments/corporations exclusively own all the robots, such that we have to go through them.

kamaal 243 days ago [-]
>>What do you all think of this?

Most of the software world made its choice. Remember the Open source movement is a political movement and not a software movement.

The point of Open source is to control the source or precisely 'Own the means of production'.

icebraining 243 days ago [-]
In reality, Open Source often ends up being charity for corporations. So many projects run by developers who can barely keep the lights on, which are then used by huge corporations for free.
mrfusion 243 days ago [-]
Or maybe simpler if companies own the robots and people own the companies?
TaylorAlexander 243 days ago [-]
Ultimately, yes. Assuming also the people have control of the companies, rather than a board of directors.
didibus 243 days ago [-]
The board is elected by the shareholders. The system could change, but I don't see how it would scale not to use a representative strategy like a board. How would shareholders micro-manage everything?
243 days ago [-]
RockyMcNuts 243 days ago [-]
Subsistence farming and coal mining were shitty jobs too.

Most jobs have always been shitty, this is less shitty than most and pays somewhat better (I believe Amazon is harder work than Walmart but pays more). And you can't find Americans to work in the fields, mines, slaughterhouses anymore.

If it was really shitty the US would get foreigners to do it. So much of the stuff Amazon ships is made overseas we almost might as well cut out the middleman and ship it directly from abroad, put a few giant warehouses just offshore or in Mexico. (I kid)

epicureanideal 243 days ago [-]
Automatic default reply whenever I see "can't find Americans to work..."...

...at the rate of pay offered.

Speaking as a software engineer, if you offered me double my salary and secure employment for a couple years to work in a field or mine, I'd do it. Test me. Make me an offer. Slaughterhouses I don't know if I could do, but I'll bet plenty of people would for my current salary or less.

About a decade and a half ago I probably would've done the same for maybe $50/hr.

RockyMcNuts 243 days ago [-]
Oh, I totally agree... if you can get $13 an hour working at Amazon how much would you need to work in the field or the mine, harder, more dangerous, exposed to toxic stuff. $25 or $50 isn't so crazy.

By the same token, the fact that Amazon retains hundreds of thousands of employees at $13 an hour means working conditions can't be in a different league from Walmart etc. Of course Amazon should be managing this stuff so it's not a Dickensian sweatshop. But of course they know that and they know the worse it is the more they have to pay, and these stories are maybe a little overblown.

Or at least I don't see buying at Walmart instead of Amazon to be a humanitarian necessity or particularly welfare-enhancing.

I kind of see it as a FedEx vs. UPS situation, FedEx pays more and is more brutal, pick your poison as a customer or employee.

Everything you buy that's cheap is cheap because people worked hard in shitty jobs.

prostoalex 243 days ago [-]
> the people need to own the robots that do all the work

What happens when a private party (or a competitive public party, like China) designs cheaper and more efficient robots?

The conflict is explored in Ayn Rand's "Anthem", where the society is a collective owner of a candle factory and therefore resists advance of electricity, or Mike Judge's "Idiocracy", where half of the workers in the country are employed in various capacities by Brawndo beverage company.

aleksei 243 days ago [-]
Then the Chinese also have robots? I haven't read those two works of fiction, maybe you could expand on what you think happens?
prostoalex 243 days ago [-]
Society just ends up owning a bunch of obsolete tools whose products are of no interest to any consumer.
trumped 243 days ago [-]
shitty jobs will disappear first (robots/automation will take care of it)... and if universal income becomes needed, it will be paid for by the robot-taxes.
mnemonicsloth 243 days ago [-]
The problem with Marxism is that in many of the places where it's been implemented in earnest, it's killed millions of people. Think of Russia under Stalin, China under Mao, and Cambodia under Pol Pot.

People try to rehabilitate Marxism every so often, but the problem of the murderous regime pops up again and again, for a simple reason: when the state arrogates to itself enough power to remake society according to some Marxian vision, it opens the door for abuses far worse than anything Amazon will ever perpetrate.

Are you sure you're not thinking about Social Democracy instead?

dragonwriter 243 days ago [-]
> The problem with Marxism is that in many of the places where it's been implemented in earnest, it's killed millions of people.

That’s the problem with Leninism.

The (biggest; there are others but this prevents even useful discussion of those) problem with Marxism is that people (even those who oppose Leninism and disbelieve everything else associated with it) accept Leninism’s propaganda that it is Marxism, rather than a system which adopts the rhetoric and stated end goals of Marxism, but abandons both it's mechanisms and explicit preconditions.

mnemonicsloth 243 days ago [-]
All Lenin did was decide that the dictatorship of the proletariat should be headed by an actual dictator. It's kind of an inevitable conclusion, given where he was starting from and some of the realities of people working in groups.

You are, of course, free to say that the murderous regimes that have popped up again and again are not the true Marxism. But then you have to explain why the false Marxism has appeared so often, and then to explain, given that millions of lives could be at stake, how to prevent a recurrence.

dragonwriter 243 days ago [-]
> All Lenin did was decide that the dictatorship of the proletariat should be headed by an actual dictator.

That's only a small piece of vanguardism, which while it is a big change isn't the only significant change (and is, in fact, an adaptation to the fundamental change, which is abandoning the prerequisite of the development of a broad working class identity under developed capitalism.)

> You are, of course, free to say that the murderous regimes that have popped up again and again are not the true Marxism.

Well, I mean its self-evident true, and I didn't need your permission, but thanks.

> But then you have to explain why the false Marxism has appeared so often

I don't see why I should, since I am not advocating Marxism and, even if I was, the reason a system designed to be workable and leverage existing dissatisfaction in undeveloped, precapitalist conditions keeps doing so is neither nonobvious nor germane to discussing the merits of a different system in the developed world. Leninism has done horrible things in the environments which it was carefully crafted to thrive in, but even with the assist given by it's opponents fear mongering equivalence-drawing that painted all opposition to capitalism as equivalent to Leninism, it's done stunningly poorly at gaining any traction in places that don't have he conditions for which it was adapted from Marxism.

munk-a 243 days ago [-]
Ayup, lets remember that the original councils of soviets in Russia were overthrown by the bolsheviks and dissolved when they came to power.
NoGravitas 243 days ago [-]
Indeed. All power to the soviets!
throwa_way_ 243 days ago [-]
That's not the problem with Marxism.
blackbagboys 243 days ago [-]
If you're going to play that game, you can very easily make a case (and probably a much stronger one) that capitalism's body-count is much, much higher. For starters, you'd have to credit it with the extermination of the Native Americans, the blood-soaked history of 19th century European colonialism, and the First World War.
mnemonicsloth 243 days ago [-]
Dude, this isn't a game. Show some respect for the dead.

You're comparing apples to oranges here. The crimes you mention are all about subjugation of or violence against foreigners. Ill will towards foreigners is the human ur-prejudice -- it's older than our species, in fact. Giving in to this prejudice is something that could have happened under any politico-economic system. It happened under capitalism because capitalism is what we had then. If the world becomes a Marxist utopia tomorrow, and we travel to the stars, and find technologically underdeveloped aliens, it will happen then under Marxism too. It was certainly the case that the Soviet citizenry, however far advanced along the road to true communism they actually were, were perfectly happy to join the Red Army and oppress the hell out of the people of Eastern Europe for fifty years. And they did it they were told they were protecting the world from imperialism from the West!

The problem with Marxism that I'm talking about is much more specific. Communist leaders have a habit of liquidating populations that they deem insufficiently loyal. That's why Stalin killed the kulaks, Mao killed the educated middle class, and Pol Pot ordered the killing fields. Under capitalism there is no comparable tradition of massacring political enemies. And since political enemies are going to be a fact of life under any political system, thoughtful Marxists should worry a lot about how to protect them from the attentions of the state.

bbddg 243 days ago [-]
> Under capitalism there is no comparable tradition of massacring political enemies

Are you saying there has never been a dictatorship or authoritarian government with a capitalist economy?

Capitalism and socialism are economic systems, not necessarily ways of organizing a government. You can have capitalism with or without democracy. Democracy is the true tool against authoritarianism, not capitalism. And I don't think the people in this thread that are arguing on behalf of marxism want to do away with democracy.

blackbagboys 240 days ago [-]
I'm crimes I'm talking about all come from the rapacious desire for either land to speculate on or new markets to exploit, both of which are quintessentially capitalist in character.

Again, to play this game, we could just as easily say that your crimes are all about authoritarian dominance hierarchies, which certainly occur under capitalism, as well (how many people did Pinochet throw out of helicopters?)

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
I would not call the army conquest of land a result of capitalism...
lerpa 243 days ago [-]
"Next time true Communism will succeed."
ataturk 242 days ago [-]
Did the blue-haired girl in the photo pee in a bottle or is that just a typical example of a warehouse employee? I wonder how she feels looking down into the dead eyes of that Toy Story "Woody" toy?

Incidentally, the wide mouthed Gatorade type bottles are best for peeing in.

jlebrech 243 days ago [-]
or learn electronics and coding and be the guy/person who fixes the robot.
FussyZeus 243 days ago [-]
This is such a massive oversimplification as to be ridiculous, and it's so rampant in these discussions. Even if every person working a factory floor job was capable of doing this: They aren't supported whatsoever through such a transition, meaning minimum 2 years of living on basically savings, something most people who know "electronics and coding" would have a hard time doing, let alone someone on the poverty line, and the few who manage to do it, say five, can now oversee all four hundred machines that replaced them and their former coworkers. And all of that isn't even going into the fact that they machines they'd be maintaining in your ideal dream world are probably an ocean away being maintained by people who know that skillset already working for slave wages.
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
Yes, though that doesn't fix "the problem", only puts you on the better side of it.
kamaal 243 days ago [-]
When these robots arrive, you will most likely have plug and play electronics inside. There will be no user serviceable parts inside.
noir_lord 243 days ago [-]
Without a fair amount of equipment there isn't that much that's user serviceable in modern electronics.

I was mulling that today as I worked on C# code to talk to a Sony camera over WiFi via JSON-RPC.

The fact that this unit has a wireless adapter, an entire TCP/IP stack and a webserver that can parse/generate JSON.

Basically the camera has processing power hundreds likely thousands of times more powerful than my PC and if it breaks there isn't anything on it that would likely be fixable with a soldering iron.

gimmeDatCheddar 243 days ago [-]
That's a naive way of thinking about economics, finance, and business. Marxism will never work. You can have robots that increase profit and decrease costs for customers at the same time. Take autonomous driving, for example - it can be both profitable and affordable at the same time, meaning that the average person will be better off.


The average working class American is financing their car. The average car payment is now an insane $500 per month. Over the average working career, that type of monthly payment represents a multi million dollar net worth at retirement. So if people are afraid of shitty jobs, they should prioritize wise financial decisions over short-term spending so that they can build their wealth and get leverage over shitty employment opportunities.

learc83 243 days ago [-]
>The average working class American is financing their car. The average car payment is now an insane $500 per month. Over the average working career, that type of monthly payment represents a multi million dollar net worth at retirement.

This is completely wrong.

1. $500 is the average, averages are easily distorted by outliers. Most people who are worried about shitty jobs don't have $500 a month car payments.

2. Not spending $500 a month on a car doesn't mean you get $500 to invest. Most people need to spend > $0 on transportation.

3. $500 a month doesn't get you a multi-million dollar net worth. $500 a month at a realistic 7% gets you $1.2 million in 40 years. A more realistic $300 a month (from financing a cheaper car) gets you $700k.

Pezmc 243 days ago [-]
If everything is based on performance metrics alone, surely there's a feedback loop here? Employee A starts peeing in a bottle, so their performance numbers go up, then at the end of the week they have better performance numbers and everyone else's targets are increased to be more inline with employee A. So more people start using bottles and taking shortcuts and the problem just increases over time!
80386 243 days ago [-]
Performance metrics are standardized across all Amazon FCs, so no.
jld 243 days ago [-]
That's capitalism for you.
menacingly 243 days ago [-]
I tend to personally view things from the owner's point of view. I also know that once the popular narrative has bitten down on the story of a successful company running slave factories, they won't let go. Whether these are exaggerated or isolated cases doesn't matter, there will be story after story until Amazon makes some show of changing practices.

However, I know there's another side. At some point, a company the size of Amazon begins consuming all available oxygen. I don't know what the tipping point is, but I know workers in some areas have about as much choice in where to work as I do in cable providers. That's obviously undesirable, because without a competitive labor market, Amazon is in practice able to treat employees however they choose, because the one emergency brake built into the loop is gone.

I wish there were some simple way to codify regulations about employee treatment once you become as powerful as a small nation that don't also encumber 150-employee plastic tubing manufacturers. At that level, pure laissez faire is desirable to me, because you do have options as an employee, and no reasonable case can be made that you've got to bog down your employer in a regulatory mess. Then, once you've got some single digit of the GDP in resources, you can be expected to operate with increased oversight and expectations, as a tax for the opportunity cost your mere presence visits upon other firms.

If that inhibits growth of megacorps... well, that's OK.

Spooky23 243 days ago [-]
A big part of this problem is that the warehouse operations people de-risk the impact and accountability for these problems to the bodyshops that fulfill these roles. Companies like Amazon love temporary workforces because they have big capital investments in fulfillment centers that they cannot walk away from, and an employee workforce would attract union mobilization.

IMO, the way to attack this is to increase the cost of temporary employment by taking away tax and other privileges. There should be a cost borne by the employer for the flexibility of temporary workforces. That would discourage the practice at companies like Amazon and have a lesser impact on SMB.

wombatpm 243 days ago [-]
There already is. They pay more on an hourly basis for temporary workers. The body shop gets their cut first. Body shop charges $17/hr, pays $13/hr
Spooky23 243 days ago [-]
The body shop adds value by taking on compliance costs and risks. Amazon is pretty well run, I’m sure the margins on the staffing company side are as tight as they can be.
atrexler 243 days ago [-]
Long-haul truckers have been doing this for decades for the same reason-- they don't have time to pull over and use the restroom-- and no one is upset about that. I'm sure there are many industries, white and blue collar, where similar norms are expressed.

Edit to add: I'm not endorsing the practice in any industry at all, just pointing out that its not a unique problem to Amazon. My comment would have been better phrased "why aren't more people upset about that?" It IS still definitely a problem!

jrochkind1 243 days ago [-]
wait, you're sure there are many industries, white and blue collar, where workers routinely pee in bottles as a job requirement?

Really? In the U.S.? You're pretty sure about this, eh? Many industries?

I'd be curious to hear an example of one industry where "white collar" workers routinely pee in bottles as a job requirement, official or unofficial.

gascan 243 days ago [-]
as a job requirement

If truckers are doing that, it's probably not a job requirement per se. My shallow understanding of the industry is you get paid by the load, especially if you're independent.

Turning an old racing adage on its head- the faster you are, the more money you make. How much money do you want to make?

philbarr 243 days ago [-]
My dev team are all forced to use the same bottle to save time. The one who tops it off and has to go off to empty it is docked pay.
louisswiss 243 days ago [-]
My dev team each have their own bottle. It's the most expensive bottle on the market and is provided/cleaned/maintained for free as an employee benefit.

It is an IOT bottle, connected directly to the employee's primary work station/laptop. Cleaning/emptying of the bottle is automatic and triggered by employee engagement (eg LOC written/pushes to Github). It can also be triggered manually by the team lead.

Employees who wish to take the bottle home/on vacation with them may do so (same trigger rules apply).

Since implementing our new bottle infrastructure, we've been able to acquire several new key hires from companies where employee benefits aren't taken so seriously.

Furthermore, assigning the emptying of the bottles to our management team has helped balance the company and improve morale significantly (now that we've switched from a unilateral to bilateral flow of excrement).

dsfyu404ed 243 days ago [-]
My dev team used to have urinals in our cubes but HR didn't think it was a sufficiently gender-equitable solution so now we are back to trash cans.
balls187 243 days ago [-]
What if someone breaks the build?
nickthemagicman 243 days ago [-]
Diapers baby!! It's a whole new world of productivity!!
atrexler 243 days ago [-]
Sure, I can't tell you about white collar folks pissing in bottles, I may have exaggerated there.

But in healthcare (for nurses, therapists, aides) its quite prevalent that people don't drink/eat enough at work nor do they take proscribed breaks because productivity standards are so high.

Look I'm not saying its right or fair or good. I'm simply pointing out that its not unique to Amazon.

marsrover 243 days ago [-]
Not eating or drinking enough is a whole different ballgame than pissing in a bottle.
creep 243 days ago [-]
You're right: not eating and drinking enough is damaging to your long-term health and well-being, while pissing in a bottle damages your pride.
billmalarky 243 days ago [-]
>not eating and drinking enough is damaging to your long-term health and well-being, while pissing in a bottle damages your pride.

You're forgetting the end game here where employees simply consume less water in order to have less bathroom breaks.

Constant dehydration is quite damaging to ones longterm health.

Spooky23 243 days ago [-]
Nope. Pissing in a bottle is a signal that older workers who lack the ability and women who lack the anatomy not welcome.
hajile 243 days ago [-]
Quite true (especially for CNA, techs, etc). I worked that job for a while in my late teens. Never take breaks, clock out for lunch then go back to work. Finish your 12.5 hour shift, but have to spend a bit more time off the clock finalizing everything and handing off to the next person.

All that said, it's apples and oranges. Healthcare is that way because the government regulates and pays. They'll basically tell a nursing home that they have to take care of a person and then tell that same facility how much they will be paid. Government regulation of facility standards and market costs dictate that part of the equation. The only part that can be flexed is the worker, so the workers are stiffed and mistreated to make the budget balance.

This is not the case with Amazon. They don't have a government dictating all the rules forcing the workers into bad situations. They simply do it to profit off their worker's misery.

rebel 243 days ago [-]
Not the parent comment but I have heard that it is fairly common among UPS/FedEx drivers. I do agree the notion sounds pretty outlandish. To play devil's advocate, I would say it is likely more common than many people would initially expect.
Spooky23 243 days ago [-]
Do you think that GM halts an assembly line that costs $100k an hour when some random dude needs to take a leak?

Anything where output is measured directly and challenged will result in this type of behavior with nasty management.

usaphp 243 days ago [-]
Where did OP say about job requirement to pee in bottles?
didibus 243 days ago [-]
Article is about the UK, not the US.
java_script 243 days ago [-]
Is pro gaming a white collar industry?
creep 243 days ago [-]
Lol, are jokes not allowed on HN? Geeeeez you guys.
niroze 243 days ago [-]
Jokes get you downvotes here, I tried to make a joke and everyone took it seriously.

It is like talking to a bunch of toddlers sometimes, where a sense of humor doesn't exist and everything is taken literally.

cafard 243 days ago [-]
Actually, long-haul truckers are required to keep logs showing that they are taking adequate rest: the public doesn't want people stoned on lack of sleep to be driving big rigs. Do a lot of long-haul truckers falsify their logs? So I understand. But I suspect they get more slack.
amyjess 243 days ago [-]
> Do a lot of long-haul truckers falsify their logs? So I understand.

Companies have been moving to electronic logs to try and stop this. I don't know how successful this has been.

kendallpark 243 days ago [-]
> Companies have been moving to electronic logs to try and stop this. I don't know how successful this has been.

I hear there is pushback from drivers about this. Say you're 20 minutes from home, truck is not empty, and you've hit your driving limit for the day. With a paper log you might fudge the numbers so you can get home, see your family, sleep in your own bed. With an electronic log you're not making it home that night.


seanalltogether 243 days ago [-]
Long haul truckers have a goal they are trying to reach, an end of the line that completes their job. It's reasonable to expect that they would occasionally take opportunities to cut time down to reach their destination faster.

Warehouse jobs have no goal, no end in sight, it's a nonstop churn and having to use tricks to shave your time down doesn't result in extra time off, it just results in more work.

twothamendment 243 days ago [-]
> Warehouse jobs have no goal, no end in sight, it's a nonstop churn...

Long haul truckers may see things the same. There may be a destination, but there is always another after that. It is all about timing departure and arrival and those pesky reset periods. They are under constant pressure to keep moving, always pushing to the next place. If you push hard and make it once it will be expected the next time too.

For some it is a conveyor belt and list of orders, for other s it is a highway and a never ending list of destinations.

frgtpsswrdlame 243 days ago [-]
Why shouldn't we be upset about long-haul truckers peeing in bottles? That seems inhumane to me as well.
albertgoeswoof 243 days ago [-]
it's not just inhumane, it's extremely dangerous. I don't want to be driving on the road while the guy handling a 10 tonne truck next to me is concentrating on pissing in a bottle.

I'd rather pay the external costs, i.e. an extra few pennies on my delivery and/or wait a day extra, this is exactly why we need regulation in these spaces.

yndoendo 243 days ago [-]
Truckers have time frames and distance to worry about. Only X distance and or time on the road before being off for Y time.

Say you reach your quota 20 miles away from home. Either you have to wait Y time or have a family member come and pick you up and take you back to the truck. YOU CANNOT DRIVE HOME that 20 miles.

travbrack 243 days ago [-]
Stopping an 18 wheeler loaded with freight for N minutes is a lot more expensive than a single distribution plant employee not packing boxes for N minutes.
j45 243 days ago [-]
If it's a norm, does it make it OK?

All traditions were new once.

atrexler 243 days ago [-]
Absolutely agree with your point. I don't think the practice in any industry (trucking, healthcare or distribution centers) is okay but I'm simply pointing out its not a unique problem.
j45 243 days ago [-]
Fair - The article seems more about discrimination, workers rights and intimidation more than the uniqueness of the problems.
louisswiss 243 days ago [-]
Are there no legally-mandated 'rest stops' for truckers in the US?

In Europe there are (quite strictly enforced) regulations in place to ensure truckers/HGV-drivers take a 30min break every few hours.

hajile 243 days ago [-]
Yes. They are limited in hours per day, hours per week, breaks, mandatory layovers, etc. Most companies have automated logs to ensure these are enforced too.


gadders 243 days ago [-]
They still pee in bottles though. Check the sides of the motorways for coke bottles full of a yellow liquid.
progval 243 days ago [-]
> why aren't more people upset about that?

I guess they just don't realize it.

To be honest I didn't either before reading your comment, but I am not surprised it is a thing.

kevmo 243 days ago [-]
My dad was a long-haul trucker for 20+ years. I did some hauls with him. I can confirm that peeing in bottles is the norm.
lostapathy 243 days ago [-]
I don't think this is so normal anymore.

Now that electronic log books are mandatory, drivers have to take breaks and for the most part should be able to pee.

nerdshoe 243 days ago [-]
The existence of littered bottles found along major highways tells a different story. Nobody throws out that many bottles of orange crush.
emerged 243 days ago [-]
Either way, they're delicious and I'm glad people are throwing them there.
243 days ago [-]
neolefty 243 days ago [-]
Can confirm both—they do, and many don't mind. My brother is a truck driver.

Note also that it's harder to get to a bathroom from a truck on a highway than from a desk in an office.

Edit: Does not excuse Amazon's labor behavior.

dsfyu404ed 243 days ago [-]
>they don't have time to pull over and use the restroom

Before E-logs you could could cook the books and have time to absorb bathroom breaks and paperwork delays.

f4rker 243 days ago [-]
you're comparing 2 very different things.
stillsut 243 days ago [-]
If you work in a latino painting or landscaping crew, tough guy stuff like this is expected and socially enforced. Or say Alaskan fishermen. It's one of tradeoffs you make for an uber-bule-collar job. But these jobs also have benefits that others don't have: when you leave the job site, you don't have to think about the job (like teachers do) and your skills and experience don't lose relevance (like IT) and you don't have to suffer fools (like service staff). But yeah - the notable tradeoff for these jobs is you get valued (and devalued) by your physical productivity and reliability.
otakucode 243 days ago [-]
I am honestly quite surprised that Amazon warehouses haven't experienced a wave of workplace shootings. They're really a recipe for how to construct a place primed for them. During the 1990s there were several high-profile workplace shootings at US postal offices. Originally everyone presumed it was just isolated incidents, mentally ill people, etc. But in the years that followed, once people had calmed down and the situation could actually be analyzed, the truth was quite different.

The shootings had a cause. Those post offices had paired human beings with automated machines and slowly increased their expectation of performance of the humans to match the machines. They cut breaks, they expected humans to keep up with the machines (the machines would sort mail, for example, and kick out things its OCR scanners couldn't recognize for a human to deal with), and they made it clear that the humans weren't valuable employees... they were an annoying inefficiency in the system that hadn't been optimized away yet.

That puts people under immense pressure. And while some people might be able to handle immense pressure, it is fundamentally incorrect to expect large groups of people to handle it. Large groups will have people who will crack. This is as certain as gravity, and those who seek to ignore it just as ludicrous.

wenc 243 days ago [-]
It seems that everyone is assuming that the allegations in the article are true, and are commenting based on that assumption.

But are they true? Can someone corroborate?

p.s. the reason I ask is because things are often more complex than a simple narrative would have you believe, and it's worthwhile thinking about what's actually going on rather than just taking in a narrative without questioning it.

11thEarlOfMar 243 days ago [-]
Moreover, Amazon is a global company with 500,000+ employees. Painting the entire company with this brush is poor analysis.

If this portrayal is representative of this distribution center, it could be the result of a general manager whose incentive bonuses motivate him/her to be strict about how pickers spend their time and grant strikes even for legitimate medical excuses.

Or it could be true that all of Amazon is this way. In that case, however, this one circumstance is insufficient to draw that conclusion.

sn41 243 days ago [-]
I suspect it is a pervasive part of Amazon's work culture. They bought Whole Foods, IIRC, and there were news articles about how that went:


wenc 243 days ago [-]
The problem identified in the article seems to point to the OTS inventory system, which was a Whole Foods initiative. Amazon doesn't seem to know much about it (which may partly be the problem), but it isn't evidence against Amazon per se.
hackandtrip 243 days ago [-]
Even if the bottle story could be an hyperbole, the work conditions for manual work are well known to be sub standard. Italian news [0] already got some articles where employers criticize the conditions. Nothing like peeing in a bottle, but the problem remains and all the comments made here are still valid.

[0]: https://it.businessinsider.com/due-dipendenti-amazon-raccont...

avoutthere 243 days ago [-]
I personally know a number of Amazon warehouse workers and none of them consider the workplace to be harsh. This article smacks of a smear campaign. Note the timing with this piece: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-13/oracle-is...
LinuxBender 243 days ago [-]
Doesn't this affect more than the employees? If they are peeing in a bottle, shouldn't they sanitize their hands after touching their package so they can safely handle our packages? Should I be inspecting the inner contents using a black light?
matte_black 243 days ago [-]
They shouldn’t be pissing in a bottle period, they should be taking a break, they are just scared to. No one is forcing them to pee in a bottle.
opencl 243 days ago [-]
Oh sure they're not forcing them to pee in a bottle, they just fire anyone who doesn't hit the performance quotas, which just happen to be barely attainable by somebody who takes no breaks.
progval 243 days ago [-]
> No one is forcing them to pee in a bottle.

I don't think many people would do that willingly.

s73v3r_ 243 days ago [-]
If your livelihood is going to be taken away because you committed the grave sin of actually going to use the facilities, I would definitely call that force.
LinuxBender 243 days ago [-]
Oh I totally agree. I'm just suggesting that perhaps this also affects the recipients of the packages.
matte_black 243 days ago [-]
You know how many nasty germs a package comes in contact with even before an Amazon employee touches it and long after it’s shipped? Trillions, with a t.
LinuxBender 243 days ago [-]
I don't think that makes it safer to touch the package after peeing in a bottle. Employees are required to wash their hands after using the restroom. I believe that state law may even require it.
maxerickson 243 days ago [-]
Trillions of germs, probably not so many nasty ones.
xivzgrev 243 days ago [-]
Amaazon says bathroom breaks are not timed. That is probably true. But that is not what the article is alleging. Rather they need to reach a certain productivity level within a given time period, and using the bathroom counts against that apparently. And if goals are set based on previous employee performance than what if that person also skipped bathroom breaks? Maybe total breaks should be timed over a longer period of time. So if today you need to shit your lungs out that's ok then it averages out with more normal breaks over the next few weeks.
checkdigit15 243 days ago [-]
> Another said: "The target grows every year."

Whenever I see examples of impossible-to-meet goals I'm reminded of reminded of this classic "I Love Lucy" bit [0] with the chocolates on the conveyor belt.

"Speeeed it up a little!"

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NPzLBSBzPI

bertil 243 days ago [-]
Amazon in general, like Uber, considers that warehouse employees and driver are just a needed adjustment until robots take over. They have the consideration that Google/Waymo has for the people filling in “Is this a Stop sign” Catpcha. Thinking of it as sweat labor is not false, but it won’t convince the company change.

If you think of it that way, you understand better how Amazon product managers and engineers are OK with the treatment. Also part of that vision: those employees benefit from constant iteration of the work conditions, from Bezos’ initial suggestion to get knee pad to help filling in boxes (rapidly replaced by the far better option to get tables). All the pain is just a step in the process that has not been automated yet, and the “handful” of people “temporary” suffering now are just there to provide training data for the order of magnitude more orders to come when running around, climbing on step-ladders, will be automated. And, in fairness, a lot of it has, or is about to: Amazon has robots to carry shelves around, raising platforms, etc. They are generally not used at scale yet, but teams are actively working on it.

I’m not saying that to justify the company’s callous take, or pain their plan as a delusional grandeur, but to explain how the stress is part of the process: to reveal what hurts. As far as I can tell, all employees, especially desk-dwellers, are asked to do shifts in the warehouse to build some empathy. It’s far from perfect and seem to hide the reality of family life for the de-facto full-time workers -- but accusing Amazon of having inhumane condition is missing the dynamic angle to it.

I believe there is a massive mis-match between how employees see their service and the efforts so many employees are putting in; I’m not convinced that you can reach automation faster by having humans run around and learn from their mistake. I would be a lot more comfortable with the experiment is participants where excited by the perspective of automation rather than working poor, but I’m not in charge of the company, so it’s hard to grasp exactly what could be done. I believe that warehouse employees with more free-time, more initiative and the ability automate themselves would automate faster than what Amazon is currently doing, but that’s just speculation.

djhworld 243 days ago [-]
> you understand better how Amazon product managers and engineers are OK with the treatment.

Or do they really care?

bertil 243 days ago [-]
The closest example I can imagine is, the same way medical professionals care about you, or maybe surgeons more than others, or maybe pre-clinical bio-scientists: most of the time, not really. They have their own paperwork, debt, office rivalries, etc.

They do when you are ‘interesting’ (you very much not want to be ‘interesting’) but they actually care about fixing your problem. They probably care more when they see you, just like Amazon employees care after they have been at a warehouse. It drives them to work on their project that will address one small pain-point -- but they can’t care too much, just because their fix takes so much time, if they cared, it would crush them. Both product managers and medical professional have to respect proper, long, tedious testing procedure to make sure their solution works as intended.

I think few people measure explicitly the amount of that bureaucratic detachment (Chaplin, Kafka, Ionesco did) and even less see how it is necessary to progress.

Consultant32452 243 days ago [-]
What's so special about Amazon in comparison to the Chinese factories where those goods are manufactured? Are we just upset because these people are geographically closer? Or is it nationalism; Americans/Westerners are too good for such treatment? Racism?
philwelch 243 days ago [-]
I used to think it was some sort of nationalism, but I think it's mostly because making sure all Americans are treated well is a much more tractable problem than worrying about the welfare of literally everyone in the world.

It is conceivably possible for every American to have adequate food, housing, and medical care, to work in safe and humane conditions, and so forth. Even that seems crazy and utopian to some, but there's a plausible-enough plan that people see it as a solvable problem.

Once you take a global perspective, though, you realize that one of the most cost-effective ways of preventing human suffering today is to buy people in malaria-infested regions insecticide-treated mosquito nets. That's kind of overwhelming to think about. Warehouse workers have to pee in a bottle, but at least they aren't dying of malaria. And let's say we manage to eradicate malaria, or at least contain it enough that we can move on to the next-lowest-hanging-fruit, and you still have to worry about access to clean water, or having their children murdered/kidnapped by the local warlord or rape cult, or the effects of dirty open-pit mining (particularly as overseen by the local warlord or rape cult), or the cultural practice of mutilating the genitals of infant girls, etc., etc. The problems of the world are just so big and so complicated and so multi-faceted that the natural emotional reaction is just to get overwhelmed and give up, and that doesn't help anyone.

eeZah7Ux 243 days ago [-]
> It is conceivably possible for every American to have adequate food, housing, and medical care, to work in safe and humane conditions, and so forth.

It is conceivably possible for every human - given the current available resources.

philwelch 243 days ago [-]
But a much larger project, especially if you’re constrained by the standard liberal sensibilities of the 21st century.
Consultant32452 243 days ago [-]
The global GDP per capita is about $10k/yr. Depending on what you mean by "adequate" housing, medical care, safe work, and humane conditions... it might not actually be possible. I think if you use first world standards, you'd have a hard time achieving that even if you could magically redistribute all of the globe's economic productivity.
philwelch 243 days ago [-]
Also, if you actually want it to work out, you first have to remove all the tinpot kleptocrats and replace them with halfway responsible governments. This doesn't get attempted often, but this was attempted with Iraq, and the attempt cost 2.4 trillion dollars and didn't yield sustainable results.
nostalgeek 243 days ago [-]
> What's so special about Amazon in comparison to the Chinese factories where those goods are manufactured? Are we just upset because these people are geographically closer? Or is it nationalism; Americans/Westerners are too good for such treatment? Racism?

Yes it is proximity. How many relatives of yours do work in a Chinese factory or a Vietnamese or Pakistani sweatshop? There is also, let's be real, some form of racism as well. A lot of westerners see Asians as subhumans. It's absolutely an indisputable fact that westerners just outsourced slavery, they didn't really abolish it.

We need slave workforce to produce cheap stuff in order to be able to afford "life", and at the same time our personal and public debt is at insane levels. There is something fundamentally wrong with our society. It cannot last forever.

Now is it a reason not to care about what is happening at Amazon? that's a philosophical question, and a commercial one as well. If people did care, then Amazon would care. People don't so Amazon doesn't. Just like slave wages in third world sweatshops. If the customer cared brands would. Customers mostly don't, they used to, I remember all the scandals in the media with Nike and Adidas supply chain in the 90's.

temp-dude-87844 243 days ago [-]
Maybe those too. But there's a certain amount of intentional deference that comes with advocating for free(-er) trade, as you accept that the regulatory regime isn't the same everywhere. In other words, the advantages of cheap goods counteracts some of the guilt of being complicit in an exploitative scheme somewhere far away, forced upon people of a foreign country by bosses of a foreign country.

These are the sorts of abuses that are more upsetting when they happen to people that are more immediately relatable ("people like you and me", "your friends and neighbors"), and when they are directly perpetuated by a company that should be subject to a familiar regulatory regime.

j45 243 days ago [-]
Good point. I think people have to learn and start with their own backyards.

People in the east may look to the west culturally in some ways.

hueving 243 days ago [-]
That's whataboutism.

There are people in terrible conditions all over the world that US citizens can do little about. When it happens in the country where we can vote on laws and candidates, we can do something about it. So it's important to focus on those cases and set an example.

Consultant32452 243 days ago [-]
Sounds like your answer is nationalism. We could just as easily be talking about laws and candidates who want to improve our trade agreements such that workers in China, Mexico, etc. get better working conditions.

I don't particularly like the conditions at Amazon either, but I see it as the obvious result of globalism. When 70% of the world lives on less than $10 per day, what we call decent conditions is really a fantasy. We're not likely to get away with our relative standard of living forever. Eventually we'll average out.

hajile 243 days ago [-]
This question pops up all the time with UN human rights inspectors. When they're about to show up for inspection, everyone puts on their smiley faces and pretends they aren't basically slaves. After they are gone, it's back to work.

The modus operandi is to keep them from seeing. If that doesn't work, bribe. If that doesn't work, blackmail. If that doesn't work, kill and try again with the next person.

There's a further problem. Even with slave prices for goods, it's still often cheaper for companies to build factories on the continent because shipping is so expensive. Raise the wages and the company moves away at which point, there are no jobs at all.

So you dictate that the company must stay there no matter what and the price of goods goes up. Since people have a finite amount of money, they will purchase fewer things and maybe won't buy that particular product at all. Do you now dictate that the consumer buys?

It is very easy to turn people into slaves by trying to prevent people from turning into slaves. Solutions are seldom simple and idyllic. Choose the good when possible, but usually, you just choose the best of the worst.

eeZah7Ux 243 days ago [-]
> Eventually we'll average out.

Right now it's doing the opposite. Middle and lower classes are getting poorer in rich parts of the world. Billionaires are getting so much richer.

Gini coefficients are going up.

Consultant32452 243 days ago [-]
>Middle and lower classes are getting poorer in rich parts of the world.

This is true, but at the same time, I forget the exact number, but something like 100k people achieve food security across the globe every day. 200 years ago 90% of the world lacked food security, now only 10% does.

geodel 243 days ago [-]
> When 70% of the world lives on less than $10 per day,

This too looks like optimistic number to me. More than half of Indians are living on <2 dollar a day. And this number is before automation takes away better paying labor jobs which are about 300-400 dollars a month.

cbhl 243 days ago [-]
Having to go down four flights of stairs to go to a bathroom is ridiculous.

I wonder if this is an unexpected side-effect of automating warehouses. Normally, bathrooms are required by OSHA, but the relevant code appears to dictate only the number of bathrooms required by the number of employees on a site[0].

Adding bathrooms to a building is an expensive retrofit; I can't imagine this situation getting better without regulation.

My inclination would be to try and lobby congress to require bathrooms within X feet of employees on every floor, or require Y bathrooms per Z square feet of space. (But what about edge cases? What do construction workers do in high rises?)

[0] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2017-title29-vol5/xml/CFR-...

JustSomeNobody 243 days ago [-]
Typical retail. You're given goals that continue to get higher and higher. Some places give you a handful of goals but the math doesn't work out so you can't ever reach them all simultaneously. This is by design so that they justify paltry raises and/or firings. The only way to play the system is to stay aligned with whatever your immediate report feels are the ones to focus on.
Cenk 243 days ago [-]
Link to original story (as far as I can tell) at The Sun (urgh), it has more photos: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6055021/rushed-amazon-warehous...
ggregoire 243 days ago [-]
How long before Amazon replaces all the warehouse workers with machines? 5 years?
aylmao 243 days ago [-]
If they're going to be replaced by robots soon, isn't that a good reason to not fear spending on them, since they are a short-term cost?
IncRnd 243 days ago [-]
Nope. That's exactly why money isn't spent on people. There is no reason for Amazon to invest in them.

I'm not a fan of people thinking they will lose their job for taking breaks, but why would Amazon invest money in something that may go away in 5 years? They'll invest in the R&D of the replacement.

aylmao 243 days ago [-]
I see what you mean, and I hope you mean it in the "playing devils advocate" kind of way, because implying the most reasonable thing to do is what makes most business sense is what's unfortunately wrong in this country.
IncRnd 243 days ago [-]
Yes, most definitely I was pointing why Amazon's calculus is to not invest in people. I was not saying that people should be worked like cogs in a machine, where you try to go on the cheap without oil for as long as possible.
arez 243 days ago [-]
dingo_bat 243 days ago [-]
Why spend more if you can spend less?
toomuchtodo 243 days ago [-]
Because there is value in being a decent human being?
IntelMiner 243 days ago [-]
Capitalism values profit. Not people
243 days ago [-]
truculation 243 days ago [-]
What's the typical walking time to the toilet in a large warehouse? Where do the relevant employees keep the bottles (e.g. are they attached to their legs underneath trousers? If not how do they avoid CCTV?) Are break periods mandatory or optional?
didibus 243 days ago [-]
Ya, I do believe a FC warehouse job sucks pretty bad, but for some reason, this particular article seems strange. The journalist is clearly trying to find sensationalist material for his book. I'm not sure how much I can trust his sources.
truculation 243 days ago [-]
That may well be but my questions are genuine questions (I'm curious).
krapp 243 days ago [-]
>What's the typical walking time to the toilet in a large warehouse?

I work in one of the largest FCs in the network and even when I've had to walk up or down flights to find a bathroom that was empty (only one per side per floor, and one toilet) I didn't pass the ten minute limit before getting flagged for time off task.

Although it is annoying having fifteen minutes of a thirty minute break be taken up by walking to and from the breakroom, and the expectation of having to arrive early enough to scan into a Kiva on time, pod gaps or no.

I don't doubt at all that this happens, though, or that Amazon drives some people to this kind of behavior. I think it depends on the facility and the management.

brandonmenc 243 days ago [-]
A bathroom break in a large factory or warehouse can easily take twenty minutes after factoring in the transit time.
Demoneeri 243 days ago [-]
I don't understand how managers at amazon can believe this is okay and that it won't blow off in their face.
dspillett 243 days ago [-]
> I don't understand how managers at amazon can believe this is okay

They probably don't. They have stringent targets for their team to meet in order to get their bonus (or not get promoted over, or not get moved to a worse area, or...). The pressure is passed down the chain.

> and that it won't blow off in their face.

Maybe they expect to have moved on before that happens? Or simply feel that have no choice because of that downwards pressure and not being able to afford to risk losing the job (a morally corrupt job pays the mortgage better than no job at all does).

isostatic 243 days ago [-]
They're really taking the piss.
chiefalchemist 243 days ago [-]
Obviously, I wouldn't call this slavery. But in terms of the effect on the employees, it's __in some ways__ getting close.

Do we have a word for this type of relationship between worker and company?

There's something wrong when we (at least in the USA) are said to be approaching but workers (albeit in the UK) can't stop to pee. All this at the hands of the richest man in the world?

progval 243 days ago [-]
> Do we have a word for this type of relationship between worker and company?

Exploitation of labour. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploitation_of_labour

chiefalchemist 242 days ago [-]
Ok. But that's more or less a verb. How about a noun? Words matter. We need a word.
geodel 243 days ago [-]
> Do we have a word for this type of relationship between worker and company?

It is 'Welcome to world beyond circlejerk of some highest paid software workers in top 5-10 tech firms'

nabla9 243 days ago [-]
That's the future of the low paid work.

US poultry workers wear diapers on job over lack of bathroom breaks – report https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/may/12/poultry-work...

saint_abroad 243 days ago [-]
It seems they don't allow warehouse workers "degraded mode" with "performance targets based on previous worker performance." If a storage array were rebuilding I think most engineers would cut it some slack.

Not meaning to be flippant but I guess the difference is that with stateless processing you get disposable machines. Reminds me of Moon (film).

noir_lord 243 days ago [-]
I stopped buying from Amazon a few years ago, the constant background noise of the way they treat their staff.

When I was young I worked in warehouses and it was hard, tiring work but the management by and large treat you like a human being.

We occasionally use Amazon at work (not my choice) and very often I can get a better price for something from aria, scan or ebuyer anyway.

chandmk 243 days ago [-]
I used to work in a factory floor. Having a job at this factory used to be one of the nice things in the town. For the fear of being driven to work too much, workers refused to increase the thru-put beyond a union limit. They used that as a tool for bargaining for more pay. Observing bathroom breaks became the responsibility of supervisor. There were many missed daily targets, which became a regular discussion point. But in the end the entire thing was pushed too far. This, coupled with the top management inability to run the factory at a reasonably profitable state, finally lead the shut down. Ultimately it ended up hurting the workers more than the top management. Majority of top management found jobs elsewhere, and most of the workers ended up not having any jobs. This story merely reflects the constant struggle we are witnessing for generations.
JWLong 243 days ago [-]
Okay, people here need to get out of their bubbles. This is the same with most warehouse/assembly line jobs.

Folks here are shitting on Amazon because it's relevant to their everyday lives. Walmart does the same stuff. I worked in one of their warehouses, loading trucks for a summer. These situations are not the exception.

curtis 243 days ago [-]
How does this compare to other warehouse jobs? My impression is that warehouse jobs almost universally suck.
tomc1985 243 days ago [-]
Why aren't more people on Amazon's ass for pushing their people so hard? This sounds preventable simply by setting production standards to be in line with the environment provided.

Yes, there are important bits in here about tech. But this sounds like a classic case of management abuse

RandomCSGeek 242 days ago [-]
The main issue is with demand-supply difference. There are too many people out there in need of blue collar jobs, and this means companies like Amazon have a chance to push the criteria to get the job much higher, as long as it's legal. This happens in other sectors too. Here in India, there's oversupply of candidates in almost every field, with the exception of those which require highly specialised/costly knowledge(eg: PhD in AI, neurologist), so a lot of companies exploit people by making them work for long hours and at a very low salary.
nickthemagicman 243 days ago [-]
Why dont they just wear Adult Diapers and really improve their productivity?
coldtea 243 days ago [-]
"Changing the world", one bottle at a time...
geodel 243 days ago [-]
Or maybe it is beta testing of new Amazon SBS aka Simple Bottle Storage®.
basseq 243 days ago [-]
Let's say Amazon leadership is appalled at these conditions. Management by metric is working insofar as it goes, but you really didn't know how bad it was several layers down.

How would an organization identify something systemic like this? E.g., identifying that unexpected consequences had popped up and you'd created an environment where people were afraid even to speak up?

Karishma1234 243 days ago [-]
I have a very simple solution for this. Whenever people checkout on Amazon give them an option to tip people in the originating warehouse.
amelius 243 days ago [-]
Perhaps I'm missing something, but why don't Amazon's well-paid office workers (e.g. IT workers) show more solidarity?
rodionos 243 days ago [-]
Here's the largest Nescafe plant in the world, located in Southern Russia.


Check out some of the jobs on offer:

18:15 - the coffee tasting job

22:30 - the optical controller job

The latter one is crazy. The video doesn't make it clear why it's not automated.

bb101 243 days ago [-]
Bezos realistically has about 30 to 40 years to enjoy his position in the world and then will go the way of everyone else. If one believes in karma, in a future life he may yet get to experience the fruits of the world he helped to create.
hnbits 243 days ago [-]
Meanwhile in Jeff Bezos's bank account:


gaius 243 days ago [-]
One company I worked for 10 years ago (as an engineer) had signs up in the call centre telling staff there not to pee in the bins. Apparently this is a common thing in call centres. This is in the UK.
kevin_thibedeau 243 days ago [-]
None of these people work for Amazon. They are all Integrity Staffing employees. It is up to IS to follow federal labor laws and Amazon's hands are "clean".
brundolf 243 days ago [-]
Just one of the reasons I avoid giving Amazon money.
BtBfs 243 days ago [-]
I've started cutting my Amazon usage too. It's difficult because I've become dependent but I can cut the delivery part for most products.
brundolf 243 days ago [-]
I pretty much only use Amazon as a fallback, when I need to buy something that I just won't find in any other store, online or brick-and-mortar.
ataggart 243 days ago [-]
I'm curious to know these workers' next best employment option, the one they're forgoing to work at an Amazon warehouse.
laythea 243 days ago [-]
Hang on a second. Isn't the magical quality about life, is its ability to adapt?

If the world is becoming full of this kind of job, we need as individuals to reject it, and adapt to other forms of income. Off course, if you let the corporations treat us like this, they will.

And they are not at fault. It is us at fault for accepting it. We must not accept these forms of income. Easier said than done, I know. But, who said it was easy? Its like being in an abusive relationship. If you accept it, it will continue!

leggomylibro 243 days ago [-]
Of course, it's so easy - there's no apprehension of the fallout from your decisions, no lingering self-doubt, no fear that maybe you contribute to the problem and self-advocacy might amount to petulance, no implicit duress from the question of where your food and shelter will come from.

I guess it might not be a bad metaphor, but I gotta say, your advice seems facile and sort of in poor taste from my point of view.

You're exhorting people to stand up and say 'this is not okay', but that additional burden shouldn't have to be borne solely by the people who are already shouldering the worst of the situation's negative externalities, should it?

laythea 243 days ago [-]
Please see my reply below.
marrone12 243 days ago [-]
Not everyone has that kind of luxury. If you have hungry kids and a late car payment you sometimes just need a pay check.
laythea 243 days ago [-]
I did not mean it like that. Jobs at all levels, have many options. A warehouse level job is very transferable. I know, because I spent years doing it.

Also, if your in that role, you can more easily move to different industries than say a Phd major is a specific subject. My point remains, it is up to the individual.

partiallypro 243 days ago [-]
I've never heard stories like this, but I have heard stories (there's a distribution center a few miles from where I live) of workers stealing sex toys from bins and using it in the bathrooms at work. This is both sexes.

Amazon treats their floor employees horribly, but (and this is good/bad) are hiring people from low rungs of society, so they probably feel they -can- take advantage of these people. They are sometimes the only job in town.

moreorless 243 days ago [-]
Amazon warehouse workers should consider moving to China and work at the factories where they will be treated better.
Jach 243 days ago [-]
What do the women warehouse workers do?
amyjess 243 days ago [-]
I have a friend who used to work at a fulfillment center.

In December, she took a week of medical leave. Last month, they retroactively denied her leave and then fired her for having a negative UPT balance. She'd worked there for years.

It's an awful, abusive company, and even though Trump's reasons for going after Amazon are the wrong reasons, I hope he successfully gets them shut down anyway.

balls187 243 days ago [-]
She wasn't covered by FMLA?
amyjess 243 days ago [-]
I don't know the details.

She also told me that a couple of her other coworkers got fired the same way, and she and a couple of her ex-coworkers were talking about how it's something Amazon does periodically. Apparently that's how they cull people management doesn't like if they don't have a real reason to fire them.

Edit: Here's a writeup by somebody else this almost happened to. https://sites.google.com/site/thefaceofamazon/home/harassing...

Edit again: Another https://www.reddit.com/r/amazon/comments/5pegzc/amazon_wrong...

zealsham 243 days ago [-]
Did we ever get pass the slave era?
243 days ago [-]
himom 243 days ago [-]
I’m curious how far away bathrooms can be and how building codes come into play.
jws 243 days ago [-]
They have palette shifting robots running around the warehouse. They should just put a port-a-potty on one and let the workers summon it with a Dash button.
TheForumTroll 243 days ago [-]
Wow, keep this up and soon working for Amazon will be as bad as making iPhones!
tapatio 243 days ago [-]
Do what you gotta do to get ahead, including sleeping on the factory floor.
thomasjudge 243 days ago [-]
Well I for one am going to stop ordering bottles from Amazon..
joeschmoe3 243 days ago [-]
How similar is an amazon and a factory job from the past?
baxuz 243 days ago [-]
Lol USA 🇺🇸
dang 243 days ago [-]
Please don't do this here.
hnbits 243 days ago [-]
zelon88 243 days ago [-]
> Amazon said it didn't time workers' toilet breaks...

That means they set really high targets for middle-managers and then let them get creative with the rules.

> ...and set its performance targets based on previous worker performance.

That means they cherry pick their best performing employees and set global standards based on the top n%.

> The company said it provided coaching to help people improve...

That means they write people up when they can't meet performance standards or quotas.

> ...and used "proper discretion" when it came to sick leave and absences from work.

And that means they write people up when they don't show up.

> The company also said it provided on-site occupational health and physiotherapy support...

They do that because real doctors and PCP's are way more costly to the insurance plan.

> as well as legal,...

That's when HR puts together a meeting with a lawyer who tells you quitting is stupid because of the NDA.

> ...financial,...

That's when an employee asks for a raise and HR sends them to a meeting with a financial consultant who tells them "You don't really need a raise, you need a budget!"

> ...and workplace guidance.

That's where they teach you not to drink water so you can meet your quotas.

dang 243 days ago [-]
Cheap outrage is great for upvotes, but what's the substance here? Factual basis? Commenters to this site need to do better than this.

This is not a defense of Amazon, and I probably feel similarly to most people who read HN. But that's no reason not to hold ourselves to a fair standard.

Commenters: if you're not in the mood to hold yourself to a fair standard, please comment somewhere else until you are.


perseusprime11 243 days ago [-]
According to Bezos, there are two types of decisions- 1) type 1 - where Bezos does not time workers' toilet breaks, and 2) type 2 - where he lets middle managers to create their own rules. It's always Day 1 :)
iopuy 243 days ago [-]
I'm not sure I understand this comment. Day 1? What are you referencing?
kelnos 243 days ago [-]
It's a Bezos thing. The idea is that every day is "Day 1". Just because you or your company has been around for years and years or that you've hit a major milestone, you can't rest on your laurels. You need to approach every day as "Day 1" with regard to your attitude toward innovation and moving quickly.
krapp 243 days ago [-]
"It's always day one" is of Amazon's corporate slogans - I think it's something Jeff Bezos personally came up with. It's supposed to mean that every day is a learning experience... or something.
rectang 243 days ago [-]
We can't. Labor and capital need each other, but they are forever at odds. Good wages and working conditions can only be won through negotiating from strength. Modern America favors capital. Elections have consequences.
dang 243 days ago [-]
Please don't post generic ideological rhetoric to Hacker News. The more generic it is, the less information it contains, and the more off-topic and predictable the discussion gets.

That's not a disagreement with your politics; we just know from long experience what these threads turn into, and they're all the same.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16851723 and marked it off-topic.

243 days ago [-]
hutzlibu 243 days ago [-]
I don't think it is a problem that can be changed with different politics or labour unions.

The main problem is the extreme unbalance in the world. Highly develepoed robotic societys meet hungry, poor masses who cam only offer their physical labour. Mst of them in countrys far away, bu also a lot in the industrilized states.

Demand and supply. The demand for unskilled labour goes down, yet the supply of it goes up.

Most politic "solutions" only work by favoring the current residents and walling yourself in. So some better conditions for those in the country. I doubt that this is a longterm solution, when we want to live in an open global world.

So the solution I see is rather ... educating the unskilled masses, instead of fighting for better conditions for the unskilled.

lotyrin 243 days ago [-]
It's entirely power imbalance, and that can be addressed by policy. Fundamentally, Capital needs Labor as much as Labor needs Capital. There's no economic reason a capitalist contributing nothing should not expect to starve, but a laborer who contributes nothing should expect to, it's just the current market climate and political policy that these are the case such that the imbalance of power perpetuates itself.

It seems you could have the opposite case from today, with Labor concentrated into large unions which lobby for and win things like overly (but not disastrously) high Basic Income or slightly too relaxed intellectual property law, strong-arming a capital class made of small mom-and-pop firms and individual retiree-investors, avoiding providing the returns that would be seen in a more efficient and balanced market.

Pyxl101 243 days ago [-]
A capitalist and a laborer who both contribute nothing should expect nothing as a return.

A capitalist who contributes capital should expect investment returns, and a laborer who contributes labor should expect the agreed-upon compensation. Beyond that, the details of who should expect how much come down to supply and demand, of both labor and capital.

243 days ago [-]
lotyrin 243 days ago [-]
A capitalist who invests indiscriminately (e.g. broadly) today, has a positive expected outcome of this, and that's not a given out of the fundamental theory.

The work a capitalist does, their contribution, isn't just writing checks, it's writing the right checks.

jezclaremurugan 243 days ago [-]
It just happens that a capitalist writing a large number of checks happen to write a couple of right ones. And often we need them to write some wrong ones too.
Karishma1234 243 days ago [-]
Labour unions are like leeches they suck productivity and promote mediocrity. If people are unhappy with the job they should simply resign and take up another.
blindwatchmaker 243 days ago [-]
A cursory glance at the history of the industrial revolution, or even conditions today in several places including Amazon, will tell you what happens when labor's right to organize is crushed.
Karishma1234 240 days ago [-]
People tend to get better services and more efficient industries ?
nordsieck 243 days ago [-]
> Modern America favors capital

The universe favors capital because capital is more mobile than labor.

rectang 243 days ago [-]
That sounds like a king justifying the divine right of kings... The effect of mobility is offset by there being more workers than owners. These outcomes are not inevitable.
nordsieck 243 days ago [-]
> The effect of mobility is offset by there being more workers than owners.

It's actually the opposite. The more workers there are the more likely some of them will defect for whatever capital offers.

rectang 243 days ago [-]
In the labor market, that's true. ("We offer unmatched benefits, including your choice of wide-mouthed bottles or adult diapers!") But in politics, the defections must be measured as a proportion of the total population.
mmagin 243 days ago [-]
Some of the relatively higher mobility of capital is due to the policies which capital has persuaded politicians to enact.
baxtr 243 days ago [-]
The difference is that physical material need to be transported. I don’t think you can move warehouse overseas to save capital
squarefoot 243 days ago [-]
Or maybe because capital buys people (->votes->power->more capital).
evanlivingston 243 days ago [-]
The universe has a preference for mobility?
nordsieck 243 days ago [-]
Capital can choose which jurisdiction it wants to be under much more easily than labor. This "forces" laws to be more favorable to capital than labor.
vm 243 days ago [-]
This is changing in the software world.

Software gives "labor" more scalability and leverage than ever before.

rectang 243 days ago [-]
This is one of the reasons I feel good about contributing to open source. It boosts the prospects of at least some workers, while at the same time offering great value for employers, for industry, and for society at large.
vm 243 days ago [-]
I was referring to software developers having greater leverage in the labor market. Writing useful software gives developers higher economic output for their labor than we’ve had in history. It also creates unique mobility opportunities for remote developers. It is changing the capital vs labor dynamic. This is true for a narrow part of the labor market, which is why I put quotes around the word labor.

Can’t edit my earlier comment but felt I should clarify.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Labor and capital are on the same side, they are both producers of wealth. You are barking at the wrong tree.
rectang 243 days ago [-]
I look forward to capital peeing in a bottle in solidarity with labor. :)

Naturally capital and labor collaborate and both produce wealth. That doesn't mean their interests are 100% aligned.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
> I look forward to capital peeing in a bottle in solidarity with labor. :)

It does. Capital evaporates in risky endeavors all the time. It rusts by itself as well.

Sure interests arent perfectly aligned, but fighting capital is like fighting your brother for inheritance. Meanwhile, landowners see all that from afar, evict people into the streets, and those same people go pay taxes to get their food.

Capital is not the opressive.

lovich 243 days ago [-]
Capital in the US currently seems more along the lines of private profits and socialized losses. You don't see labor getting handouts in the form of welfare and then pulling millions of dollars in bonuses the next year.

Fighting capital is like fighting your brother for inheritance when your brother won the lottery, you are on welfare cause of a disability, and your brother decides to sue you for the family heirlooms because they feel they deserve it more. Yea it'd be better if we all worked together but labor wasn't the one that kicked people off the clearances, sent pinkertons to shoot people instead of negotiate, destroyed the environment, or any other of the great many ills that are happening on a daily basis.

Look at the article your even commenting on! The workers had to pee in bottles because they couldn't even take care of biology. What did the workers do to the capital owners in this case? Deprive them of a few more dollars in profit because they had the gall to not be perfectly efficient machines?

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
> You don't see labor getting handouts in the form of welfare and then pulling millions of dollars in bonuses the next year.

Depends on what you consider social expenditures in the us like food stamps, social programs, medicaid , medicare and social security.

> Fighting capital is like fighting your brother for inheritance when your brother won the lottery, you are on welfare cause of a disability, and your brother decides to sue you for the family heirlooms because they feel they deserve it more

Who is paying welfare in this analogy. And who is the court that makes the rules for sueing.

> Look at the article your even commenting on! The workers had to pee in bottles because they couldn't even take care of biology. What did the workers do to the capital owners in this case? Deprive them of a few more dollars in profit because they had the gall to not be perfectly efficient machines?

The workers, as bad as they have it, would have it worse without this option. The best guarantee to improve the conditions of workers is to get more competition going, not to put some rules that can be skirted or worse, will do damage if they are followed. While amazon treats its workers like this, Seattle has expanded is expenditures two-fold, raised taxes and increase the salaries of all its public officials. Why doesnt the washington state, in all its taxing glory help workers directly instead? Because they will make more money if people ask for regulation instead of relief.

lovich 243 days ago [-]
More competition has not lead to better conditions for workers. We are currently at such a low level of employment that economists don't know what the natural level of employment is anymore and this is still happening to employees.

You're argument that "they would have had it worse" assumes that that Amazon wouldn't have employees these people if they were only making billionaires instead of people worth 100s of billions. How is western society making more money and goods than ever but the average worker is doing worse while the richest are getting richer than ever?

Unfettered capitalism doesn't lead to all boats rising because eventually you run against hard limits like how many ISPs can run wires on telephone polls, or how many tons of freight can be physically moved from point a to point b. Someone will eventually take control of one of these natural monoplies and extract as much rent as possible from both employees and consumers unless they are forced to do otherwise.

To state that, in an era of less regulation than in America's golden age where we see the average citizen's life stagnating or even getting worse, we need even less regulation so that the people who are worth more than entire countries can compete better is at best putting your head in the sand and at worst being actively against your fellow man.

Not everyone deserves a fucking Lamborghini and steak every night with our current technology but they certainly don't deserve to have to choose between food and medicine or to have to piss in a fucking bottle to save their bosses a few dollars in exchange for not being made homeless

Edit:your point about the government in Seattle not helping out because they make more money from people asking for regulations is not something I am arguing against, as you certainly have a point there. I think the main problem is that most humans on an instinctual level would value a 1% gain in their resources infinitely higher than preventing a 50% loss in all of societys resources and so we end up with assholes everywhere trying their best to be the quoted example on Wikipedia about the tragedy of the commons

conanbatt 242 days ago [-]
> More competition has not lead to better conditions for workers. We are currently at such a low level of employment that economists don't know what the natural level of employment is anymore and this is still happening to employees.

95% extreme poverty to 5%, much higher life expectancy, exponential wealth growth and low unemployement. Your first sentence plainly contradicts reality 100%.

> You're argument that "they would have had it worse" assumes that that Amazon wouldn't have employees these people if they were only making billionaires instead of people worth 100s of billions. How is western society making more money and goods than ever but the average worker is doing worse while the richest are getting richer than ever?

Because thats not whats happening. Wages stagnated while half of the population entered the workforce worldwide-> if women went back to the employement levelts of the 70's you would find wages would grow quite a bit! An that is only one of the causes: another is that such propaganda always talks about the US, but doesnt see that wages of poorest countries in south east asia, or china, have grown enormously since the 70s by basically providing cheap clothes and goods to the US.

> Unfettered capitalism doesn't lead to all boats rising

That has been the reality since its inception. This is what the people that repeat that "trickle down doesnt work" end up believing. The unnuanced opinion that if someone has money, he has wealth (which is wrong) and if someone has wealth he has stolen (wrong again) and if wealth were distributed it would be better for all (wrong again).

> To state that, in an era of less regulation than in America's golden age where we see the average citizen's life stagnating or even getting worse, we need even less regulation so that the people who are worth more than entire countries can compete better is at best putting your head in the sand and at worst being actively against your fellow man

The us is not in an era of low regulation. The Us is super regulated both federally and state level. You need to train 1500 hours in an apprenticeship to be a hair stylist in california. You cant import drugs from abroad without extreme FDA regulatory costs. Doctors from outside the US need to do a residency again to be able to get a medical license in the US. Cities indulge in nymbism to be rentist about land. Taxes have regressive implementations the state economists recognize but they cant subsistitute with simpler and fairer taxes due to legal, political and tax regulations. The us has immigration quotas, for christ sake.

The US government spends 37% of gdp. 37%! The government consumes all the wealth of billionaires together every year. You would wipe out all the billionaires in the world in one year of tax breaks for everyone in the us. The next year there are no more billionaires and you still have to pay the same taxes.

lovich 242 days ago [-]
We might be talking about different points of time. I am looking at post ww2 US to today. I would agree with you that so far over the long term conditions have been greatly improved and still are being greatly improved in areas which don't have much to begin with like china 20-30 years ago. As it stands for the past few decades though the situation has been getting worse in the US.

To your point about "trickle down doesn't work". Where is your evidence that it does work? The trickle down theories have been going on for at least a hundred years when it was horse and sparrow and we haven't seen improvements to the average person from it. The largest improvements have come from labor rights having to physically fight companies for it ~100 years ago, and the post war boom when tax rates on the top income levels were at their historical highs. Since trickle down economics started getting pushed into the economy and tax rates have been continually lowered for the richest, we've seen conditions for everyone not in tech or finance stagnate or go down.

Additionally the US government expenditures are not a black hope that wealth and goods are tossed into. They stimulate the economy as well, although I will agree that much of it is comically inefficient

For your point about regulations I'm not sure how explain my feelings on it eloquently, but yes those massive regulations exist and end up squeezing out the smaller players. What they have become though is just another tool for large corporations to keep competition out while not changing their behavior much. We end up having regulations to keep the environment clean that make it impossible for small manufactories to run profitably but still don't keep pollution gone. Those regulations are bad and I can't point to the government as a good solution on how to get good regulations, but I do believe that they get it right sometimes where if it's left up to corporations there will always be a race to the bottom and we will get no protections

conanbatt 240 days ago [-]
> To your point about "trickle down doesn't work". Where is your evidence that it does work? The trickle down theories have been going on for at least a hundred years when it was horse and sparrow and we haven't seen improvements to the average person from it. The largest improvements have come from labor rights having to physically fight companies for it ~100 years ago, and the post war boom when tax rates on the top income levels were at their historical highs. Since trickle down economics started getting pushed into the economy and tax rates have been continually lowered for the richest, we've seen conditions for everyone not in tech or finance stagnate or go down.

Lets remember trickle down is an originally demeaning term that has like a 100 years old, and was i think promoted by a comedian. It contains in itself an inconsistency with the general stance of lowering taxes, because the purported argument that its supposed to mock is that its better to tax poor people over rich people because rich know better to do with the money. But in general, the main reason to lower taxes is because anyone is better to do with money than the state. Its just that the state is just nominally more effective by taking money from those on top. I say nominally because in the end the state does know how to really tax poor people, which have less resources to fight it.

Progressive taxation in itself brings lots of problems and in its glory of simplification it commits many injustices as well. But above all, the idea of a tax to punish wealthy is envious and petty: they have more so they should pay more. Its not economics, its not morality, its a tantrum. It has been said in the past (i dont know if the math is current) that if you eliminated all exemptions of taxes and put a flat 15% tax on income, you would actually increase tax revenue. And you would do so without requirement nearly as much accounting work as it is today. One of the reasons that is politically hard to sell is because its not progressive enough. So I do see progressive taxation as an obstacle to simpler and more effective tax systems.

Inequality is a real problem, when libertarians say it doesnt matter I think they are wrong. But when liberals say that the way to manage that is a bigger state and bigger taxes they are "wronger". How to solve inequality is still an open problem: its growing even in europe where the tax rate is much higher and the state is much higher. So increasing taxes or state benefits are not the way to reduce inequality.

Now regarding labor laws: I dissent entirely with the premise. Labor laws were and are economically useful as long as they keep the state out of trampling their rights, but they are not useful to improve their working conditions. What lifts the workers labor conditions are not laws but competition for their labor. Lets take argentina as an example: it has strict labor laws and a "in dubis pro operario" legal system where any lawsuit against the employer rules in favor of the employee. Unions have constitutional protections, like their leaders cant be arrested. The result is that the strongest unions have high wages. Success? Hell no. Argentina has had growing poverty and stagnant GDP/capita growth since unions were given this power. The unions protect their workers at everybody elses expense. Because the only way to increase a workers wage is to increase his productivity (which unions dont do) or to reduce the number of workers. They plainly reduce supply, which means they push people to not have jobs.

You will find Argentina, Spain and France, countries with strong unions, to have higher unemployment.

zasz 243 days ago [-]
Ahahah, so that's why capital called in the cops to kill members of the first labor unions in America, out of brother hood?
conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
The cops? Cops aren't capital. They are State.
gonvaled 243 days ago [-]
In this context, Cops are not State, but a tool, used by Capital.
conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Really, the guys with batons and guns are not the problem, it is capital that entices them to do it?

How seductive capital is, that even lawful violents follow they every will! We must surely give those lawful violents more and more power to resist the allure of capital!

243 days ago [-]
dragonwriter 243 days ago [-]
> Labor and capital are on the same side, they are both producers of wealth.

Neither labor nor capital independently produce wealth, generally, it's produced by the application of labor to capital; the suppliers of labor and capital are on opposing sides of the fight to capture the wealth the two are used together to create.

“Capitalism” was named for the side it specifically favors in that fight, by people who found that a fundamental problem.

conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
> the suppliers of labor and capital are on opposing sides of the fight to capture the wealth the two are used together to create.

Opposing sides or collaborators? Like the sun and the soil working together..

Think of those that provide no labor and no capital yet capture great value. Those are the truly destructive.

your-nanny 243 days ago [-]
And in virtue of what does the capitalist provide capital?
your-nanny 243 days ago [-]
In virtue of the fact that a system of law has established and enforces property rights, even at the expense of others labor.
conanbatt 242 days ago [-]
In the virtue of saving from consumption. When a man does not consume his produce and stores some to build a tool, he has created capital. What a monster he is! His tool should be destroyed for the betterment of humanity and equality!
saas_co_de 243 days ago [-]
If that is true then it would also be true that a slave and their master are on the same side.
conanbatt 243 days ago [-]
Slaves are held against their will. Workers submit voluntarily.
your-nanny 243 days ago [-]
The world admits to degrees.
0x262d 243 days ago [-]
I love to voluntarily choose between working for a capitalist and starving, personally
saas_co_de 243 days ago [-]
Yes, there is no coercion involved whatsoever when your choices are working for pennies or being homeless, hungry, in prison, or on the streets.

The only difference is that the modern slave owners are smarter and so they use a form of coercion that is more efficient. That is the only advance they have made past the plantation.

conanbatt 242 days ago [-]
We are all bound by nature, so is the capitalist. What is important is to be free from men.

You also do NOT need to work for a capitalist to survive. You need to work for the state or you will starve, thats our modern world.

jacquesm 243 days ago [-]
Of course you can. Modern America may favor capital but there is no reason why it can't change to some reasonable middle ground.
bahmboo 243 days ago [-]
Costco? A bit apples and oranges.
degenerate 243 days ago [-]
Costco is a good example of a happy medium. At least they treat their workers like humans, and have proper amount of staff & checkout lines.
bezosisevil 243 days ago [-]
I assume you’re talking about the election of people like Obama, who visited and praised Amazon in 2013?
fruitzome 242 days ago [-]
I peed in bottles (while driving) for fear that I would miss the date I was driving to (and already late).

Maybe I should write an article on brutal conditions of city living and online dating to get people to feel sorry for me.

If you don't want a job at Amazon's shit hole warehouse, then why the fuck do you go in everyday? At least their putting your dumbass to meaningful production sinve obviously you are too stupid to work anywhere else.

asimpletune 243 days ago [-]
This is totally normal
bitmapbrother 243 days ago [-]
You may want to check the seal on your next order of Mountain Dew from Amazon.