Recently a story in the New York Times came out about the labor practices of Amazon and it was not flattering.  

Probably most revealing was their management approach to long term hourly workers. Company founder, Jeff Bezos came to believe that long term hourly workers were a part of the business that was inefficient. The problem he observed (according to the article) is that long-term hourly workers expect a raise every year, lose enthusiasm for the job as the years go by making them less efficient and they become a possible source of discontent. His solution, give employees a bonus for resigning after three years and to help incentivize them, offer no vertical mobility by hiring managers from outside the company. Also at Amazon, employees are tracked by TOT (time off task). They must be staying on task in order to work there. One employee who had received high praise for productivity on a consistent basis had a bad shift and was fired. 

Like most things at Amazon, this strategy appears to have worked for them as they have been very successful. Amazon now wants to be the best employer on Earth, however, that remains to be seen.

When I read stories like this I like to localize it to better wrap my mind around it. What if some of our local stores/merchants operated the way Amazon does? What would happen if employees were encouraged to resign after three years or were fired after one bad shift? There is already a shortage of workers in Fergus Falls and the surrounding area. So I’m thinking that any employer who operated the way Amazon does would change their tune quickly as they would soon have no employees left. And word would quickly get around to not work there. Simply put, our local community would not put up with this form of aggressive management. So why do some of us continue to order goods from Amazon? 

One simple answer, it’s because they make it very easy to do business with them. Their online checkout system is second to none and as consumers, we are willing to do business with them despite their employment practices and the fact that Amazon contributes nothing to our local economy.

The only way to combat this is to shop locally. I know our community is not self-contained, however, as local consumers, we should make every effort to try and purchase goods locally before going out of town to shop and especially before ordering through Amazon.


Ken Harty is the publisher of The Fergus Falls Daily Journal.

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