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The Reality Of Online Shopping

Online shopping. We point, click, and buy. Then what happens? We’ll investigate.

In this Nov. 16, 2009 photo, Reginald Armstead, Jr., of Phoenix, sends a package on its way after packing it at the 800,000 sq. ft. Amazon.com warehouse in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP)

In this Nov. 16, 2009 photo, Reginald Armstead, Jr., of Phoenix, sends a package on its way after packing it at the 800,000 sq. ft. Amazon.com warehouse in Goodyear, Ariz. (AP)

Online shopping is such a breeze.  Plug in your credit card.  Point, click and buy.  It seems like magic.  But what happens after that little e-mail that says your order is confirmed?  .

Well, here’s what happens.  Somewhere in America, likely in a truly giant warehouse, likely at a very low wage, often a temp worker is off like a shot to find that product and send it on its way.  And they do that maybe a thousand times a day.  Running like rabbits.  Fire-able for any reason.  Desperate.  To bring you fast, free shipping.

This hour, On Point:  The new coal miners.  Inside warehouse America.

-Tom Ashbrook


Mac McClelland, a reporter for Mother Jones, you can find her new story on the working conditions inside a fulfillment center here.

Spencer Soper, a business reporter for the Allentown Morning Call. You can find a series of his stories about the conditions inside an Amazon warehouse in Pennsylvania here.

Robert Korstad, professor of public policy and history at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

From Tom’s Reading List

Mother Jones “Several months prior, I’d reported on an Ohio warehouse where workers shipped products for online retailers under conditions that were surprisingly demoralizing and dehumanizing, even to someone who’s spent a lot of time working in warehouses, which I have. And then my editors sat me down.”

Morning Call “Elmer Goris spent a year working in Amazon.com’s Lehigh Valley warehouse, where books, CDs and various other products are packed and shipped to customers who order from the world’s largest online retailer.”

Morning Call “More than 12,600 people pledged to boycott online retailer Amazon.com  this holiday season to protest “sweatshop” working conditions at its Lehigh Valley warehouses, according to the union advocacy group American Rights at Work.”

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  • http://www.hullandzimmerman.com/practice-areas/traumatic-brain-injury/ Sheen Edward

    Online shopping is everywhere but securing your information online be able to assure that the transaction to be make is legit, research before clicking is a great step.  

  • Gul Du Cory

    My wife suffered minor identity theft in the past, I’m a bit shellshocked about online purchases.  I’m sure some will chime in with all the “foolproof” ways to purchase online, but I have a definite trust deficit.

    • Chris

      That’s not what this is about.

      It’s about conditions in the shipping warehouses.

    • Ellen Dibble

      I know what you mean, and in fact just froze my Facebook page because someone was trying to log on from elsewhere, i.e., pretend to be me, and my computer has since gone haywire, but I think it’s fixed. It was almost beyond my antivirus etc. to fix it.  Anyway, when I shop online, I use a dedicated online credit card, figuring if that number gets loose, I’ll cancel that card.  

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    We live in a very small town in NW Connecticut and it’s an hour to the nearest place to shop at an assortment of retail outlets.

    Because of this we’ve been shopping on Amazon since its founding, initially for books and then for a variety of things. When Amazon added their Prime service (yearly fee, two day flat rate shipping on many items, other perks) we signed up and that tipped things so that we buy even more at from them.

    Amazon works quite well for us and their return policy is outstanding (one of the reasons many people avoid online shopping).

    Scaling up and streamlining the supply chain of a successful service like Amazon or Apple/Foxconn is not without bumps and we’ve seen this before in the garment industry, and auto industry, and more. It’s as much a design problem as it is a working conditions problem. Until we find a way to use robots to do highly repetitive tasks like phone assembly and warehouse picking there will be humans involved and even at better pay the work is rough and not everyone is cut out for it.

    The question remains: could Apple or Dell (both use Foxconn) or Amazon with its hub and spoke fulfillment system continue to expand their businesses (grow), provide the same or better service and products with all the people in the supply chain getting a better wage and better working conditions? Sure, there’s probably at least some margin greed in this but there is also a tipping point:

    If Foxconn raised their wages such that Apple, Dell and others started building robot assembly plants in the US, those Foxconn jobs would be gone. If Amazon went all robot for fullfillment, those warehouse picking jobs would be gone. It’s not all or nothing and in the meantime improving working conditions along the supply chain is important but my guess is these jobs will be gone at some point as companies robotize assembly and fulfillment.

    • BHA in Vermont

       How many Apple products are even made and shipped from the USA? I work for a company that has a business relationship with Apple and we get discounts (like maybe 10%). Some years back I ordered an iMac G5. It was shipped from China. A couple of years ago, I ordered an IPod for my daughter, shipped from Shanghai and got here 2 days after I ordered it. And I ordered it at night!! It must have almost immediately popped out of the warehouse directly to a Fed Ex plane. Ordered one for my other daughter a few months ago, shipped from China. Just ordered her a MacBook last night (graduation present from her grandparents). I will be REALLY surprised if it doesn’t come from China.

      I wish the discount could be used in the local Apple store but it doesn’t work that way.

      • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

        BHA: Right, certain discounts can only be used at Apple online and you’re right, much of that stuff is coming directly out of Asia. One of the reasons they don’t stockpile it closer is the build to order options that I take advantage of. That stuff is done in the factory before final assembly and packaging.

        One can use educational and government discounts in the Apple retail stores but I’m guessing your deal is different.

    • Michele

      An ipad costs under $200 to manufacture.  The cheapest ipad sells for $500.  I think there is a healthy profit margin, even with R&D, packaging, marketing, and shipping (from China and domestically) to pay workers a higher wage and not increase pricing. 

      Worker abuses will continue whether or not these warehouse jobs eventually disappear.  But that is hardly the point, the misery of one group of workers does not justify the misery of others.

      • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

        Michele, I’m not sure an iPad costs $200 to manufacture. Can you show me where you got that number? Or, let’s just say I’m not sure what Apple’s margin is on an iPad. No doubt they make plenty of money although I was always under the impression that they had narrow margins on their hardware and made more money on selling content and services that run on the hardware (songs, apps, software) or in taking a cut of the carrier subscription costs on the iPhone.

        The question remains, if Apple cut margins and raised the price of the product enough to cover higher wages for American or Chinese assembly workers, would the market for the device be there at the higher price? If the market shrank, so would the manufacturing jobs.

        I can honestly say that I’d pay more for an iPhone made in the USA by American workers but I doubt enough other people would to enable Apple or Dell to move away from Chinese manufacturing.

        Also, remember, it’s not Apple doing the hiring and paying in China, it’s Foxconn. No doubt Apple/Dell can influence Foxconn but my guess is there’s no way Foxconn or China is going to help a union get started for these workers. Apple can only push Foxconn so far, Foxconn has its own profit margins to protect.

        • Michele


          There are many reports that outline how much it costs to manufacture an ipad.  You can listen to This American Life and their very informative broadcast about one American man standing outside of Foxconn.  I believe the cost is actually $187 US. 

          I don’t disagree that Foxconn is in charge of how workers are treated to an extent.  However, we turn a blind eye to it.  What I am saying is that even in China workers could be paid a living wage (enough to live on their own, not in dormitories, buy food, clothing, put their children through school, and have savings) and still turn a HUGE profit.

          • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

            Michele, I’ve listened to Mike Daisy’s one man show and while the show is excellent, I don’t think it’s public knowledge what an iPad costs to make so his number is questionable.

            But, let’s say Apple has enough margin in the iPad to spend more for production, it’s up to Foxconn to raise salaries, not Apple.

            The fact is, there are huge lines outside Foxconn, Chinese people want those jobs knowing exactly what the working conditions and salaries are.

  • Patrik

    I mostly shop online for mid-range to larger purchases.  I always feel that if I do my part to ensure that my information is secure by having two good AV, spamware, malware programs and by making sure the website has some kind of security for their site, I don’t really need to worry about anything after I click purchase or submit.

    • Chris

      That’s not what this is about.

      It’s about conditions in shipping warehouses.

      • Patrik

        Yeah I realized that after posting, wwhoops. lol

  • JustSayin

    Online shopping is like finding a significant other. It is fraught with complications, matters of trust, how much do we reveal to get what we want, do we get robbed, do we get a virus, and the worry of that partner never forgetting our personal history and disseminating it to others.

    Ah, to be born into an age without photos, computers, and permanent storage media…

    But IMO the most honest, straight forward, and least prone to industrial gossip partner… has to be Amazon. I think they know this and work hard to become the best web site in the world.

  • Tara

    I became a temp “picking and packing” worker and only lasted one day. Even though we were packing boxes with other boxes of keurig cups, workers had to wear hair nets even if they were bald! Men with sideburns were made to wear beard nets which didn’t even cover up the hair in question. We were not allowed to have our own water bottles, even though we were walking anywhere from 8-10 miles per day inside the enormous ware-house. We had to walk about a 1/4 mile across the warehouse to the water fountain every time we needed to hydrate. Working there was bordering inhumane, and in my opinion, degrading. 

    • Patrik

      Oh wow, I just never thought of that.  I probably should have known, but just never thought of it because of the ease of the purchase.

    • Tara

      the water fountains may have been 1/8 of a mile… I don’t want to take away from the reality of the ridiculous situation. 

  • JustSayin

    Tom the shipping isn’t really free… It built into the pricing.

  • Chris

    I read this article yesterday and wanted to throw up.

    The 1% want the 99% to be their slave.

  • shan

    In other words, being a “picker” is like shopping at Ikea.

  • David

    What a load of crap.  I work in several of these warehouses as a vendor and there is vast accomodation and handwringing over employee safety.  I sympathize with these folks, but this is very much entry level work….Thank God for the jobs.

    • Chris

      Yeah, as a vender you know.

      Work for a month as a warehouse slave and get back to us.

    • Solsoons

       And as a vendor, how many barbie dolls have you picked in the several warehouses you work at? I guess if the warehouses didn’t exist, and they didn’t pay a low wage, they wouldn’t pay your price for your goods. How wonderful.

    • nj_v2

      Yes, massa! Whatever you like, massa!

  • Chris

    This is what the American people want.

    More than that; it’s what they need. They need to lose all the
    gains that labor won for them over the past 100+ years. They need to
    lose health care, living wages, the 40-hour workweek, weekends and
    workplace safety laws. They need to see their children being maimed and
    killed in factories, working 18 hours a day for pennies.

    The minimum wage must go. Ditto the right of any poor person to sue
    any rich person. No free legal representation. No public schools. Food
    and drug safety must go. Unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid,
    Social Security…all of it has to go away, as soon as possible!

    Because too many Americans are too damned stupid and ignorant to
    appreciate those programs. They’ve forgotten or never learned what life
    was like before the social safety net was created. And so they must lose it…so that they can finally learn (to their everlasting regret) what they have lost.

    And then, maybe, they can fight for and earn it all over again…if
    ecological collapse doesn’t make the entire issue (and our species
    itself) moot.

    Make no mistake: all the causes that you support are lost. Both
    parties are owned by the financial elite, and too many people have been
    raised to loathe every core American value. They believe in an America
    that tortures, that is the largest prison-state in the world, where
    money is speech and corporations are people. They want that America, and they are going to get it.

    If you really believe that it’s the end of the world if the
    Republicans get control of all branches of government, I have news for
    you: they will. All that money and all that public ignorance make
    it an absolute certainty. It will happen sooner than you
    expect…although the differences between a Republican government and
    Democratic one will be difficult (if not impossible) to discern.

    But when the people are finally ground down into the dust, faced with
    conversion from a people who had hope to a disease-infested
    perpetually-destitute peasant class…that’s when the moment of truth
    will arrive. Will ordinary Americans accept a future of despair and
    slavery, anesthetized by ever-dumber television and constant propaganda?
    Or will they take matters into their own hands?

    I’ll admit, I hope that the people wake up. It’s really their only
    option, if they are to survive. But their uprising will probably be long
    and bloody. Many of us will not survive it. Perhaps none of us will.

    But it’s the best chance our species has to survive.

    • John in Vermont

      Unfortunately I think you are only too right. It’s ironic that Chinese and Indian workers are fighting and organizing to get better working conditions, wages, etc. while the “model” culture in the U.S. in is the process of dismantling all that.

      FOX News and the current crop of GOP candidates are trying to convince the American workforce that they are the greedy ones. As Jon Stewart has pointed out the prevailing attitude is “F**K the poor.” (Which includes mostly working poor – NOT welfare recipients.)

    • http://twitter.com/TongoRad TongoRad

      Nice post, but don’t assume that things will go from bad to worse, and then necessarily back up again as people come to their senses. Things can go bad and simply stay that way for a long, long time.
      I’ve lived and worked as an expat in a 3rd world country for 10 years, and have seen with my own eyes how bad things can become. Just because people are miserable and want to change their lives doesn’t mean that they can.
      How do 15 hour workdays sound, America? Paltry subsistence wages. 6 or 7 day work weeks? Chronic underemployment? This is the direction we are headed in, and it’s maddening to see workers turned against workers in a race to the bottom.

  • Ahmed

    My wife decided to go with netflex dvd delivery over the tradition short walk with childen to the local blockbuster in central sq cambridge.
    Big mistake. They closed down the shop and now it is an empty shop lights out. We put a stop to the home delivery order.

  • Anonymous

    Remember when I was a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant.  I had to stick my hands in 3 feet worth of fried rice, mustard and sweet and sour sauce, fishing for knives and utensils cutting my hands in the process,  but still digging deep for dishes.  For hours I would run in the kitchen with many pounds of dishes trying to stack them in certain areas.  For 10 hours I worked and at the end of the day, I was exhausted and my clothes and skin were hardened by sauces.  I made 20 bucks for all that effort.  And I was proud of it.

    Everyone goes through the crazy part-time job.  What a disappointment that the youth has forgotten what hard work means.

    • http://twitter.com/gaiagurl59 bmarieb

      As the guest points out, many of the folks working were in their 50′s, she is 30. They told her she wasn’t taking enough pain meds. She is making a point beyond simly doing hard work. The show is meant in large part to make all of us who buy from amazon and other online warehouse businesses aware of some of the reasons we are getting our “stuff” at a “discounted price.”

  • GQ Lewis

    This is just the Chinafication of America. That’s why the workers for Foxconn jump to their deaths. This is just inhumane.

  • Jen

    I was surprised a few weeks ago to find out that many of my Amazon packages are no longer delivered by UPS or USPS, but rather a delivery person in what I believe is his personal vehicle. They seem to deliver at all times of day and seven days a week.

    • TFRX

      Great, another field for the “independent contractor”. Just what Americans need.

      My concern is that we’re looking at what used to be a real job switched to now a person working for little (maybe less than minimum wage) pay plus tips.

      That’s made good restaurant work into a crap job, basically. How many more workplaces does that need to spread to?

  • BHA in Vermont

    How bizarrely INEFFICIENT!
    Why send everyone everywhere? Put people in a relatively small area and only give the the items from an order that are in their area, conveyer belt those to a central order packing area.

  • Scott B, Jamestown NY

    The places don’t consider that someone is new and just learning, or if the person is tall and can get some things easier than others or a longer stride and can move quicker, or that every item isn’t the same size or weight – so the bottle of aspirin holds the same value as the weight set, or that one item is way over on the other side of the warehouse… 

  • AC

    i thought these jobs were being replaced by automated ‘pickers’ ?

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Is there such a thing as entry level work these days?  Does anyone work up the ranks to the top any more?

    • GradyLeeHoward

      It’s all exit level.

  • Stacey

    “entry level” job implies a path of promotion, or even a job that looks good on the resume. If the job wont lead to better jobs it is not “entry level” it is just a dead end job. Dead jobs are better than no jobs – but they are not good jobs.

  • Solsoons

    I wonder how many of the workers are undocumented? How many workers are dealing with wage theft(by the temp agency or employer)?

  • Samstigman

    I honestly thought the crud I would buy online was somehow just like a vending machine.  I put my quarters in and out pops my junk.  Oh what a fool I am.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’d be happy if some of the tip I give to the driver who delivers my groceries could go to the picker.  That person, I assume, can pick my grocery list faster than I ever could, because they know the warehouse.  Plus the computer can calculate what I likely need or want, and presto, I can have somebody else do my shopping for me.  I can do my job, that I’m good at, and not waste four or five hours scratching around the aisles for where these are NOW.  Further, I end up with the best produce, better than I could pick, grapefruit that lasts weeks, for instance.  
       Anyway, the drivers get all my gratitude.  I don’t have to have a car.  I don’t have to trek all over.  I don’t have to memorize the whole store and rememorize it.
       Thank you, American system, for making this possible.  Please treat these people right.

  • bob

    Having been a supervisor and manager in several warehouse and distribution operations in support of both retail and wholesale companies, I can tell you that the rank and file are viewed as unskilled labor of the lowest order, only slightly above farm laborers.  The operational languages on the floor were Vietnamese, Spanish, and Hatian Creole;  the productivity goals were virtually unattainable.  So – rank in file lived in constant fear of their jobs – but this was true for most of the supervisors and managers as well.  There was virtually no upward progression, the philosophy was, ” if this job is the best you can land – that is clear evidence that you should not be considered for any advancement “.  So happy those daze are behind me. 

  • Maria

    To compare “picking” to coalmining is rediculous. The difference is u don’t have to worry about black lung disease or the roof falling in on you. Also making $11 plus an hour is not bottom basement wages. I wait tables and get cuts and burns regularly anyone can get hurt at service type industry jobs. She is describing factory work and it’s hard work many people would be happy to have this job. People take all kinds of drugs to deal with work. Heard of carpel tunnel much for secretaries? And to belittle the guy for wanting to do a good job and get a paltry gift card what a joke. Oh and if you quit by stop showing up for work no call moshow so you get paid less she knew that going in. This is not a news story! Research immigrant workers working outside or in warehouses in the SW. Or interview people in the precivil rights south textile mills. I’m disappointed. People should stop comparing themselves to slaves when they get paid to work!

    • Guest

      It’s not factory work; that’s making things. The pickers are just getting things. Your post sounds like “Be glad you’ve got a job,” and it doesn’t matter what the working conditions are. Is that what you’re saying?

    • Guest

      Could Not agree more Maria,  Mac is obviously some complaining 20 something and I am glad someone else heard it in what was going on there besides just me.  This was the biggest fluff piece dancing around as real journalism that I have ever heard.  Shame on this show for not being harder on this girl and I may have just listened to my last On Point program because of it.  Asians are eating our lunch and this girls has this nerve to complain like that.  Shameful.  My oldest son is running patrol out of a FOB in Afghanistan as you read this for less than minimum wage obviously,  and he complains less than this girl was doing.  Mother Jones should not let this girl on the radio or anywhere else that has her name attached to them.  

      • Anonymous

        Ms McClelland is a true investigative reporter, focusing on how common folks are affected by the ever-increasing tilt toward the economic elite to the detriment of what used to be called the middle class.  I say this after reading many of her articles over the years.

        Nobody forced your son or anyone else to enlist in today’s military, which any informed person would know is tasked with ridiculously unattainable goals, at incredibly high expense. At a cost of over $1 million per deployed troop, if he’s getting less than the minimum wage, where’s all our money going?

  • Sally Seaver

    I own an ecommerce business, http://www.EgyptianCottonTshirts.com. Our current picker is someone who is happy to have work during mother’s hours, and have work after being out of the work force for 15 plus years being a wife and mother. The previous picker was someone who had been out of work for a long time. She went on to full-time employment with another firm. 

    My workers are treated well.

  • Scott B, Jamestown NY

    The problem is that the people the run the place don’t have to do the work. If they did, things would change. I’ve run into the problem is almost every job I’ve been at. The only time it got better was when I “invited” the higher-ups to join me for a day. 

    There’s always some numbers guy that sets the goals and think “You should be able to do such-n-such withing this time”, but if you do that (or even come close) then they up the number to the next unrealistic, unobtainable goal and wonder why you’re not making rate.

    • Guest

      That’s what’s good about that TV show where bosses work alongside their employees for a week. They see things that they don’t see at the top, even if they have accurate and honest people reporting to them. Being there is different from hearing about it.

      I worry about their upping the goals once someone makes them. What’s the limit?

      • Scott B, Jamestown NY

         I’m a big fan of the saying, “Do you want to talk to a boss, or someone that really knows what’s going on?”  The bosses that I had the most respect for where the ones that had been in the same position I am, at one time in their careers; or the bosses that listened to issues and tried to help.

        I actually have been in the position of having my job threatened because I couldn’t get through to a boss that: I can’t unload a truck that isn’t even at the site; I can’t make two, foot-wide mattresses fit into one, 8″ wide “aisle”, that the new 20′ cargo box only measures 15′ and that’s why we only got 3/4 of the load on; that I can’t make something clean with dirty rags and dirty water;and  that I can only go as fast (when on a delivery) as the cop in front of me is going.

  • Dabmurphy

    this is why romney wants to eliminate all unions.

  • Plmcguir

    After reading Mac and Spencer’s reporting, I was very grateful that my warehouse experience was with a company that took pains to treat its workers well. It is infuriating that American workers are subjected to these conditions. While I rarely shopped online before reading Mac and Spencer’s reporting, I am now boycotting Amazon and other online retailers until these companies prove that they the people employed in their warehouses are treated humanely and respectfully.

  • Ellen Dibble

    This kind of work can be very good for you.  For 20 years I worked in a library, and part of my job was picking all the interlibrary loan books, from all over the many floors of the library, and also shelving, and reshelving, shifting lots and lots of books, and I would be glad to be away from the “office politics,” where I could think my own thoughts.  I would not get so exhausted that I would not get out at five and head straight for the hills on my bike.  But the job was varied, and that was the advantage of it.  Type a while, sort a while, run around hunting for books for a while.
       There is a way of constructing these jobs so they are good for the employees, healthy and balanced.

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

       You also don’t have to pick 1000 books, some weighing dozens of pounds, in a shift at a library.

      • Ellen Dibble

        Physically speaking, that job was close to ideal, lots of motion, lots of variety.

        • TFRX

          Plus you were working in a library.

          I’m figuring that means that management didn’t get loud on you, and they didn’t have a “You’re Lucky To Have A Job!” Successories poster on the break room wall.

          • Ellen Dibble

            I’m more promoting the idea that this kind of work (running around, more efficiently than the actual patrons could, using the organization that the warehouse and the internet can provide in this case) can be designed to be desirable work.  If we want this kind of service (saving us driving time, and saving us from having to wait in line here and there, etc), then we the people have to somehow make sure that this kind of work is desirable, it seems to me.  For starters, don’t allow Amazon or others to get hung up about being faster than anyone else, and put a tip line for the pickers, something like that:  Hint, hint (to the supervisors).  Is it worth it to us to have this dynamic work well, for all of us in the USA?  Yep.

          • TFRX

            can be designed to be desirable work

            Agreed. If that’s the goal.

            Highly recommended history touching on retailing and marketing in the USA.

            What’s old–having a clerk pick goods for you–is new again, but with “efficiency” being made a dirty word.

  • Gary

    Sorry I guys I’m 52 White avg income, very blessed in my work now… but My Grand Parnets, Parnets and many of our other family including me worked in Mills.. Warehouse work sounds a snap…

    • Chris

      Hope you need to do it soon since you think it’s so easy.

      • Gary

        Me too.. if you will work in a Mill on Production at min wage.. you make over your production to make more $$ I done my time in the Mills on a farm etc.. so go to School and go to Washington run for office.

        • Gary

          Better yet Join the service… those ladies and young people give everything plus their lifes!

          • GradyLeeHoward

            Gary needs to explore French Foreign Legion opportunities. One way ticket.

    • Anonymous

      So you think going backwards into a world of bad labor conditions is OK. I hope you don’t end up working for what you are advocating for. I doubt you would last a week.

      • Gary

        No dont plan on it but if I had nothing else I would… I’m tied of hearing every one complain a little hard work never hurt no one I know…

        • GradyLeeHoward

          You’re too old for the hardcourt, Gary.

    • GradyLeeHoward

      The Parnets were great millworkers. They used to come in at 6, shut the younguns in the toilet, and work ’til dark with no breaks. I can’t describe how overweight the Grand-Parnets were. They ran the snack cart. Marlboro smoke boiled outta there like the place was afire. I think Gary and me skipped work and went fishin’ once. We’re still being docked right on up to today.

  • Scott B, Jamestown NY

    If you’re a “temp” they don’t have to follow the same rules they would if they were a full hire with regards to hours, insurance, benefits, etc., as the onus is on the temp agencies. Plus,  the temp agency gets to keep $1, or more, of your salary for providing you with a job.

  • Emptyideas

    Your guest sounds like the type of person who wants to ban football or hockey because she doesn’t like sports.  This argument is a specious and condescending as “Nickled and Dimed” was.

    • Moorebjb

      This sounds like. I’m PROUD of the fact that I can tolerate being exploited and abused and having no expectations of anything better – and you should be too!

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think the on-line marketers are competing with this sooner-than-the-next-guy come-ons.  The fact of the matter is I can plan ahead for almost everything.  I can tell the grocery store, I’d like this order in a week or ten days.  I can tell the book places, I’d like this in a month or so.  Or get it for a Kindle or Nook.

  • Cpxharlow

    These types of pick and pack jobs are being phased out of human work to be replaced with robots such as the Kiva Systems. 

  • Francis

    And some believe unions are not needed anymore. Unions are the only way for workers to have a voice on the job and be treated fairly!  

  • Donna

    It sounds to me like the warehouses are set up very inefficiently and I’m guessing with an investment (organizational and space use experts), the process of fulfillment could be made better for employees.  The conversation so far however doesn’t seem to address any solutions…it seems to imply that online shopping is bad, but I can’t see amazon and others ever going away, so some other solution needs to be explored.  I also feel like the guest isn’t perhaps the best person to be expert about these jobs, given that it sounds like she only worked there a few days.  I’m wondering what someone who has worked there a number of years would say?  it should also be pointed out that all hours over 40 must be paid at time and a half, so the wage for the fifth 10.5 hour day plus whatever else is over would be a wage over $20/hr.  this is very complicated…

  • http://profiles.google.com/jim.bullard Jim Bullard

    Running all over picking orders, getting by with the minimum number of people needed to do the job. It all sounds exactly like my first job (1962) which was in a warehouse We didn’t even have conveyors. We sprinkled dance hall wax on the corridors so that we could push huge trains of cases that contained 36 or more pairs of shoes. Workers vied to see who could move the biggest train of cases. And yes, we got laid off when there wasn’t work. I was paid $1.25/hr. At the end of the week I got the dollar and the government got the quarter. It wasn’t fun but I wasn’t abused either. I don’t understand the expectations of young workers today. A job is what you make of it in your head and with your efforts. If you can’t tolerate it… find one you can.

    • Guest

      I could not agree more Jim,  I have the same life experience and this entire generation of young workers think that there is a shiny happy world out there that someone is going to give them without them working for it.  This girl and her little fluff piece had me scratching my head all morning. Her main complaint was that she had to walk fast and the manager came up and told her that she wasn’t any good at this.  Poor girl,  what horrible working conditions.  Just makes me feel so hopeless that this was touted as news.

      • Chris

        Did you read the article? Sounds like you didn’t. 

        The main complaint is that the warehouse makes sure that for most people the quotas can never be reached and the rules and the way it is run are guaranteed to make it nearly impossible to reach the quotas they are assigned.

        And for what are people treated like this instead of giving them a reasonable workload? 

        So the CEOs can put hundreds of millions in their pockets and people can be used as slaves to do it.

  • Ljvickerman

    This is what we demand as American’s….free shipping, cheap products, immediate gratification.  The same people that work in those warehouses probably pass through a fast food drive through each week expecting a meal in under a minute.  There are American’s out there who will absolutely take these jobs and NOT complain, but how many American’s will you find who are unwilling to change their practices to protect this population of unskilled workers?   Shop Local movements are great, but these online sites give us access to products at a good price that we otherwise would not be able to find without spending lots of money on gasoline to find it…

  • Anonymous

    Welcome to capitalism. What else do you except? The cooperation is there to make the maximum profit. They cut cost for the customers at the expense of the workers, they slave the workers to the last drop of blood. That’s how it is. As terrible as the job is, it is a job. The spoiled American work force whine about it, I am sure the Mexicans will love to make $9.00/hr.
    So don’t blame the so called “illegal immigrant” to take away jobs.

  • SHG

    I’m curious to know what Ms. McClelland expected.  For working conditions?  As a temp worker?  As an entry level worker?

    • Chris

      Read the article. They deliberately hire people as temps so they have no benefits and can be laid off with no notice. 

      And many people trying to do these jobs are older people who have been laid off.

      I’m curious why you think people should be treated like slaves so corporations can make millions in profit.

  • Ben W

    I don’t think our founding fathers, or even previous generations had very comfortable jobs either. The problem with today’s working age people is they want all of these wages and benefits, but they don’t want to work for it. If you want an “easier” job then you need to be educated or skilled or create your own path.

    • GradyLeeHoward

      Wow, the Founding Fathers worked in a warehouse for minimum wage! Did they provide a rail there to chain up their slaves?

    • Michele

      That’s why previous generations organized and formed unions to protect workers from abuses that regulated the work day and provided benefits for years of service.  They also worked hard so subsequent generations would have the opportunity to go to school and attain better jobs.

  • http://twitter.com/fullerchase Chase

    It sounds like we need to invoke some Rawls; although these are entry level positions, that people are treated in such a way ought to inflame our moral sensibilities. 

  • Ackcup

    Really? If you don’t want to work as required, don’t work there. If you want to work there and don’t like the conditions, affiliate with the appropriate union.  If they are running the business within the law and you don’t like it, vote to change the law. We don’t need to outsource or robotize these jobs!

    • Chris

      When there is nothing else around desperate people will work there. 

      That’s one reason they put these warehouses in these places, people in the area have no choice.

      Temps can’t form a union, which is one reason why they hire them as such.

      I will pray for you to have no other job choice in you future.

  • Ivan

    not all warehouses are the same, big operations being described on the show are terrable but ther are small local warehouses that are much more humane and fun to work in. My company is based in Brlington vermont and we have about 10 people who fulfill our online orders who are payed well with bennifits, paid time off and NPR playing at the shipping desks. The fault is that of the customer, the person blindly shopping on line with no concern of who they are buying from. The situation is the same dynamic as buying food from a box store or local farmers market.

    • Guest

       Good to hear. Maybe companies like yours (or retailers who use them for fulfillment) should advertise on their sites: “We provide and support humane working conditions for our employees.” If buyers saw this, they might be more inclined to buy from these businesses even if their prices were a little higher.

  • Ray in VT

    Some of the conditions described are somewhat comparable to what I grew up with working on a mid-sized dairy farm.  Not that I’m saying that these conditions are great, but I still think that I would take it over milking 250 cows twice a day and mowing away square bales when it’s 95 degrees outside.

    Having said that, what else can we really expect when we expect products fast and cheap and the Street expects companies to meet profit expectations.

  • jim

    I just dump my Amazon stocks.

  • Sally Seaver

    Also, I have a business that supplies professional services to ecommerce businesses. The vast majority of online stores are small to medium businesses who fulfill from their respective business locations (i.e. not big warehouse).

  • FeMAD

    Imagine what the chinese workers are going through? Having to manufacture many items within a limited amount of time…

    American workers have it too easy. I own an online store and I do the fulfillment ( small operation), it is not that hard. It does not require a lot of skills to read an order and package it.

    $12 an hour is a dream job for many people in America, a lot of people are unemployed, I am sure they would be happy to have a job like that

  • Steve

    When somebody says “they should be happy for the job”, they should be asked the last time they worked 10-12 hours a day for days on end at fullspeed with limited breaks

  • Michiganjf

    The bottom line is that our system has been made absurd by an absolutely myopic focus on shareholder value to the exclusion of all other interests.

    I work for a company that used to tout a “PYRAMID” as the central theme of its MISSION STATEMENT… shareholders, employees, and clients all occupied corners of the Pyramid as supposedly EQUAL parties according to the company’s corporate values and the who the company should strive to please in the interest of its long-term health.

    WELL, that “PYRAMID” disappeared from company literature shortly after we went public, and it has since become obvious that THE ONLY INTEREST is shareholder value… benefits experience some sort of cut every year or every other year, pay and bonuses have decreased, and stock options ensure that company leadership cares ONLY about the share price, as that is Corporate leadership’s main path to wealth.

    I know from talking to friends that this same story is the norm in corporate America… this is very short-sighted and a race to the bottom for all but a very few.

    It’s as if the corporate and wealthy class didn’t have it well enough already (which they did!), and they REALLY needed to squeeze it quickly for all it’s worth at the expense of everyone else!

    The result? … a disappearing middle-class, less opportunity to rise above your class/station, and a collapsing economy, infrastructure, and tax-base. The world will be a far less interesting, safe, and equal-opportunity world thanks to the greed of a very small segment of the population!

    • Tina

      Thank you for this excellent piece!  It explains things in a very comprehensive manner!  If you don’t mind, I’m copying it and putting it in my “file”!  Thanks so much!

  • Mike – Pittsburgh

    I am a temp worker in a merchandising/POS facility where we assemble/pack signage/displays for a number of companies.  The work is 3 – 12hr shifts Fri – Sun with 4 days off, paying $9 hr.  This is a 2nd job for me, but many do this solely.  Although the work is mindnumbing and the pace, at times, can be hectic, the overall conditions are good and the management are good, considerate people.  I consider myself fortunate to find this work since it fits in my schedule and it’s my CHOICE to be there.  No one is forcing me or anyone else to work there.

    Granted, we all would like to make more $$ but the real issue is the erosion of the true manufacturing/industrial base in this country and the good paying jobs that go with it.  That is what need to be addressed.

    • Hikermonleo

       I think the real issue here is GREED. Businesses like Amazon could have shorter shifts and/or pay pickers the equivalent of 5 cents more an item without even raising their prices–they would just have to cut their profits very slightly. Our society grows increasingly dehumanized as those at the top are never satisfied with how much money they have–they are always driven to squeeze out more profit, at whatever the cost.

      • GradyLeeHoward

        Give ‘em a nickle and they’ll want a dollar.

    • Gul Du Cory

      Your employer should love a guy like you (but they still don’t).

  • JustSayin

    Tom, what can the consumer do to ease the burden of the workers. Using the slowest shipping rate (the one I always use) would only last at most a week.


    • TFRX

      That presupposes that the whip hand isn’t being wielded for the ordinary-shipped orders. I didn’t hear the whole show, but I somehow don’t trust Amazon’s management to behave that way.

      • Michele

        I usually receive three emails when ordering from Amazon when the order is received, fulfilled and then shipped. I believe the orders are fulfilled just as quickly but the shipping takes longer – sometimes the package is transferred from UPS to the PO for final delivery. 

  • Jeff

    Her comments about the supervisors reminded me of the Milgram experiment.  Shock the patient for a wrong answer or inadequate productivity.

    • Sam from New York

      It reminds me more of the prison experiment where randomly assigned people fell into the roles of hopeless prisoners and ruthless guards and it had to be called off early because it was getting out of hand.

      • Ray in VT

        I think that that was Zambardo at Stanford.

        • GradyLeeHoward


  • AC

    can you point out, if any, labor laws that are being violated? is the point of this show to change labor laws, or, what?

  • Jeffreylcho

    Where’s representation from the other side on this issue? ZOMG?! I Have to do work and have goals?

    • Gul Du Cory

      You are sitting on it.

  • DavidN

     One word, a verb: unionize. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jhana-Wallace/597143322 Jhana Wallace

    Listening to this while reading email confirmations for all my online orders. I didn’t think it was fairies and robots filling my orders, but this sounds pretty bad. I feel a little guilty-we order so much we know the UPS guy by name!  But, what can we do? 

    • Jennifer

      Support your local brick and mortar stores as much as possible.

    • Tina

      I LOVE to shop locally, especially in small, individually-owned stores, including my local bookstore.  And, around here, there are many crafts fairs, and increasingly, our farmers’ markets have a crafts component to them.  I don’t think I’ve bought any gifts for people that haven’t come from arts and crafts fairs in  30-40 years.  Now, we may not give as many gifts as some families give, but I really DO like thinking that I’m helping a small store or a craftsperson as well as giving a gift to a loved one — it feels like I’m gifting at BOTH ends, the buying end and the giving end.  I’ve had this concerted philosophy for quite some time.  Sadly, there are some items that are no longer available except in bigger stores, but many, many items are still available in small, local hardware stores, etc., and local hardware stores are wonderful places visually!  I may not have what looks like the latest things, but I have things that represent my personal vision, or, that I think represent the personal vision of the person I’m giving a gift to.  As I say about the higher prices at farmers’ markets:  it’s still cheaper than paying for a new high school, and later a bigger middle school, when the farms are sold off to developers.  One of the best things about farmers’ markets is HOW HAPPY every single child is who goes with his parent or grandparent.  They are all thrilled to be there and are busy being helpful!  “Can I pick out the tomatoes, Mommy?”… I hear that kind of thing all the time; compared to whining I hear at the grocery store:  “I want cookies!  Mom!  Cookies!!!  I WANT cookies, Mom!  Give me cookies!”.  (That last part exhausted me emotionally, just typing it!).  Hope you enjoy these suggestions!

  • Julia

    …soul crushing… .

  • Sam from New York

    This is what happens when unions get too weak. Unions built the middle class by ensuring that these low level jobs were still good enough to let you make a living and move up. Overuse of temp agencies are one of the many tools used to kill them.

    • Gul Du Cory

      Your comment is just un-American!

      • GradyLeeHoward

        Anti-unionism is fascist.
        Is Fascism American? Maybe?

  • PaigeL.

    Tom, I’m disappointed in today’s topic. Why not expand this beyond one online writer’s judgement of one job with one company? What’s she’s describing is common in myriad industries across the country, it’s not unique to on-line warehouses. 
    How about giving your labor expert more time on the show to temper the colloquial style of your current guest. Referring to orders as “whatever crap was ordered” on NPR as a guest of the revered Tom Ashbrook? It grated on my ears (I’m not a “snob”, I love colloquial speaking, but not in journalism)

    • GradyLeeHoward

      Crap was probably accurate.

  • Guest

    I just heard this girl and I work at the same job she sounded like every other unrealistic 20 something complaining about a job that people all over the world do everyday.  Asians are eating our lunch right now and this is the best we can do?  I am 58 and have acheived 100%+ for years. This girl needs to Grow up.  She actually said we should just hire more people and make the numbers lower.  How typical of her age to say that.  I have no doubt why a manager came up and told her she was not good at this her first few days.  Mac McClelland sound like she embodies everything that is wrong with her generation.  Obviously Mother Jones is exactly the forum critics claim it is.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, lets get with it already and join that race to the bottom. I guess working conditions so bad that people commit suicide is the goal here buddy.
      You know what, you are wrong. Really wrong.
      You embody everything wrong with this nation today, an attitude that thinks work is a right that we should all be glad to have no matter how awful the conditions.
      The race to the bottom is on and you seem to be one of the cheerleaders.

      • Guest

        You obviously did not hear her talking or you just don’t want to hear.  When she said that she thought we should just “hire more people so we can pick less”  I almost drove off the road laughing.  That type of thinking is exactly how you “race to the bottom” to turn a phrase on you.

        • GradyLeeHoward

          Head to head a healthy 20 year old woman can work a 58 year old to death, so watch what you say. 100%+ from an old man is only 25% from a young woman.And you will soon have to retire. Bye-bye

    • nj_v2

      Good idea, let’s use China as a model for labor, environmental, and safety practices.

      You should be happy with the current clown train of Rethuglican candidates who are outdoing each other with how fast we can regress to the 1800s.

  • Muriel

    It sounds very much like the sweat shops this country had at the end of the 19th and turn of the 20th century and like the current ones in China, that we criticize the Chinese for.

    No one is opposed to hard work but workers need decent working conditions and living wages.

    We should all be willing to pay a bit more to online companies so that the wages of their workers and their working conditions could be improved.

    • GradyLeeHoward

      If you know how you can pirate any media you want and never pay for it. Amazon books is doomed within 10 years. The model will change and no enforcement can prevent that.

  • Mitch

    It’s important to recognize that one can order books online without having to deal with places like Amazon. Many independent bookstores in the US have their own websites where you can place orders. These orders are fulfilled by bookstore employees with much better working conditions than those described on the program. If you want to order online you can still support workers and local, independent businesses.

  • Patti from Little Compton

    ugh! Try washing dishes in an un-airconditioned restaurant in August. Breaks? There are no breaks. Minimum wage? Of course.
    Try picking green beans for 10 hours a day in the middle of a sun blazed field. Entry level position? No, there’s no room to go up. But who cares? It was a paycheck for which I was glad. Suck it up. If you don’t like it quit

    • Cheryl

      Quit and do what? Not everyone can afford to just pick up and move to where there are other jobs. Not everyone can afford to go to school. Someone has to do this work. The point of the story is that folks need to be safe and not be treated like 18th century workers. 

    • Gul Du Cory

      On point producers, please delete my post because I’d like to use the strongest possible ad hominem attack against Patti from Little Compton.  I’ll save everyone from having to read the vulgarities I’m thinking.

    • Ellen Dibble

      One of the enablers of quitting is a degree of flexibility.  That could be family with a couch you can sleep on while you find the next opportunity, or relatives who can help with bills for further schooling, or charities that help people set up their own businesses (where I live, there are a few who have been doing that, quite successfully).  Without these enablers, people can be stuck and unable to quit — apparently by the gazillions.  We are told we are paid less because the Chinese are paid a tenth or a thirtieth of what our minimum wage is, so suck it up.  Pay the fee for not being able to afford health insurance, or not being able to pay for the deductible if you do have insurance, so you run around with a “condition.”  Live somewhere unhealthy, unsafe, eat sugary cheap food.  All that.  You’re still getting more than a dollar a day, so count your blessings.
          What is wrong with this scenario?  We can do better, it seems to me.

    • Michele

      Your misery does not negate the misery of others!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Interesting that we can’t know where exactly McClelland was working.  I suppose warehouses and coal mines are similar in that only management and co-workers know what’s going on.  Where I was working, someone put a note in the suggestion  box that it seemed to him/her that I (it was pretty pointed) was being mistreated.  This was read aloud at a weekly meeting, and nobody did anything.  The structure of the workplace was not what Bill Gates would consider enabling all to reach their potential, just the chosen set.  But if the workplace is a stepladder, and the first step is supposed to allow for maneuvering in your chosen direction, then the more or less hierarchical class system of many workplaces is probably more adapted to squelching the peons than to fulfilling the whole lot of us.

  • Melissa

    I own an online business.  We are a small business in Connecticut (75 orders a day) and we treat everyone that works for us well.  When times are busy the owners, everyone jump in and pull, pack and ship.  Often times my employees that started out as pull and pack have been promoted to office managers.  I hope you are not painting all online businesses the same way.  

    As an owner I work 16 hours a day many days.  Business is tough, we all work equally hard.

    • Sam from New York

      I think people generally know that small companies like yours work differently. Like they said, the managers are just ordinary people, but they aren’t the decision makers. When the decision-makers are that close to the workers, you don’t get this kind of disparity. The extreme cost cutting hurts your business model, since it lets Amazon deliver products cheaper than you can. This report focuses on one aspect of the problems of market dominance, the pressure on labor. Squeezing out mom and pop shops is another one.

    • Sam

      I think if you are a small business who is trying to do the right thing, treat people/customer/employees/vendors fairly and equally, then you need to advertise that.

      If I see a listing for a business, who is doing the right thing, but where I would pay more, I would be able to make a better choice where I want to spend my money.

      If the large corps don’t list their source/production/operations details, then their “competition” should and we, the people, the consumers, can make more educated guess/choice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1127326812 Mark Penney

    I’ve worked in that environment before for an online retailer here in western Pennsylvania… I lucked out. They are a great online retailer. Holidays would be more challenging, but the employer was great. They were a smaller company compared to Amazon, but they had respect for their employees. It was one of my better jobs… the benefits, the respect, the pay was great. I guess it is the larger companies who do not care… 

  • Sam from New York

    Amazon would do well to add a nickle per item surcharge and advertise their good jobs it creates.

  • Kevin N

    Where is the line of pushing an individual to improve vs. pushing an individual over the edge.

    • Gul Du Cory

      I’m not sure, but I am sure we’ll eventually find it.

  • Maxim

    Mac McClelland’s article is devastating. The disclosure that workers are effectively barred from voting on Election Day is even more infuriating than the description of inhumane working conditions. Here is the lesson: if corporations are people, they are sociopaths. If left to their own devices, they will squeeze as much out of their workers and pay as little as the labor market will allow. The answer is not to appeal to the corporations’ conscience (for they have none) but to pass laws that protect workers’ well-being. 

    • furious

      Hmmm. . .  perhaps there should be massive lawsuits which have as their premise that the company violated the workers civil rights; wow – effectively, prevent poeple from voting?

      • Maxim

        Historically, most improvements in working conditions for the working masses have come as a result of unionizing, legal action, and progressive legislation. So, yes, a class-action lawsuit would be a great way to ensure that at the very least, workers can vote for candidates who would be more likely to advocate on their behalf at the local, state, and federal levels.

        Again, it does not surprise me that corporations try to squeeze as much from their workers and pay them as little as possible. What astonishes me is how many people seem to think that this situation is ok: my life is just as miserable, so don’t complain about yours. Employers must love seeing such slavish attitudes in their workforce!

  • Ivan

    UPS is the real winner in this equation. Record profits because the market dictates “free” shipping. Shipping uses resourses, pay for it.

  • db

    This is such an important story. Thanks for doing it.

  • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

    I use to run the safety program at a Sweet Life facility in CT. It’s not there now. SL was proudly union, paid a living wage, and did it’s best to make the job less dangerous.  Then another warehouse opened up ten miles away. No union, all temp workers (who did not understand how temp work is different from employment) All our independent grocery stores went with the new cheaper company and SL vanished.

    To many people think picking in a Warehouse is like shopping at a BJ’s or Costco.  It’s not! 

    Back in the 80′s this was the kind of job, that had the kind of wages that could support a family, a person would do this miserable job, knowing that their kids would never have to do a job this hard, or this dehumanizing.  Well I guess they were wrong.

  • Roy

    It’s not just Amazon and online warehouses.
    It’s also Home Depot (100-percent surveillance – no advancement – layoffs after Christmas.)
    and call centers (yes, your call is being taped for “training” purposes and total supervisory oversight. Don’t say the wrong thing)
    And all for $10 an hour.

  • Michiganjf

    “Don’t complain, go to school???!!!!!”

    What a SNOB!

    • Michiganjf

      What a snob to suggest school is a way to get ahead!

      • Ray in VT

        Just imagine if a candidate for this nation’s highest office were to say such a thing.

      • furious

        Yeah, facsinating. . . She implies that since she and her husband, and other clowns like her, have to put up with “things as they are”, then everyone else should, too.  
        Let’s not be so defensive against people like her:  what about people like her who tell others to just “take it”, while some other people are out, fighting on the front lines, being pepper sprayed, beaten, arrested, while she sits around, telling others what to do.  
        She and others like her, rest on the shoulders of those who have fought for labor rights, in the past, as well.

  • Laurie

    I’m wondering what is happening in the smaller/annex warehouses – when I order at online, i often get it the next day and it’s a local delivery service from New Hampshire – how do these big brands manage these warehouses?   Or don’t they?

  • Mark Brandhorst

    Let’s hear about some solutions! I hear how unfair it is. What can I do?

    • Gul Du Cory

      Buy less, buy close, pay more, pay higher taxes, endorse unions and join one yourself.

      In other words, it aint gonna happen (yet).

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    If you paid the shipping, it would just go to the profits of the company.


  • Kate

    We, the customers, are the force that demands rock-bottom prices and free shipping on our online purchases… I think we need to accept the consequences of those demands!

    • Gul Du Cory

      Sadly true.

  • carl christian

    Looking at the comments, no one seems to point out the obvious — stop buying everything online! Stay as close to local as you can afford — which often means buy fewer things but pay a little more for the things that you actually need — because when you have to look people in the eye as you trade goods or fork over your cash it’s a lot more difficult to treat each other as human commodities to be used up in the service of greed and profit. 

    • Maria Rosales

      Most local businesses order their goods online nowadays, don’t they?

  • Sls239

    Why are people surprised this is going on?  Large parts of my family is from NW Arkansas and SW Missouri and I’ve always heard stories like this – about boot factories, chicken plants, gun factories, small appliance assembly, all kinds of things.  And these jobs have always been dead end jobs never entry-level.

    This isn’t 19th century or early 20th century, this type of thing never ever went away, not even in the 90s.  This is especially true of rural areas where employment opportunities are limited.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps the warehouses should send all the jobs to overseas where people don’t whine so much then leave no jobs in the US? Listen lady, you are lucky enough to have a job in this economic hard time, so shut up and suck it up. Don’t like it? Leave.

    • Gul Du Cory

      I’d rather be dead than live in a world of your making.  Your attitude and vision are VILE.  I hope someday circumstances dump you on your fanny and you find yourself at this job. 

      • Anonymous

         A world of my making?? I am very flattered I can shape the world. Get real will you, words such as kindness do not exist in the dog eats dog cooperate world. When you sign on to it, you open yourself to cruelty. 
        “I hope someday circumstances dump you on your fanny and you find yourself at this job. ”
        Was there a call for this kind of language??

  • safetyguy

    Report these employers, it’s anonymous.  Some the things that I heard on todays program are outright illegal.  For example, if the person who told the worker that they weren’t taking enough Advil was a supervisor or manager, then that’s an admission of a work-related injury/illness, that must be recorded on an OSHA log and measures taken to correct the conditions that caused it and prevent recurrance. 

    • Scott B, Jamestown NY

       The problem is that OSHA get’s backed up, and few and small complaints don’t get reviewed.  If you are lucky enough to have OSHA show up, often time the company will see all workers as, somehow, being disloyal and unappreciative of the fact that you should be grateful for having a low-paying jobs with risks and no insurance, and start clearing out people wholesale, or pressure people to find out who narked and “fix” the “problem”, which was the person, not the rickety zip-line that goes over the tank of underfed sharks.

  • Bill Gerrity

    Sounds like it’s getting time for a renewed union movement.

    • Gul Du Cory

      You sir, must be an unpatiotic commie pinko lefty.

  • Bbatcher

    About 20 years ago I visited an electronic component warehouse. The people filling the orders stood still and while the trays with the merchandise were brought to them robotically. It seemed extremely efficient and much more worker-friendly than the conditions at Amazon described on the program. Why aren’t we making better use of modern technology? 

    • TFRX

      I believe the pace is the thing at issue for Amazon.

      The unattainable “productivity goals” which can barely be reached, but once reached are “normal” and the new goal is “x% faster because what are you, lazy?”, is the beef.

      Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times was fictional, but a conveyor belt can be equally dehumanizing.

      It greatly depends on who’s running things.

  • Carrie

    I would be interested to hear about the connection between this discussion and the role of immigration. It seems that hard working conditions have been a fact of life for immigrants throughout the history of the US, and that as they assimilate they become more entitled aka, they expect more respect and humane treatment or at least more money. 

  • Dagirvan

    I have the impression that these jobs are not (entry level). If you’re
    going through a temp business for 2 years, that’s a scam on the part of the
    warehouse business (Amazon type businesses). In fact these workers are being
    taken advantage of due to the personal financial circumstances.
    As Amazon boast huge profits, I believe they force what profit %
    they want to see by looking backwards and squeeze it out of the workforce. Rather
    than building in labor cost to the cost/expense of doing business , then forecasting
    profits after labor costs. 

  • Nancy

    This is so eye-opening. I agree with the caller about getting the “true costs” of our purchases. I don’t agree with the posters and callers to basically “suck it up.” Not with such high profits and executive salaries in the industry. I worked as a line worker in a frozen foods factory and the working conditions were bad, wages low. Mostly Mexican American women (the men had the better jobs and higher wages) and it was unionized (Teamsters). Not much job mobility. I was lucky- I went back to school. On the other hand, my f-i-law was able to make a decent living and bring himself out of poverty and send his  children to college working at US Steel (unionized of course). So, first- exposing these practices; second- get companies to rectify “temp” work; third- unions? But good unionization. Also, what are best practices in warehouse industry?

  • Markus

    The problem I have with shows like this is the guests are advocates for a position and don’t give both sides of the argument. To be fair I only heard the last 25 minutes of the program, but all I heard was workers are exploited and unions are good. It’s possible the guests are providing an accurate picture but it’s also possible they’re left wingers and whiners. I just don’t know and because they come across as advocates, I don’t believe them.  

    BTW, I feel the same about advocates on the other side.

    • Gul Du Cory

      Is it possible to both believe unions are valuable and be a conservative?  Are the two automatically incompatible?

  • Stephanie Schamess

       Thank you for airing this. I wonder how many of us, who are happy when we receive our order in 36 hours, have any idea of what the cost to the workers is! It would be helpful and interesting to get statistics (work hours, pay, productivity requirements, etc.) from a variety of online “stores” which operate out of these huge warehouses. I’d prefer to give my business to those which have decent working conditions — if there are any!
        I occasionally order products from Amazon but will think twice now before doing so. But mostly I place digital orders, such as instant videos or movies to watch, and ebooks for my iPad. I wonder what is involved in placing and fulfilling those orders? I assume someone, somewhere, has to read the order and press a button but I’d be curious as to whether there are similar work stresses involved.

  • Bruce

    Thanks, On Point, for giving us a glimpse of the laissez-faire, libertarian Nirvana. 

    I hope those who rant against all forms of collectivism including unions, collective bargaining, and reasonable government regulations in the workplace, have been listening.

    These deplorable conditions within warehouses, and our indifference to the human and social cost they impose, could not have arisen without the weakening of organized labor by a radical right-wing agenda that rejects any government effort to rectify social or economic injustice.

  • Shayne

    Really?  It’s that bad?  I don’t see it.  It’s a job with pay, not slave labor.  You don’t have to sign up for it, but if you do, step up and work.  A little hard work never hurt.  It’s indoors for goodness sake!  You ever worked outside in 95 heat digging a ditch all day, day in day out?  I have, for $8 an hour.  I didn’t die, I would even say I’m better for it.  All I’m saying if you don’t like to work hard then don’t sign up for a hard working job.  And if you don’t like the way these companies are operating, then don’t buy from them.  Speak with your wallet.  But that will mean you might have to put forth some effort to get next shinny thing you don’t really need.  Dang more hard work.  Maybe just keep complaining. 

    • Gul Du Cory

      Right!  What the hell do we care about our fellow man!  As long as I’m not suuffering, who gives a rip?  Bunch of loust bums should fall to their knees and be thankful for every morsel of food they get!  No one makes them accept this job, they could just be hungry and homeless if they like.

      I nominate shayne as the poster boy for the American conservative movement.  Can I get a second? 

      • Shayne

        I’ve never voted for a Republican.  I’m very liberal.    I volunteer at a homeless shelter 2 days a week.  I’m a single parent and work several different jobs.  I donate to PETA and Green Peace annually.      Funny that you’d think I was conservative.  Hmmm?    

      • Ellen Dibble

        Work till you’re disabled; let the corporate masters have their way.  Then a doctor will declare you unfit, and let the safety net (provided by we the people) take care of you for the rest of your life.  You will find lots of drugs, legal and illegal, to keep you in an easy frame of mind.  Oh, but the conservatives don’t want to provide that safety net.  
           Then they’d better pay attention to how much they degrade the health of the workforce, it seems to me.  Either you do it at the work site, or you do it through the various levels of government, or if that worker is proud enough, he or she just begs on the street and lives under a bridge in a sleeping bag.

        • TFRX

          Speaking of dragging us back to 19th century ideas whose time may come again: The free ride home in the “Black Maria”!

      • GradyLeeHoward

        Heck, I nominate Shayne as a Dominatrix.

    • Anonymous

      You don’t have to sign up for it? Really, Shane, where is this wonderland of available pick-and-choose jobs that you know about? I’m sure many Americans would be happy to move there today.

    • Bruce

      I have a relative who worked for years in a similar situation (indoors doing manual labor).  Although she received a higher wage and benefits, she wound up having to quit working before reaching full retirement age because of job-related injury resulting in chronic, debilitating back pain.
      Surgery and physical therapy failed to restore her health, and she now has to deal with the loss of function as best she can with medication that is, itself, not without some debilitating side-effects.
      To my knowledge, she performed her job duties in a prudent and responsible manner consistent with the safety rules and prevailing industry standards of the day.  There was no union or public agency to scrutinize these standards.
      Now, think of what her incapacitation has cost her, her family and society–lost productivity due to premature disability, the Worker Comp and later Social Security Disability payments; the Medicare outlays for her surgery, rehab and medications.
      Her employer was a mega-corporation that raked in huge profits, while at the same time, passing on the ultimate cost of her workplace disability to government (i.e. taxpayers).  Of course, advocates of the Ron Paul/Paul Ryan approach rail against the “hammock” society and propose shredding the safety-net.  That way we could totally avoid acknowledging or having to deal with the cumulative effects of abuses within the workplace.     

      • GradyLeeHoward

        The laborer has one set of tools, the body, and once it is gone s/he is done.

    • Michele

      Still working that job digging ditches?  I bet not.  And why not?  Probably because you wanted something better for yourself – more opportunity and better working conditions.  Shame on others for believing that everyone deserves the same.

  • Ponilocke1

    I agree with Mark!!! If we as employees are not treated with respect, perhaps we should unite and confront the employers about it. As long as people continue to work without much complaint, the employers will be assured that changes aren’t necessary.  Humans are pretty simple creatures in some respects. Small rewards can generate large motivation from what I’ve seen in life, so why not try that out??? …And until a person is caught for criminal acts, being treated as innocent should be required in the workplace. Companies with proper security, rules and regulations in place will keep people who want to be loyal employees….   In my opinion anyway =)

  • Anonymous

    One has to realize that a cooperation is nothing more then a 19th century slave master. 

  • Gul Du Cory

    Americans are helpless slaves to their greed, and our enemies have exploited this trait to harm and eventualy destroy us.  The plea to “buy American” always makes me sad AND chuckle at the same time.

  • Me

    One of the reasons many companies left this country! Nobody want’s to work! Come on folks! We have to work! This keeps for a good functioning society! I like what Shayne said!

    • Gul Du Cory

      Work harder you pigs!  You’ll feel my lash otherwise!

      • Modavations

        Embarrassed by Obi Wan??

        • Gul Du Cory

          Only Darth Maul and Darth Vader were embarassed by Obi Wan… 

    • nj

      Yes, massa! Whatever you say, massa!

    • Michele

      I wonder if this type of thing was reported as happening in another country (say, a developing country) would you have the same reaction? 

  • Jennifer

    I just read the article last night in Mother Jones and what is happening is inhumane. It is a strong argument for shopping locally as much as possible. I was appalled to read that worker who was fired because he took a take a day off his first week
    because his partner was having a baby. Their policy  for taking a day
    off the first week is an immediately fire able offense regardless of the
    reason. They forced this employee to go through the application process
    again while warning people not to take a day off the first week. Where
    is the humanity?

    I was stunned to read that employees were receiving shocks so strong, when they were picking books, that it knocked them off their feet. When the article author asked what could be done to management and was told nothing. What of anti static coating and mats that would protect the workers from getting shocked. The company didn’t want to spend any money. If the workers complained they could be fired plenty of other folks were available to fill their slots.

    The employees are so harried with a scanner with goals set that tells them exactly how many steps it should take them to reach an item and pick it, that they can’t even talk with fellow employees and have any sort of relationship  because they are racing around the enormous warehouse race walking the equivalent of 12 miles in a shift trying to make close to impossible goals in order to not be fired.

    The author also discussed how things are set up in the warehouse and how it does damage to individuals bodies because it is not set up ergonomically to prevent repetitive use injuries. When OSHA no enforceable law regarding ergonomics was in place only guidelines. Again I ask where is the basic human respect the humanity?

    The companies don’t care if workers get injured because they don’t pay for health insurance. Most of the employees are just temp hires from temp agencies with no benefits. Employees can be temps for years and never hired on because the larger company does not want to pay any benefits. In the very rare case when an employee is hired on full time the benefits and pay are very meager. Yet another way that these online companies can offer rock bottom prices at the expense of workers.

    Employees have no guarantee of work from month to month or week to week. Employees are forced to work mandatory 10 to 16 hour shifts six days a week! What happened to the 8 hour work day and the 40 hour work week! How can they mandate work hours in violation of the law? Oh yes if they complain they can be fired and others hired.

    These folks are so exhausted and in such pain and barely making ends meet they really are wage slaves. They really need a union but they have no time or energy to start one and they will just be fired. These conditions are like the conditions described in “The Grapes of Wrath.”  I urge everyone to read the article in Mother Jones magazine it is truly an eye opener.

  • Tina

    Why do we let the motivations of The Cheapest Goods and The Largest Profit dictate how we organize such a significant part of our lives:  our work lives?  IF we valued Balance, Equality, Community, we could organize things differently.  At least according to a PBS special, the King of Bhutan DECIDED how to organize the country and the economy when Bhutan had financial windfalls from hydroelectric power within its Buddhist world.  The King DECIDED how to best organize his society.  Who would think that living under a king would get you closer to an equitable society than living in a democracy where your elected representatives supposedly represent your best interests??!!!

    As it is, these gigantic companies have also put the small guy out of business.  In a Mom and Pop store, people worked extremely hard, but there was a human scale to it.  These jobs the guest is talking about are scaled to global capitalism, rather than to the community and to a family owning a business.  Sadly, there are young people today who have no experience with what it was like to have your local downtown or your urban neighborhood filled with locally-owned small shops that employed local people who could support their whole families on one job.   

    On another matter:  To the caller who just said, go to school and get a better job.  I went back to school for a specific job in health care about 15 years ago.  It took so many classes and years’ worth of 4-5 hours sleep per night, and I already had a master’s degree, but I needed to do this.  Then our class finally graduated into a market that had been saturated just a few months before our graduation.  That, plus some changes in Medicare, meant that only TWO people got jobs within a year after our graduation, out of the two classes of forty or fifty people.  The years before our year of graduation, everyone walked right into a job — everyone!  In technical fields like ours, a year out of school without work means that you can quickly lose your skills. If you’ve taken on debt to get your schooling, things can get really bad quickly, if you can’t get work or can only get a low-paying job.  A relative has a very good friend who completed nursing school and cannot get a job in her state because there are “too many nurses” (which cannot be true medically, only financially, I’d bet); so she is employed as a CNA in a nursing home.  

    Those of us who are ill NEED pharmaceutical companies to give jobs to people making the drugs that the companies feel they cannot make enough profit on, even tho these drugs work effectively and with fewer side effects and toxicities than drugs that now bring the high profit.  A pox on straight-out Capitalism, I say!  How great that I could order a ChiaPet on Amazon and get it delivered to my home in 26 hours… how great is that?!

    • Sam

      Because we live in a Capitalism and not in a Democracy?!

      The two are mutually exclusive.

      Just like Communist and Democracy, or Socialism and Democracy. :)

      • Tina

        Thanks for your reply.  I do beg to differ on one point:  the Social Democracies of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, (I’m not sure about Finland — I just don’t have the information on Finland) — they are all very healthy economies and the people have their birth to death needs met by the money and work they put into the system and by what services serve them from the system!  Really, as I’ve said on this forum a slew of times:  at least one of these countries is consistently rated as one of the countries with the Happiest Citizens in the world.  One country almost got in trouble economically a few years ago, but they bit the bullet and fixed the problem.  Sweden was having problems with prejudice against immigrants, but they did a massive education campaign to get rid of the Xenophobia of some citizens, and the campaign worked over all, altho there are probably a few people who might still be bigotted. The government and the society, however, made sure that the mass of citizens and that the society’s structure did not encourage bigotry.   Social Democracies are the way to go, IMO!!

        • Modavations

          Finland went Republican last week.Belgium went Democrat last week.All the other Scandanavian countries are Republican.My sweety is Swedish.She has a shop in Gotland.She says they’re parochial and racist..You know what Aryans are like!!!

  • Cheryl

    I’ve got a friend who told me a story about a big box store in CT where a worker got a rash on his hands. Didn’t know where it came from, but it got bad enough to send him to the emergency room during the night (off shift). It turns out he was allergic to the latex gloves they used. He ended up getting written up because he didn’t report the injury during his shift!!! He didn’t know it was because of work at the time.  The warehouse manager then decided that the gloves needed to be banned from the floor.  The workers were given substandard gloves instead until a worker pointed out that they actually had non-latex replacement gloves right there in the warehouse.  My friend also told me that if you get an injury and can hide it, you’d better, because its not worth getting written up. I’ve heard other horror stories.  Being afraid at work, does not make an employee a better worker..a safer worker or a more efficient worker.  There are very simple, no cost/low cost improvements in process and procedure that could make everyone happier.  

    • GradyLeeHoward

      People deserve the same rights at work as anywhere else. They buy your labor, not your body, mind and soul.

  • Gul Du Cory

    I may become a conservative yet.  I am beginning to think we are no different than animals, and life’s goal is to claw, scratch, and step on the faces of others to get to the highest level you can before you die.  Very similar to rats on a sinking ship.  If you accept this as life, conservative ideology will best suit your needs.  No compassion, no charity, no community, just yourself.

    • Shayne

      Please don’t become a conservative.  They are very icky people.  Just go out and help you fellow man, take action!  May peace be with you.  

      • Ray in VT

        Not necessarily.  There was once a breed of American conservative that believed in some of values of the New Deal, although they may not have liked the mechanisms.

        In the immediate post-war period sizable elements of the Republican party believed in the good that the government could do in society, although in perhaps a more limited role than the New Deal Democrats.  There was an acknowledgement that things like the natural beauty and resources of our nation was a value to us all and that it needed to be conserved, not just exploited for gain.  The idea in the conservative movement that government is the problem came about later.

        My boss is a Goldwater conservative who sees no place for himself in the modern GOP.  I dislike some conservatives that I know, but others are my friends.  Take ‘em one by one, just like every other group.

        • TFRX

          “Conservative” is a word that used to have meaning.

          Ronald Reagan (dogwhistles intact) had to mouth something about “hard working poor”. That’d make him a mushy wimp in today’s GOP.

      • Modavations

        Brilliant erudition.You must live in Vt..

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      What is On Line Shopping got to do with being a Conservative? Do you still drag politics when your doing on line shopping.

    • http://twitter.com/TongoRad TongoRad

      Solidarity is the solution.

    • Michele

      The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged revisited.  Ayn Rand’s deepest anti-communist/anti-democracy, capitalist fantasy come to life.

  • RolloMartins

    Unions. And a lot of them–that is the only answer.

    • Modavations

      Unions killed Eastern Airlines,they killed American Airline,they killed GM,they killed the Public School,they killed the Post Office,they killed….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    Gas prices are increasing travelling to the mall is no longer avordable. I can’t travel 5 to 15 miles just to buy a pair of bargains jeans. that will cost $7 of gas to travel round trip.

    Beside Ebay and other legit web site that uses Paypal is safe.

  • steve

    This is all about privelage.  I am assuming the author is ivy league educated and has never had to do manual labor in her life.  this is offensive to warehouse workers who love their jobs and are happy to be employed. Comparing it to coal mining is ridiculous on many levels. $11 an hour is good pay for essentially unskilled labor.   Many people use these jobs while they are in college, or for extra money during the holidays.  I have worked in a warehouse and it is much better than cattle processing, farm labor, mining and many other jobs.  Please quit whining and denigrating people who have to do this kind of work, it is insulting and stinks of privilege. 

    • Guest

      heard that,  this girl sounded like she was from rich-a-stan in that interview.  Tom Ashbrook should be ashamed of the way he pandered to that 20 something as she looked down her nose at the average day in the life of 11 dollar an hour labor.

    • nj_v2

      steve murmmers, “I am assuming the author is ivy league educated and has never had to do manual labor in her life.”

      And we all know what happens when one assumes.

    • Loyal Boston Listener

      Good point steve. Somebody needs to screen these guests better! It undermines the credibility of the show. nj_v2 are you gullible or what!

  • Sam

    And yet, so many of people who work in low paying and low level jobs would vote for Romney! A dude who likes to fire people who work for him. And who would never ever understand what it is like to work in such conditions and will never ever do anything to ensure all people and all workers have humane working conditions.
    Same for other republicans and other politicians.
    I don’t even believe Obama will do anything for the 99%.

  • Beyond Reasons

    This is slavery?  People pay a lot of money to get a workout like this — because they sit at their jobs all day.  Walking 10 miles a day and getting pay for it?  Sounds like you can make this job work for you.  

  • Myse51

    Ironic. The topic is high demand “Dickensian”  work conditions in warehouses. And Tom Ashbrook is anchoring the conversation with a demanding intensity on callers that echos the conditions he is questioning. Intentionally? Or subconsciously?

    • GradyLeeHoward

      Tom’s all business…. always.

  • Anonymous

    Steve obviously didn’t listen to the program or read the story. It’s not about privilege. The author has spent years doing manual labor and hasn’t minded doing it. The conditions in the Amazon warehouse were dangerous and inhumane, and I’d like to know where DOL’s been on this. 

    As for me, I’m looking for local alternatives to Amazon. 

  • Loyal Boston Listener

    I enjoy the show and the guests are usually great, but today’s guest, Mac McClelland seemed particularly out of touch. She think she understands a job despite the fact that she only worked all of two days at it. That is hardly enough time to get to know how challenging a job is or what is involved in doing it. It does not matter what the job is. Second, she clearly has never worked at any job involving manual labor. Lots of jobs require hard physical work. I suspect she would fail similarly at any of them. She may or may not be correct in her assessment, but surely On Point could find a more credible witness! 

    • nj_v2

      This: ” Second, she clearly has never worked at any job involving manual labor.” is not true, and one would have known that had one bothered to actually listen to the show or checked the resume of Ms. McClelland.

      • Loyal Boston Listener

        Actually anyone who actually listened and has actually worked in a manual labor job would know that she has never done manual labor.  Google this woman. She is a crackpot, but not a manual laborer.

  • look_at_it_this_way

    If the conditions are so bad contact OSHA.

    • Ellen Dibble

      By the way, I had a job where calling OSHA was an obvious necessity, and did call, and that was during the Reagan administration, and OSHA wasn’t up for doing much besides laugh at you in those days.

      • Modavations

        Nothing’s changed Madam,all you get is a recording and the endless run around

      • GradyLeeHoward

        OSHA is administered by those right to work/ fire at will states.

  • Loyal Boston Listener

    Ms. McClelland cleary has a flair for drama. Search Google if you are not sure. For example: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/reporter-mac-mcclelland-stages-rape-cure-post-traumatic/story?id=13995013

  • look_at_it_this_way

    If conditions are so bad, organize a union.

    • Kristen Rengren

      23 states are Right To Work. Not as easy as that sounds any more.

      • Modavations

        After the election there will be 30 Right to work states.

      • GradyLeeHoward

        And join the National Guard so you can bust your own head.

  • Explorerjo1963

    keep complaining and the job will go to automation like so many other companies have done.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Obama and the administration have been putting forth that manufacturing jobs are coming back to the USA, “insourcing,” and that along with a sense of security about Wall Street or regulatory environment or whatever it is, the people with all the money (the ones who hire, if you listen to the Republicans) are coming out of their “funk” (listen to Jon Huntsman talking with Charlie Rose about this on last night’s Charlie Rose show), and beginning to let the USA shows its muscle and motivation again.  
        The reason I point this out, to listen to  Tom Friedman, manufacturing jobs would not come back unless we were 30 times more efficient than the Chinese, something like that.  Who needs a robot to displace the wages of a worker when there are Chinese who cost about the same as a robot?  
         And yet — and yet — there are manufacturing jobs returning.   So the new “China” is the “robot,” and we’ll see what happens.  

      • Modavations

        I heard my worst year in 22 years.All my contemporaries had their worst years ever.Nada mas mentiras y cuentos

        • Modavations


  • look_at_it_this_way

    The reason we had such a strong middle class is because the United Stated won WWII with it’s manufacturing infrastructure fully ramped up and left unscathed by the war. The global playing field is leveling, so get used to these types of jobs, and be glad you can get them.

    • Modavations

      We have the largest middle class in the world because we’re Free,Laissez Faire men.I can’t remember seeing my pops cry,now you guys wear tears like badges of courage.Man Up,get out there,this is a Golden Age

    • GradyLeeHoward

      Yeah, bend over and learn to like it.
      Wage slavery is just like prison.

  • km

    OMG this woman is seriously making me ill.  $11 an hour is good money and she said if she had actually worked for 3 days she could learn to keep up.  Obviously an attempt to put herself on the map as a journalist at the expense of the dignity of those who are happy with their jobs.  Maybe here next big story will be on the horrors of being a bus driver or grocery store clerk.  Please dig a little deeper people.

    • Anonymous

      $11 per hour is about 21,120 a year before taxes if you do a 40 hour week. That’s not exactly what I would call a good living. In the Boston area you could not survive on this on your own.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

        I did in 1993 actually it was about $15,000 a year not $21,120

        You can’t date Snotty women in Boston if you make below $45,000 that’s why you see young pretty women with Fat men in Newbury Street.

      • Modavations

        A thorn picker in Addis Ababa,makes more then that,.Are you gay?No need to answer if this is too prying

    • ac

      Maybe you should actually READ her article before you comment on it, idiot. 

    • GradyLeeHoward

      Livin’ high on $440 gross a week, are ya?

  • CKC

    I honestly can’t believe this is even a topic.  This is absolutely insane! What a great example of how these people have an air of entitlement.  Welcome to the real world, honey, where we work for a living.

  • Anonymous

    I agree CKC. I can’t believe the attitude this woman has. If you don’t like it find another job with better benefits and more stability. I’ve been to a distribution center that fulfillis software product. It’s not digging ditches, it’s bearable, it’s a safe paying job.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    I can’t believe some the comments I read.

    What is POLITICS have to do with On Line shopping?

    • Anonymous

      Because it is about the working conditions, which are political.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

        Well, I don’t think about those BS when I am on line shopping. If your on line shopping it is about shopping it is not about the people at end of the cable. I already confuse what site to buy my products adding politics will turn my young face to wrinkles.

        • Michele

           You don’t think about it?  Perhaps you should.  What about Blood Diamonds sold by those in the “jewelry business” that exploit children and many poor people?  Making slaves of them at the point of a gun.  Many of our predecessors fought and died for the rights of workers to be treated fairly and have basic workers’ rights.  No health-care, temporary status, and 16 hour days does not seem like we’ve made great strides. 

          Additionally, I would say that if you are posting your opinion on this forum then you are not working in a job where you have to put up with this “BS” as you so eloquently stated.

      • Modavations

        Are you Gay?

        • GradyLeeHoward

          Why… attracted?

          • Modavations

            I’m working on a theory.Are you gay

  • Ellen Dibble

    The issue of political correctness of online shopping.  For one thing, I don’t know if the state taxes are getting paid if you shop out of state.  I don’t know how that works.  I assume someone will correct that so we’re not all tax-evaders by going online.
       As to shopping near so as to favor your community, and those working near you where you can observe the conditions.  Hear, hear!  However, every little town does not actually offer the plethora of things available.  I just now bought something online that we’re lucky I don’t have to order from China or Japan, and at one point it was available in two places in town, but not any more.  But I see I’m not the only devotee of this product, counting 67 five-star reviews on Amazon.  There are other products we only actually are aware of because of cruising the net.  So thanks for that.  It used to be you could buy Tupperware from the local rep, or a couple other choices, at the local Five and Ten, or order from Sears.  Now, the local superstore will have some choices, if you want to make a trip and prowl the aisles, or you can go online, or wait for a local business to start up.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      Don’t worry about it. that’s not your problem. Worry about the product you’re willing to buy on line. I don’t even care if those guys pay taxes or not as long I get the product that I purchased on line. if they will arrive in good condition being delivered by FedEx/UPS.

    • Modavations

      If my guys in Taxco get my package to UPS by 1:00PM,I will get it in Belmont by 10:00AM the next day.I love Nafta!!!.That’s includes going through customs,by the way.

  • Modavations

    Here they go again,another contrived crisis from the “Woe is me party”.That piece was written a month ago,then Herr Geobbles said ,let’s send in a Pigeon to give the piece credence.The Big bad Oppressor vs.the put upon Proleteriate.

    The world fights to attract these companies,they are Geese that lay the golden eggs.

    • Gul Du Cory

      A one, two, three, four!!! 

    • Kristen Rengren

      If you’re going to anonymously crab about the least fortunate workers among us having the temerity to want basic labor rights, try to learn to spell the word “proletariat”. (And the word “motivations” for that manner.)  Seriously.  Also, way to invoke Godwin’s Law in less than two sentences. 

      • Modavations

        The venom tripped up the typing finger.”For that manner”,or “for that matter”.This is what happens when the Welfare State steals one’s ambition..

        • GradyLeeHoward

          If you’re so rich; why ain’t you smart.

      • Modavations

        Modavations is a play on words.I’m in the jewelry business.eVER SEE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.THAT’S YOUR SOCIALISM FOR YOU.

  • Modavations

    These are entry levels jobsfor college kids.Save your money,open your own businesses and quit the hand wringing.

    • Gul Du Cory

      and a three

  • Modavations

    I started at 16 as shelf stocker at A@P,I workerd in Watsonville lifting Pallets of frozen Green Beans boxes,I bailed hay(try getting in a barn full of Hornets at 1 million degrees),I bent over a dice table paying bets 8 hrs a day(talk about a trashed back!!).Now I drive nice cars,have sweets chicks and live in my own “Barnes Collection”.Quit the bellyaching.You’re free citizens in a Golden Age.

    • Gul Du Cory

      and a two

    • GradyLeeHoward

      A&P wants you back, they can’t find enough illegals.

  • Modavations

    Pres.Obama just approved a partial XL Project.When gas hits 5.00 a gallon he’ll find an excuse to open the Gulf,openBuford Bay,open Anwar,and proceed with the Friggin Frackin.Is the term Useful Idiots starting to make sink in yet?

    • Gul Du Cory

      And a one..

      • Modavations

        obi wan,you’e still immature no matter what name you post under.I throw in the chum and the minnow strikes.When you mature I’ll call you Piranha.

  • Pingback: Mother Jones Magazine Articles | Heartland Workers Center

  • Anonymous

    The next time some La Raza activists comes on and says Americans will not work for less than $15.00/hr and do hard physical work could someone at NPR remember stories like this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthewmelange Matthew Melange

    I use to work at ups and i completely agree with how harsh the labor conditions for package movers are, they wanted us to move 350 packages per hour, now with 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, that comes to around 3,600 seconds per hour, which means you have around 10.8 seconds per package which weighs around 30 lbs on average but can weigh up to 75 lbs and you’re expected to move it on your own, picking it up around the height of your middle calves. 8.50 per hour as a starting wage.

    • Modavations

      My UPS driver makes $100,000.00

      • GradyLeeHoward

        Are you sure she ain’t pilfering your blood stones?

        • Modavations

          When you’re finished blubbering and have a point,I’ll answer.Otherwise all I can say is Burp

  • Melissa

    My question is, what is the alternative for the consumer? Even if I go to Target, WalMart, Toys R Us myself to buy an item, we can guarantee that someone, somewhere down the line, is being exploited, whether it’s at a distribution center or at the manufacturing level. The labor system needs another over-haul for the protection of workers’ rights. Somehow we’ve lost our way since the 1930s.

  • Trosen

    So, whats the upshot of all this? Will there be a boycott? As consumers how do we put pressure on these companies ?

    • Modavations

      First we must form a commitee

  • Greg

    It’s difficult to listen to the guest’s commentary, as it is so heavily laced with the entitlement mentality so prevalent in American culture today.  Yes, there are some jobs which are very difficult–either emotionally or physically, or both–but that doesn’t mean that the jobs don’t provide a benefit to the worker.  

    The most difficult job I experienced was an entry level position for a company which treated its employees brutally and without dignity, but also pushed for excellence and expedited turnaround.  I would neither appreciate the position I currently hold, nor would I be equipped as I am, were it not for the four years I spent in that role.  We as Americans have devalued struggle, and often find our work ethic weakened by some tasks being deemed “hard” or “unpleasant.”

    No doubt the factory work described is difficult and unpleasant. It would be better to focus the discussion on the imbalanced profit to worker benefit in moving forward.  

    Otherwise, it’s way too easy to dismiss the guest’s comments as those of a young idealistic journalist who is just as guilty of exploiting the factory conditions to get a story published and corresponding spot on the interview circuit, after 3 short weeks of “work.”

    • GradyLeeHoward

      Jobs can be designed and assigned in many different ways. It is a choice to make the workplace hierarchical and sadistic. Ralph Nader suggested a $10 minimum wage today, but I think we should lower the maximum wage. Jewelry speculator Modovations seems fixated on the idea he can have no pleasure except by the suffering of others, no success except by others’ failure. 
      This is a dark ages attitude. Cruel egoists long for Hell on Earth.

      • Conscious9676

         And, sadly, Grady, Cruel eogists have created our current Hell on Earth. Thank goodness for Progressives who understand that our survival w/be based on fairness, caring, and sharing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68


    The rising gas prices is not about Iran or the war in Syria it is about Speculative trading in Wall Street.

    Speculate in order to control USA gas prices or to bet on speculations.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      It is time again to re-organize the 99% movement to stop the GREED that is controlling, manipulating oil commodity to make profit from the American people.

      The Greed that is destroying the middle class Americans and the poor.

      • Modavations

        It’s “Social Justice” that kills the Middle Class.Don’t you remember when I asked what is “Social Justice”.You replied it’s Dems.picking the pocket of the Middle class to pay off the dependence class

    • Modavations

      Very Niave.It’s supply and demand,it’s always supply and demand

  • kpallist

    Those doing this kind of work and think it’s okay mst not mind compromising their health, their pride, family life, and their self-esteem. Being told all the time that you’re doing a bad job and getting paid minimum wage for an experience that will send you to an early grave (if you work it long enough) is hardly a confidence booster. 

    The fact that it’s hard work is beside the point. It is actually abuse and exploitation.  It is a violation of labor and human rights.  This is not upward mobility or an honest day’s work.  This is taking advantage of the ever increasing pool of the poor and un-educated in the country and making astounding profits from it. 

    To assume it’s your fault if you’re in this position (the usual argument used to justify this kind of abuse) is a self-serving argument that keeps you in the position the rich in this society want to keep you in.  You won’t fight back or demand more because you think you deserve this kind of life.  No one deserves this type of existence.

    We can do better.  We have the technology and the imagination to create a better, more democratic economy.  Cheerleaders for Corporate Capitalism can no longer equate freedom with “free market” or holds a promise of the average person becoming rich.  Not with any credibility. And people shouldn’t have to suffer permanent injury because I need (and I mean that personally since I order online all the time) a book I could get from the library just as easily, but I want it now.  Why?  Because the vendor told me I could have it now for cheap without spending the time to go to the store.  Just like magic.

    We build up expectations for things that fuel an exploitive capitalism that only make a small percentage of the population rich and the vast majority of us much poorer.  Hard work is wonderful.  But if our reward is nothing other than more hard work, how are are these companies different from sweatshops we officially condemn in other countries?

    As a blue collar worker, I know what this type of work really is:  I work hard now, I’ve done it in the past and I’ve done the desk work of a white collar worker in supervisor and professional positions.  Right now my current job is easy relative to the grueling warehouse work Mac describes, but I’ve been there too. Every night I have to fight pain and exhaustion at the end of the day, but I’m luckier than most.

    It’s time we stopped accepting the status quo and started to demand better.  To do otherwise is a failure of imagination and vision and condemns future generations to a life of even more struggle and inequality.

    • ac

      Thank you for that commentary. 

  • Kevin Lazich

    I work for Amazon.com at a small fulfillment center in Louisville Ky. Being a smaller warehouse the conditions are much better. I am the only outbound worker in the morning. I very much enjoy my job. its more laid back than other FCs. I guess i was got lucky.

    • Modavations

      This is a hit piece.The Greedy bosses treading on the beseiged Proletariat

    • Yuki Na

      Wow, the only outbound worker in the morning? Wow. I think I’d like to check out Amazon in Louisville.

  • Modavations

    President Obama spoke to the UAW this afternoon.He said,don’t turn back,don’t give up,keep your foot on the gas pedal.Mr.President have you seen the price of gas..I paid 4.05 in Newport,R.I. today for HiTest.When gas hits $5.00,you Proletariat will be happy you have a gig.

    • Slakajs2002

       what’s wrong with $11-12.00/hour?  isn’t that about 40% or so above minimum wage?  doesn’t sound that bad for a “low-entry” job…or one that you can work for a while before stepping it up.

  • Kbale13

    I would just like to add to this.  I worked at said unnamed online shopping factory for several months, I have multiple degrees so arguing for more education is a null point to get out of this situation.  I also had exemplary evaluations.  I can’t even possibly describe how bad the working environment was and how “job security” weighed on your every waking being in words but I will try.  First of all to those who want to use the entitlement argument, try working a ten hour day and having your lunch stolen.  I remember the first time that happened I had to ask other employees for a 1.00 to buy a bag of chips out of the vending machine in order to eat.  I wouldn’t have had enough time to leave the building to go get food and not get penalized.  (Your job is based on a point system you are absent and lose too many points you are fired).   A bag of Doritos is not nutritious by any means, but I guess those 200 calories was supposed to be enough.   However, under the current labor laws I am entitled to eat.
        Second of all try being penalized aka “pointed” for being late to work for 30 seconds because there was an accident on the road.  If only a certain percentage of people are affected than it was your fault.  I normally left 30-40 minutes early to make it to a 5am shift and I lived 15 minutes away.  I think the fact that I was only 30 seconds late was a testament to my desire to work.  To all those entitlement people, I know I am not entitled to a Star Trek “beam me up Scottie” experience, but I am not going to work a 10 hour day and leave home at midnight to make it to a job by 5 because somebody might have had a car accident.  
       Also,  I worked with a girl who had a child and all she needed was verification that she was working, her hours, and her hourly wage, it took the company over a month with the shift manager intervening and asking HR to fill out a simple form.  Meanwhile she was informed she could lose her child care assistance because the form wasn’t filled out.  To all the entitlement people, this was a girl who told me she might have to go back to stripping to make ends meet and she was trying to do a “respectable job.” She quit, I guess stripping was better than there.  
        Said unnamed company also harps on safety only its 85 degrees in February in there an there is no airflow because the company thinks that dust is a more prevalent safety issue then heat stroke.  I quit before the summer came along.  To all the entitlement people I have worked physical labor outside and it is completely different from working inside with no ventilation.  I couldn’t imagine working in 110 degree heat in a poorly ventilated warehouse.  
       I could go on and on and on.  I won’t all I can say is anybody who wants to play the entitlement card than buck up and work there.  The first time you come home crying (and you will) you better hope there is somebody there to hold you and that somebody is able to shift their schedule around because they  will wait to call you at 9pm to tell you your next shift has changed.  Nobody is entitled to a babysitter, but I wonder how one finds one at such a short notice and is required to show up to work at 4am.  

    • Cyrillaflowers

      I hope that your job situation is improved! I have had this type of job in the past for a fulfillment warehouse. I was treated less than human in less than humane conditions. We can only pray that our country can get it’s collected act together, make reasonable profits and treat others with humane conditions.

    • Conscious9676

      Thank you for your “story” although I believe it’s the truth. It’s a keeper & I will feature it on my internet radio show Socially Speaking (currently on hiatus). Those hiding behind the mantra “entitlement” could/would never work in a FC b/c they’re crybabies & couldn’t w/stand the monotony, dehumanization, & prison-like conditions. It IS modern-day slavery and until: 1)  those of us who’ve never worked in similar environments open our eyes to the lives of the majority of us AND 2) ppl understand the role of politics, greedy capitalistism will continue. I am an unemployed writer/editor who’s substitute teaching @ 1/4 the salary & no benefits. I barely make enough to pay my sub-prime loan & didn’t  qualify for President Obama’s mortgage assistance program (haven’t ck’d into the mortg. assistance 2.0 progr yet).

  • Modavations

    When Kennedy grabbed his kid,kicked the nurse to the ground ,you could here him say”Do you know who I am”

    • Modavations


  • Modavations

    Olympia Snow just called it quits.Hallelujah

  • Vince Flores

    Comrade Tom I have your answer. I borrowed the idea from one of your idols.
    “from each according to his ability to each according to his needs” KM
    Thinking like the guests I heard on your show today we would still be huddled on the east coast waiting on the government to civilize the west.

    • Michele

      I believe the West was already civilized and held by Native Americans.  The East for the matter, too.

  • Michele

    Why is it inconceivable that workers can be treated decently and a profit realized simultaneously?  It seems that the attainment of annual artificially designed profit goals holds people at all levels hostage.  We must meet our profit goals, must exceed last year’s goals by X%… 

    The whole thing is a big game where all involved are blinded to the bigger picture.  What is obtained through the exploitation of others?  I do not believe that capitalism is a dirty word but do think that our collective worship of money let’s us overlook and excuse some pretty inhumane treatment.  There are stories the world over of people of all ages being exploited and exposed to the most horrific conditions. 

    Turning a profit and providing safe, humane working conditions are not mutually exclusive. And they certainly should not be in the country that prides itself on being the most open, fair, and generous nation on Earth.

  • Fred B

    Surprised to see the lack of discussion on the possibility of replacing it all with automation. The only example of robot “picking” I can think of off the top of my head is Ikea but I’m sure there are more, and there will be more as automated systems become more complex and cheaper following general computer trends.
    Everybody knows machines have been replacing workers since the industrial age began, the only barriers to machine replacement when it comes to grinding a profit are whether a robot can, and if it’s cheaper or not. It may be the scale of these large warehouses that makes a person faster or more adaptable than a robot, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this job disappeared five years from now.
    Not to say that this isn’t a good thing either, because like many people said in today’s show including the callers and comments, even as manual labor goes this is very intense, and to fairly compensate workers for the work put in along with the hazards and health problems it could easily make the fast, free or cheap shipping we get cost too much and that’s not something consumers are willing to give up at this point.

  • Johnh254

    I am so surprised that you think this is something new. Where do you think your groceries come from. A supermarket puts in an order and it is picked at piece work prices, loaded on an 18 wheeler and away it goes. I have worked with C & S Wholesale grocers, in a warehouse that would fit 76 NBA basketball courts, not including maintenace, or employee facilities. The freezer is soo big it snows inside, it has its own weather patterns. I did that work 20 years ago. 

  • Cyrillaflowers

    I have worked for fullfillment warehouses when I was young for companies that shipped for harley Davidson. We were worked exactly like the experience of Mac. What an eye opener!! !

  • Ships Andy

    To me, this is simply another clear example of how filling fat pockets requires taking advantage of those who struggle financially. Awareness on a larger scale is essential to facilitate significant systematic change.

  • guest

    how is this so different than retail workers? Take a typical cashier at the national retailer i work for – they are paid $10.50 /hr as a temporary worker, stand in one spot for 8.5 hours a day and do a repetitive scanning motion all day long. In the first week of work of course their body hurts – feet, hands, arms. But their body adjusts to standing for 8 hours a day and it just becomes part of life. I bet walking 12+ miles a day as a picker also becomes part of life. 

    • Yuki Na

      Retail work is way more easier than working in a warehouse. I worked at Mervyn’s as a seasonal worker. I folded clothes, manned the fitting room and checked the backstock whenever a particular size or color wasn’t out on the floor. I experienced warehouse work all last year. Freezing cold in the winter and hotter than hades in the summer! Warehouse work is physical work and reaching production goals is a must.

  • Woody G.

    Power to the Union

  • Crypticapocalyptic

    This is exactly the type of job available in my area. The largest employer for 50 miles in any direction takes advantage of the desperation for work and struggling families that will do anything to race around a warehouse every day of their miserable lives like rats in a maze. $11/hr is a GOOD wage in SW WI and people sell their lives, families and souls for multi-billion dollar, global companies whose stockholders can not stand to take a hit.

    • Tim

      I live in sw WI and can tell you that there are many high paying opportunities for those willing to work for it.

      • cal

        Key words – “willing to work”

  • Barbara

    I have bought a lot of items from Amazon.  I don’t know if I can, in good conscience, buy from them again after hearing about their having parametics ready to treat heat stroke instead of putting in A/C

    • cal

      Why not? Will you stop having your lawn done by landscapers because they might get heat stroke working out in the sun?

  • David

    Your guest does the public a valuable service by bringing these conditions to light, and she is to be commended for braving them to bring out the story. But her perspective is naive and self-serving. The enemy is not the evil corporation, it is us. Every time we choose the lower price or the free shipping option, we force the corporation to cut costs. And we as shareholders insist on those high profits-or we choose another company. Robert Reich makes this very clear in Supercapitalism. If she wants to see improvement, stop attacking the companies and start convincing consumers to pay more for their Internet shopping items. Good luck with that.

    • cal

      Ah, a viewpoint that makes sense. We have chosen lower prices over our local Mom & Pop shops, now we are choosing lower prices over the chains that have put the local Mom & Pop shops our of business. Survival of the fittest in the business world.

  • Valerie

    I don’t understand why this hasn’t come out in the media more and caused an outcry by the public.

  • Bryan r mitchell

    What a bunch of crybabies. they should feel lucky to have a job. If you don’t like it then quit, its that easy. I work a 10 to 12 hour day too…

    • Lucciano

      Grow up … you are not the standard by which hardship is measured.

    • Anonymous

      It’s not the hours, it’s the conditions.
      While we are on the subject of hours, it’s interesting how in some European countries (the Netherlands, Sweden, and Belgium) they work less hours than we do but are more productive and they health care.
      Go figure.

  • Anamarie1223

    Two words, MIGRANT WORKERS!
    If we were talking about a minority group , well we wouldn’t be talking.  Food processing plants, farms, and large factories operate in the same way if not worse. 
    It’s a job, not a career and most unemployed people wouldn’t mind having it.

    • Tim

      Two more words; dairy farmers.

      Hard labor, 7 days a week, no benefits. I’d love to hear this crybaby’s report after a month on a farm.

  • Oz2281

    I have been in the warehousing and transportation industry fas both a line and management and I can assure this is not the case in every warehouse for about 10 years.  Thus the reporters’ opinions should not be regarded as the status quo – I am proud of how great I have treated my employees over the years.  I feel that this is a matter to be brought up with regulatory agencies such as OSHA.  

  • Jason King

    So, this “worker” admittedly for 2 whole days, thinks she is some crusader for justice? At 10.5 hours a day, one weeks pay would have 12.5 hours at $15.50 an hour. That is a very decent wage. Last time I checked, no one forces anyone to work any where. Other workers she admits complete their daily task, some above. So again, this sounds like someone striving for attention, and getting attributes for being a sub par candidate for a job. To compare this to coal mining is disrespectful to the men and women that have lost their lives doing one of the most dangerous jobs ever. People like this worker disgust me.

  • Guest

    I wouldn’t say it’s the worst job in the world but I definitely walked in one day and didn’t have a job because I wasn’t literally running that walking she was talking about

  • Guest

    I wouldn’t say it’s the worst job in the world but I definitely walked in one day and didn’t have a job because I wasn’t literally running that walking she was talking about wasn’t cutting it

  • Taiairam

    Sorry, not sympathetic at all.  I was a laborer for 10 years (a landscaper) making close to minimum wage, no breaks, no water fountains, no bathrooms…please.  Physical labor is hard on the body but 11.00 and hour working indoors?  Not sympathetic.

    • Taiairam

      p.s. I am a female:)

    • Zero

      Just because you were a peon, doesn’t mean people should accept terrible work conditions.

    • Pam

      I am sorry to hear how low you value yourself.

    • cal

      Throw in air conditioning and your pay drops to $10 per hour or less. Not thanks, I’ll take the pay home with me.

  • Guest

    Is anybody getting the University voicemail when trying to call?

  • Yuki Na

    I was a three month contract employee for Amazon in Japan. It was during the summer and it was grueling work. AJ paid well above minimum wage and the benefits were good (company health insurance, pension, paid breaks; in Japan, most companies do not pay for the 15 minute breaks). I fulfilled my contract and bid adieu to AJ. I would have stayed if I could have reached my productivity goals. I was worried over being fired or laid off due to my performance. AJ managers and team leaders tried to help me and I improved some but boy, I couldn’t hack it. Meanwhile I can’t land another job with above minimum wage pay and full time hours not to mention benefits!

  • LenManiace

    Tremendous show, Tom, and I’ve already become accustomed to insightful reporting from On Point. Reminds me of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, but instead of the work whizzing by the workers on a conveyor belt. The workers whiz around the the warehouse.

    I’m mystified by the reaction of those who don’t see this as a problem. It’s clear this is not an entry level job in the sense that you advance to higher positions. Unfortunately more and more jobs are being turned into this kind of low-wage hell as we engage in a race to the bottom with China.

  • Julie Garrett

    This is what happens when conservatives wipe out unions and weaken labor laws: Modern day slavery. These people should unionize! The 1 percent want poor, desperate, uneducated, needy people who don’t have options, to work for them …. Amazon is greedy … raking off profit from people’s labor. They should lessen their profit and pay their employees better and hire more workers. No caring for their employees!  I will not buy from Amazon again. BUY LOCAL!

    • Gregg

      “… conservatives wipe out unions… ”

      Huh? I never heard that one. Conservatives and FDR are against public sector unions but who but the crazies wouldn’t be?

      • Zero

         What is wrong with public sector unions?  Everybody should have the right to negotiate for more pay. 

      • Anonymous

        What bizarre fantasy world do you live in?  All unions are targeted, not just public sector unions.  

        • Gregg

          No, it’s the public sector unions we oppose.

          “All Government employees should realize that
          the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be
          transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and
          insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.
          The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for
          administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in
          mutual discussions with Government employee organizations.” FDR – 1937


    • Yuki Na

      Most warehouses pay minimum wage and no benefits. Amazon pays well above minimum wage, offers benefits (health insurance, pension among other things). The people I met were educated (college or vocational). If there was another company offering similar wages and benefits in a different field (or in each individual’s preferred industry), I’m sure they would’ve happily left. I was there last summer on a three month contract and I was stressing out over my production quota. I made it to the end of my contract and now I wish I was still there!

      • Gregg

        Nothing is EVER easy… except complaining. Thank you for your perspective.

  • Gregg

    Who is forcing these workers to earn a living? How dare they.

  • Armando_Chavez

    This is exactly what’s wrong with this country!  The reason the people are in those jobs is because that is what they have chosen.  When they were in school or had the opportunity to get marketable skills–they didn’t.  When you have no skills, you get the bottom of the barrel jobs.

    The world owes you nothing.  Amazon owes you nothing!  Stop complaining.  If you don’t like the job leave it.  If you want a better job and better working conditions, improve you skill set. 

    • Gregg


    • Tim

      When I left highschool I did not have a clear plan and thusly ended up working a job very similar to this. It was not great and I knew I did not want to spend my life working these kinds of jobs. However I did not complain or quit. I worked this job until I found a better one and then an even better one. Eventually I went back to school while I worked full time and now have a great paying job with great benefits.

      This is not a “since I had to do it so should you” mindset. If you can avoid this type of work good for you, but if that is where you choices have taken you then make the best of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1068372602 Jämes Meeker

    What’s amazing is the sheer number of “tough guys” that reason “since it happened to me it’s okay!”  The only thing better than a slave is someone that works as hard as one, willingly, defends the institution that enslaves them AND you don’t have to provide for their health.  No wonder the elites treat us like garbage.

    • Gregg

      And it’s come to this: “AND you don’t have to provide for their health”.

      Health must be provided, drink up.

      • Zero

        Why shouldn’t everybody have healthcare?

        In Obamacare, the richest 400 Americans pay for the bulk of it, providing 50 million people doctor visits, saving at least 20,000 lives a year. 

        Are you saying that it is more moral for the richest 400 Americans to keep a percentage of their income and let 50 million people fend for themselves, instead of applying a surtax to them? 

        • Gregg

          Health care is not a right and your numbers are bogus.

          • Zero

            Demanding humane treatment is a right.  We are a society made of interdependent members working together to advance the quality of life for all its members.  Otherwise, you are beginning to sound like a social Darwinist.  

            Where are your numbers then?

          • Pam

            I dare you to look a sick parent, friend, child or sibling in the face and tell them they have no right to healthcare, and then leave them to suffer or die.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Russ-Tavares/506875834 Russ Tavares

            I’ll look YOU in the eye and tell you you have no right to healthcare.
            I’m an unemployed husband and father with a felony on my record, and I’m trying DESPERATELY to get back on the workforce, before I finish this college degree, and the moment I do, some SHIT who doesn’t is going to get a piece of every hour I work.  Tell the doctor YOU have a right to his labor, and he doesn’t.  Tell the doctor that you can MAKE him go to work, and set his wages for him, and he can’t quit, because you have a RIGHT to the sweat of his brow.  I fought for this country’s freedom for almost 9 years, and I will be DAMNED if I support the American version of this system, when my grandfather fought against the German version, 70 years ago.

          • Zero

            There is a surtax on the richest 400 Americans, which is why the CBO project that Obamacare reduces the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years.  Between 35 million and 50 million will have health care–that is the range of estimation I have seen.  At least 20,000 lives saved is the most conservative estimation I have cited. 

  • Loise Edgington

    I was appalled to learn that Amazon does not even provide air conditioning for it’s workers and from my view runs a slave type operation.  I will no longer buy from Amazon.  Yes there prices are cheap and a good buy.  If I can not afford to buy the book or movie at retail locations, I will just live without it.  I have no interest to contribute to the lives of workers who are treated like so much cattle. 

    • Gregg

      Have you ever been handed a hoe, pointed to a 10 acre cabbage field on a 95 degree day and been glad for the opportunity? I sure have, it builds character. I wouldn’t trade those days fer nuttin’.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Russ-Tavares/506875834 Russ Tavares

        I’ve been handed that hoe and had to work that field under the watchful eye of a guard with a gun, and I STILL don’t want this job.

    • http://twitter.com/ursonate charlene mcbride

       …imagining how much it would cost to air condition such a warehouse, not to mention the enormous amount of energy…kaching?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Russ-Tavares/506875834 Russ Tavares

        less than it costs to hold a funeral for a dead employee.  Arizona ain’t a state to play with, when you have no AC.
        Luckily, they hire most of the workers for the christmas rush, and fire half of them after it.

  • Zero

    What is wrong with paying proper wages for the job, entry level or otherwise? Why is the phrase “entry level” an excuses to pee on employees?  Labor increases, CEO
    pay increases, Corporate profit increases, but wages stay low…? 
    According to the conditions she described, if those workers unionized,
    either their wages would have increased or the corporations would have
    to hire more people…and it would be impossible for the corporation to
    move its supply. 

    I don’t see what is wrong with unionizing and forcing executives to give
    up pay to defray the cost of labor–then if conditions don’t improve
    adequately, then the stock holder can lose two points. 

    The big problem is that share holders believe the CEOs’ horseshit
    rationale of why they “need” to be payed millions of dollars.  Share holders need to demand that executive pay needs to be comparable to the rest of employment.  If executives and CEOs leave for another job (which is doubtful), let them, and hire the next idiot out of business school.

    Thanks Caller “Mark.”  Best caller in awhile.

    • Gregg

       “What is wrong with paying proper wages for the job, entry level or otherwise? “

      Nothing, if you let the free market determine “proper wages”… or do you want to do it?

      • Zero

        Unionization is as much apart of capitalism as the Protestant Ethic.

        Romney likes to name drop Adam Smith–people would be wise to read “The Wealth of Nations” and perhaps they would have a less negative view of unions. 

        • Gregg

          You want the unions to set wages? Wow.

          • Zero

            I never said “unions to set wages”; all wages are negotiated not dictated.

            What is wrong with people fighting for more wages?  Obviously, it should be reasonable, but reasonable answers tend to arrive after negotiations. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Russ-Tavares/506875834 Russ Tavares

            What sort of tactics are available for “negotiation”?  Because I’ve seen some that are otherwise known as assault, and such.

  • Guest

    Car mechanics don’t usually have AC.  Neither do UPS drivers, mail truck drivers or ANY warehouse that doesn’t need it for it’s product.  Why pick on Amazon?   And lol at the “poor workers”… they are at least out of the sun, which the people who grow your food can’t say.   It takes a lot more than a little sweat to qualify as “slave labor”.  It takes being forced to do the job, which they are not.  It must not be that hidious if they can find people to work there at all.   The unions are what destroyed the American car companies.  We don’t need their mob fingers into any business.

  • Guest

    Car mechanics don’t usually have AC.  Neither do UPS drivers, mail truck drivers or ANY warehouse that doesn’t need it for it’s product.  Why pick on Amazon?   And lol at the “poor workers”… they are at least out of the sun, which the people who grow your food can’t say.   It takes a lot more than a little sweat to qualify as “slave labor”.  It takes being forced to do the job, which they are not.  It must not be that hidious if they can find people to work there at all.   The unions are what destroyed the American car companies.  We don’t need their mob fingers into any business.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Russ-Tavares/506875834 Russ Tavares

      This is Arizona.  Goodyear is in the Valley of the Sun.  “not having air conditioning” out here is often FATAL.  You do NOT live here if you can’t afford AC.
      That said, it’s also a “right to work” state, and what that means for workers is that there will be a quiet hint to not take your 15 minute breaks, and if you didn’t notice it…  You’ll be on your way, and someone who takes better care to listen to hints will be standing at your table tomorrow.  What would you like to do about it?

  • Modavations

    Now all you Progressives,get a good nights sleep.You didn’t fare well today,but remember, another day another crisis.

    By the way,if we look closely we’ll find the real reason there was no AC.The real reason for Ambulances.This was a pathetic hit piece and few bought it.

  • Bellasage78

    This is just insulting to listen to. There are people out there that would kill for a job-this job, and here she is working for 2 days, then quitting just to write a piece of crap about how working sucks! Hello?? Are you serious!? Yeah, warehouse work is not glamorous, but you made a decent wage doing it for your 2 days girlie. Imagine the folks that actually NEED a job complaining. Can’t can you. This IS NOT even comparable to slave labor! No A/C!!!! Call OSHA, NOW!!! Give me a freakin’ break. If you don’t want to work in a warehouse and you can’t make your fat ass move to get the job done then stay out of the way and let the “people that just really like to do good at work” do the job. Unbelievable! Hey, I heard Apple operates sweatshops in Japan, Foxconn I believe it is. Why don’t you go over there and report on a real problem, oh wait, people voluntarily work there too!? Such atrocities going on in this world and this dumb-ass is wasting precious air space feeding us this drivel. Shame on you!!

    • Yuki Na

      I believe it’s sweatshops in CHINA. Bellasage78, I think the writer should have stuck with it for at least a month. I worked for Amazon on a three month contract and they pay well above minimum wage with good benefits. I lasted out my contract but I was constantly stressed over meeting quota. They do (rightly) want you to WORK!

    • Zero

      Japan actually has wonderful labor representation.  In Japan, the wage gap is not nearly as wide as it is in America.  And because wage distribution is similar, it allows Japan to have a flatter tax code than most (all) G20 nations. Pretty cool, huh?

      It’s pretty cool when in society, everybody treats everybody with respect. Better than America’s mentality of “accept being a peon…it’s a job.”

  • Vic Volpe

    I’ve been in the distribution system sine the late ’60′s — as a professional white-collar worker and even a blue-collar worker.  This is an example of taking the “efficiency” of the industrial engineering of Frederick Taylor to an extreme.

    I have been around industrial engineers that design layouts of distribution centers that are knowingly dehumanized in order to get more productivity out of people, in this country and overseas.  They purposely design systems to minimize the social inter-action of employees who have to spend the better part of their waking hours in these inhuman environments.  And I have been around many of the employees who put up with these conditions and just take it.

    I don’t know what one should expect of society (here or abroad) when a good segment of people (with and without good educations) accept such conditions.  Our type of democracy, with middle-class values, cannot survive with this going on.

  • Morebliss

    You have to put this discussion in the bigger picture. Look at the Chinese workers committing suicide because of the horrible working conditions making Ipods. Or how badly Wal-Mart workers are treated. It IS legitimized slavery. What’s worse, it’s not the 1% enslaving the 99%. It’s the 1%’s dream: the 99% enslaving the 99%. It’s us, that is, our insatiable appetite for material things, that is driving the flow of cheap, unnecessary things globally, and sending our friends and neighbors to jobs like the warehouse ones. We have to get to the root of the problem: why do we feel the need for so much materialism? Why aren’t we making what we need locally? That movement is starting, with more Americvans beginning to craft their own clothing, furniture and other things. That’s what we should be doing. I don’t watch TV and I think that’s where alot of people are brainwashed into buying. So turn off your TV. Throw away the color ads in the Sunday paper. Anything that stimulates your buying urge. Stop buying and start creating. They can’t mistreat workers in warehouses if there aren’t any warehouses.

    • Anonymous

      Well said. People are so brain washed by the commercialism that the only thing they can feel better about themselves is to own some thing, buy,buy,buy the more the merrier.  But in the end they use credit card on their purchase do they really own what they think they own? Of course not, the credit card companies own everything they bought as well as their souls. Now they have to work to death to pay off the things he/she think “own”.

      Do we really need all these fancy cars, fancy 45″ TV…?

      It’s the consumerism and materialism that powered this “legalized slavery”.

    • kpallist

      Well said!

    • Zero

      Watch out for the anti-marketing commercials.  They have been popping up.   

  • Mike Herman

    although it is great that you focus on things impacting the lives of everyday people, the real focus that was mentioned on this show is that the companies are making millions and billions of dollars of profits for their “C” levels (CEOs, CFOs, etc) and for there shareholders and Wall Street, whom we the poeple keep bailing out.  Consider a show on the “gouging” of the American people by Wall Street and CEOs…

  • Bin

    The 1% are working on a brain implant that will keep the 99% from complaining or asking for wages. It will be installed at birth (no contraception allowed of course for the 99%) thanks to some moderate cranial surgery. Everything will be fine…

  • Bin

    I am the CEO of one of these companies. Ahhh, what a wonderful year it has been! Profits up by 1.5 billion! Union-busting up by 50%. My peon’s productivity up by 80%! I am wondering whether to buy a tropical island or a gun-stocked ranch in Montana with my bonus this year. I listened to the program while sipping my cognac at the country club, and I like it! Now I know better why I make so much money. As for those complainers, they are anti-American traitors…. Anyway, this writing makes me tired. It is hard work to run a large company today, full of strenuous effort and risk and whatnot. I never worked so hard since I character-assassinated  my competitor for the top slot. Ok, gotta be off to a GOP fundraiser…

  • http://www.dogoodgauge.org The Do Good Gauge

    If this topic interest anyone I highly suggest downloading the Librivox version of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. It’s free
    After reading the Jungle, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered an investigation of the meat-packing industry. Meeting with Upton Sinclair Roosevelt told him that while he disapproved how the book preached
    socialism he agreed that “radical action must be taken to do away with
    the efforts of arrogant and selfish greed on the part of the
    capitalist.” Roosevelt followed-up by passing the Pure Food and Drugs and of 1906 and the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. In his book, Sinclair illustrated how a novelist could help with social improvement.

    From the book

    It was all so painfully obvious to Jurgis! It was so incomprehensible
    how a man could fail to see it! Here were all the opportunities of the country, the land, and the buildings upon the land, the railroads, the
    mines, the factories, and the stores, all in the hands of a few private
    individuals, called capitalists, for whom the people were obliged to
    work for wages. The whole balance of what the people produced went to
    heap up the fortunes of these capitalists, to heap, and heap again, and
    yet again – and that in spite of the fact that they, and every one about
    them, lived in unthinkable luxury! And was it not plain that if the
    people cut off the share of those who merely “owned,” the share of those
    who worked would be much greater? That was as plain as two and two
    makes four; and it was the whole of it, absolutely the whole of it; and
    yet there were people who could not see it, who would argue about
    everything else in the world. They would tell you that governments could
    not manage things as economically as private individuals; they would
    repeat and repeat that, and think they were saying something! They could
    not see that “economical” management by masters meant simply that they,
    the people, were worked harder and ground closer and paid less! They
    were wage-earners and servants, at the mercy of exploiters whose one
    thought was to get as much out of them as possible; and they were taking
    an interest in the process, were anxious lest it should not be done
    thoroughly enough! Was it not honestly a trial to listen to an argument
    such as that? [MP3]– Chapter 30 – Page 387 of 428 – Published 1906

  • http://www.ghostfreeman.net Cameron Kilgore

    It’s truly tragic to see people treated this way — but give me a break! You want your goods cheaper and faster? What do you expect?

  • Sylviem12

    Thanks for that report…that makes me think twice about online shopping. I love it,but if these online stores abuse their employees, I do not want encourage any of it !

  • Frank TheUnderemployedProfessi

    Great show!  I hope we can have more like this that expose the “China-fiction” of the American labor market and quality of life.

    I love the knee-jerk commentators and callers who say, “Why not just go to college!”  Those morons don’t realize that only a limited, small percentage of the jobs that need to be done require or make use of a college education and that if everyone goes to college we’ll just end up having lots of poverty-wage workers with college degrees.

    In fact, we already have a huge oversupply of college graduates, including those with high-falutin’ advanced and professional degrees.  We have boatloads of unemployed and underemployed lawyers, MBAs, and even scientists.  It has also been reported that as much as 85% of new graduates end up moving back home with their parents (I wonder why).  This large horde of unemployed and underemployed people also have student loans to pay that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

    Wake up, Sheeple!  College education will not magically cure our nation’s economic problems.  If we triple the number of people trained to work in Field X, the number of jobs available for people in Field X at currently prevailing wage rates will not magically triple.  Instead the wages in Field X will end up depressed and they’ll be lots of unemployed and underemployed-involuntarily-out-of-field people with degrees in Field X.

    Sadly, our politicians and intelligentsia will continue selling the higher education myth to the Sheeple, and they’ll keep guzzling it down like Jonestown Kool Aid.  It’s so much easier to advocate a warm-and-fuzzy touchy-feely policy like higher education than it is to actually identify and address our real economic problems with Global Labor Arbitrage and population explosion.  Few politicians want to come out and say, “we need tariffs to prevent foreign outsourcing, we need to end the H-1B and L-1 visa programs, and we need to end mass immigration.”

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  • Anonymous

    Ha, this lady is such a schmuck. Sounds like a PR-front for her dream of becoming a NPR journalist!

    Don’t take this job if it sucks so much and you cannot do it. Some people are not suited for physical labor. I’m sure I could do that job and I’ve worked in a warehouse before. Perhaps she is better suited for telemarketing?

    Then, save your money and try to get education or move up the food-chain in that business. it’s not slavery…

  • Dustin Marvin

    I live in the largest agricultural producing area in the country and have worked the fields with migrant field workers. I can tell you it is multiple times worse (conditions, productivity expectations, employee benefits) than anything this person is talking about at 3/4 of the wage.

  • LPR

    Why critisize Chinese companies for unfair labour practices?

  • Saturation86

    Ridiculous. Comparing these jobs to coal mining does a great injustice to coal miners.  Whoever said that entry level labor jobs are supposed to be fun and easy? I’ve worked as a dishwasher in a busy restaurant. Believe me, these warehouse workers have it easy.

    BTW – I am also a college educated liberal progressive.  You commentors who are trying to make this a partisan issue are dunderheads.

    • http://www.facebook.com/granddaughterofshepotovka Julie A Katz

      Your American privilege is showing. If we have not been where McClelland has been, we cannot legitimately challenge what he has credibly reported.

      Your geocentrism is embarrisingly obvious. Sorry to say, it is perspectives like yours that give so-called “progressives” the mockingly- critical reputation all progressives experience. As a mental health professional, I offer the following:the greater the psychological need we have to protect ourselves from inconvenient truths- lest we feel the moral imperative to make real changes in our lives- the more important it is for us to rationalize away reality even as it stares us in the face. The pseudo- science that continues to promulgate blatant lies denying the climate change well underway worldwide is a prime example.

      Clearly, you have given at least fleeting thought that not patronizing amazon would have personal implications for you. Think of the increased time, effort & $$ this would mean! As a  small book-seller on amazon, acting consistent with my values has meant discontinuing my own affiliation; amazon takes more than 25% of each book sale. There are other places to sell and to shop. Doing what’s right is rarely the easy choice.

      You are deluding yourself. How outrageous that you consider a temporary dishwashing job, likely performed in your youth before or during college, to be equivalent to, or worse than, the callous, exploitive and inhumane work middle-aged workers in areas with no other jobs are forced to do for financial survival. Get a conscience before you get on a soap box!                

  • Eyeseenothingnew.

    Yes yes! Let’s celebrate slavery in the United States! Good Job to Amazon and also all those companies that make millions out of the sweat of the poor!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/ursonate charlene mcbride

    all the walking around sounds like a solution to the obesity problem ;)

  • Anonymous

    read McClelland’s article and something about it rang a bit false to me. I’ve
    worked in warehouses and it is hard work and the pay isn’t great, on the other
    hand they don’t demand a lot in the way of skills and education. Without a
    college degree, on in the case of immigrants at least some English proficiency,
    it’s very difficult fining a job in the U.S. today. But the Mother Jones
    article seemed just a little too “good” in that everyone said or did
    exactly the right outrageous thing at just the right time, just like I was
    reading a script or short story instead of a news article; especially since she
    fictionalized the name of the company and people she talked to. I then looked
    up the author on Google and discovered that she had been accused of lying and
    making up things about a two-week trip she took to Haiti by people who were
    there with her after she published an article about how she was so traumatized
    by her visit that she had to have violent sex with her boyfriend to deal with
    the stress. I think the broadcasters should have tried to find someone more

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  • TheDailyBuzzherd

    What happens? Permanent “Temp” workers get screwed at distribution hubs, that’s what!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004505917179 Kuma Rhyu

      Since when it that new? As a college student in the mid ’80s, I worked through an international temp agency (who will remain nameless) for a little more than minimum wage at a now defunct pharmaceutics production facility in North Carolina to keep the pantry stocked. A group of about 30 temps were hired for a special project, inspecting eye drops containers for leakage (back aches and eye strain) and as that project wound down, some of us were transferred to SPD (Sterile Products Division) making and packaging sterile tablet, gel and injection drugs and we were doing the same jobs as the BW employees at a third of the wage and no benefits. Several of the temps in SPD had been there for more than three years in an attempt to be hired on (a “rumor” was perpetuated within the temp group that this is the way BW hires their new employees). 
      New or just in distribution; no way!

  • Michael Kelleher

    “Come on, these are jobs!”

    Why is it that blue-collar workers are so commonly admonished to be grateful for their employment, poor working conditions and all?

    It’s not as if these companies could operate without their pickers.  It isn’t charity.  I really hope that the labor movement can make inroads with these companies.  As an American consumer I wouldn’t mind paying a few cents more on an item to provide real health coverage or a living wage.

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