TThe new film Nomadland may have received six Academy Award nominations this year, but it has also faced its fair share of controversy. In telling the story of Fern (played by Frances McDormand), a woman living an itinerant life, moving from state to state to continue work, sleeping in her modified van in cramped rooms, the representation is, some critics say , too cheerful. Live this life because you want to, hitting the road after a tragedy, not because you have to. And the work he does supports his lifestyle and he wants nothing more.
Nomadland shows Fern working in an Amazon warehouse; the creators of the film Permission received from Amazon to shoot outdoors. Fern’s work seems tedious and difficult, but let’s say there are no labor violations. is displayed on the screen. Fern does this menial work to stay true to herself and the life she wants to lead, and Amazon essentially funds her authenticity.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Amazon is putting cameras on its delivery drivers’ trucks, monitors on the bodies of its warehouse workers, and security cameras on and off its premises. Creates heat maps to detect if too many employees are meeting in the same place at the same time to discourage both fraternization and discussions about forming a union. And the company resellers all of this as effective methods to boost productivity and profit margins.
The horrors of working at Amazon’s warehousing facilities have been around for some time. Employees, who have not been granted enough toilet breaks to allow them to travel from their position to the facility and vice versa, have reported pissing in bottles. They have said they are sometimes forced to queue after work for security checks to make sure no one is smuggling goods. time that are not compensated. Warehouses are often no controlled temperature, which means that employees have to work in sweltering conditions in the summer and cold temperatures in the winter.
But increased vigilance is a new level of indignity. The pandemic has increased the volume of packages handled by Amazon delivery drivers, in some regions doubling their workload. Workers have complained of having to work at grueling speeds to meet their quotas, of injuries and burnout. These workers are usually contractors, which means they are working without the protections or benefits that come with full-time employment.
Rather than giving its overworked workers a raise to match the increase in labor, or hiring them full-time so they can receive health insurance that covers their repetitive strain injuries, Amazon has responded by placing cameras on truck vans. cast to carefully monitor performance. The cameras are mounted on the roof of the truck, with one lens pointed directly at the driver’s face. Now, if a driver takes shortcuts to meet their impossible quotas for the day (passing a stop sign here, urinating in a bottle to avoid having to stop to find a public toilet there), they will immediately be reported to Amazon headquarters. . Even things like U-turns, braking too fast, and other minor traffic problems are automatically reported without notifying the driver. Humans are expected to reach the performance levels of machines and run out of basic human needs like food, bathroom breaks, sleep, and free time.
Amazon pulls out the usual answers when asked about increased monitoring: They are concerned about security and compliance. They have delivery promises to keep as their Prime customers expect their orders to magically appear on their doorstep the next day, or even hours after, their orders are placed. It’s about customer satisfaction and keeping the streets safe. (It is not clear how Amazon failed plan to spy on your employees’ social media presenceincluding after-hours communications and posts, it was about customer satisfaction, but I’m sure they’ll find a way to explain it eventually.)
We can debate whether Nomadland deserves the criticism it is receiving; after all, it is a fictional film and not a documentary on working-class working conditions. But it certainly helps Amazon right now to have a prestigious movie covering its abuses. Furthermore, the working conditions of its employees and contract workers have been well known and reported for years, but the company continues to increase its market share. Amazon doubled its profits during the pandemic, and the pay gap between its executives and its warehouse workers continues to grow. In addition, the company does not pay taxes. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos saw his personal net worth grow by a staggering $ 75 billion in 2020.
Amazon can get away with it because there is an underclass of insecure workers who depend on even this dangerous, low-paying job to make ends meet. It’s not the narrative failures of a movie, or even the moral failures of an executive director, that brought us here; it is the inevitable result of a society that wants to squeeze every dollar and hour of productivity out of human beings to benefit a few. Every worker who is fired because he passed too many stop signs can easily be replaced by another desperate soul.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism