Warehouse Workers for Justice estimates that there are about 150,000 warehouse workersin the Chicago region
. Most warehouse jobs fall into the category of precarious employment meaning that workers do not have a say in scheduling, pay, benefits, workplace safety and job security. Warehouse workers bear the burdens of long hours, high risk of occupational injuries, dangerous working conditions and nowhere to file grievances. Think about the scale of these impacts through the Warehouse Workers for Justice statistic that “Chicago has half a billion square feet of warehouse space, making it one of the largest concentrations of warehouses on the planet.”
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They really ask like an impossible task of you, and they try to brainwash you to think it’s possible by having try-hard people promote all the items that they can stow in a day, which aren’t really real, but yeah, it’s just all around like a really stressful environment. And they don’t give you enough time to recover and recoup between three hour shifts, they give you 30 minutes. And as she mentioned, it takes ten minutes to walk anywhere in Amazon from anywhere you are at, no matter where you are, it takes ten minutes to walk to where you need to be. So it’s just hard to try and hustle when your legs are sore from standing for 6 hours straight. And then you’re also tired because your arms and shoulders hurt from stowing things that are way above your head.
I have family members who- I don’t know anybody that works at Amazon, honestly, beyond me and you, but I have family members who’ve made entire lives off working warehouses, warehouse, blue collar work, basically. Well, my one cousin was very vocal from the jump. She’s worked at Ford since 2012. And she was like, that job hurts. My fingers hurt. My body hurts. Like, the job is hard. And I was just like, I just feel like maybe you’re overdoing it. Literally. How old was I in 2012? My 14 year old brain, I was like, yeah, she doesn’t know what it’s like. So I haven’t thought again about warehouse jobs until I walked into Amazon for my first day. And I was like, oh, okay, this is awful. This is what everybody’s talking about. This is why people are so anti-Amazon. Because I didn’t understand why people were anti-Amazon exactly. I’m like, it’s a corporation, so there’s blood and there’s death all around it. So I’m like, I don’t know why this one is so specifically being attacked, but I think now it’s because of how, since the corporation is - the needs are so high for that specific corporation, like anyone, but specifically Amazon, they whip you more, so you get more lashings if, you know, so it’s more aggressive in that way, for sure. So I wasn’t expecting it to be an impossible job. I was expecting there to be a way for you to get through the day with all you could do, like preparing in the morning and stretching all this. That the work could be doable, and it’s not. Not in any reasonable sense of getting work done in a day’s span. No, you can’t do it, but you have to try. So you do.
Long story short, the question was, what do people not understand about working at Amazon? It’s just really like you don’t understand how little they care about their employees. I think you can talk about it all day long, but actually being an employee there and realizing they don’t care that I get the correct pay, they don’t care that I get all my time off, they don’t care about any of that. They care that I send out 1200 items in a day. That’s all they care about. It’s sad. It’s sad and it’s really frustrating at the same time. And those are like really bad emotions to have towards the job that you’re trying to do. And especially when you have all these requirements you want to meet, when you don’t want to meet them because you don’t like your employer. That’s what I think.
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Okay, so basically it makes me feel like you never finish anything because once you finish all of your work, they just bring you new work. So it’s not like, oh, okay, so like, today, okay, once I finish this, then I’ll be done with work for the day, and then I can move on to something else, like a normal job. When you have different kinds of projects, it’s just like constant - they’re bringing in boxes, they’re bringing in boxes, they’re bringing in boxes. There’s never, like, a sense of accomplishment, I feel like. And that also makes it really hard to stay motivated because it’s like, oh, once I finish these 97 items, they’re in this big ass box. I’ll be cool. No, they’re going to bring you 97 more items each time. Like, there’s nothing you can do to finish your work until you leave and clock out. That’s fucking depressing.
Okay, so I make $20 an hour on Amazon. And that’s like well, it’s like about $4 more than I’d make as a gallery assistant, like, in the real world, which is like a job in the career path of what I actually studied to do with my life. So it’s like when you compare the monetary, literally just the monetary, because Amazon is Amazon, you get your check, you can apply for benefits and stuff, but you have to commit so much more of your soul to get those things. And I’m like, girl, please. But if I were to work at a gallery and they would give me benefits and time off, and then they’d be like, less physically demanding work, and more satisfying for my soul to be there. So, like, the $4 cut wouldn’t be that bad there bad or like, you think it would be that bad. It’s like they do it like that so that you are forced to really be like, damn, it’s still like $20. I’m still young, and $20 is a lot. Like, I’m not used. But it’s like when you get there, you stand there for an hour and you’re like, was that really worth $20? I immediately want to go home, and I don’t care about the money anymore. I’ll quit. When you got a car note and the rent and utilities to pay, it’s a good wage. You have to do it. Yes.
That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I am starting off. I’m fresh out of college, so I don’t have any, like, saved money or assets. I have to start everything from scratch. So as I’m trying to build and save with that, I have to work some weekends at Amazon in addition to my full time job. I wouldn’t work at Amazon if I didn’t have to. I don’t like working there, and I just want to stay and work a couple of days a month. It’s not like that. It’s literally I have to in order to live the lifestyle that I want to live. So it’s okay for that. But if I had to work at Amazon four days as my full time career or anything like that, I don’t think $16.50 would be sufficient.
Exactly. Yeah. And I feel like that’s really what this question is about. It’s not for people, like, you and me, we just work there because what else is there? We’re not trying to support kids and pay mortgages and shit. So it’s really great for us in that regard because having actually actualized Amazon as a career for myself, it would be really tough. It’s like, this is it for the next 30 years, is what I’m going to do. Like, watch my body fade away for fucking $20 an hour and nothing else. Like, as a full grown adult, all you have is, all you get is money. That’s not enough. There’s no satisfaction, like, psychologically, there’s no benefits, there’s no dental, there’s no, like, everything you want to come out, like, you got to pay for it all. There’s no seeing your work do anything in the end. Yeah. You don’t see somebody getting their package of socks and joy on their face when it happens or anything. There’s no fulfillment after you stow that item. There’s no fulfillment at the fulfillment center. Hashtag.
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Within the industrial corridors, like we realized, because of how big they are, because of the importance that they have carried where we don’t minimize the importance of having local jobs, the importance of having a closed economy within our community. A lot of these jobs were beneficial to a lot of working class families in establishing roots and being able to purchase their homes, being able to raise their families, right? But within the passing decades, what do we know? We know that our community has one of the largest asthma rates. We know that when the Crawford coal plant was operating within the industrial corridor, we know that every year we lost about 50 residents to premature deaths. We know that cardiac disease is rampant in our communities. Why? Because close to 50% of our land use is dedicated to industry. So these are like the type of connections that LVEJO really tries to make- where industry and corporate polluters do such a great job at green washing and selling the idea of jobs and the creation of thousands of jobs in the industrial corridor. Again, we love jobs. We want our community to be able to have access to thriving, living wages, right? We don’t want extractive working conditions for a community that is already struggling with like all the other -isms, right? And so trying to make that connection within environmental justice and labor and public health is one of these three layers. I think now we’re working with it and our community is picking up on the language and saying - challenging a lot of these narratives that corporations are trying to sell to us, right? That is because we’re going to install solar panels, like everything is going to be great. Don’t mind the 400 plus trucks that we’re going to be coming in and out of this warehouse, right, on a daily basis. At least now folks are questioning like, whoa, why are there so many trucks to begin with? And are these jobs, are these union jobs or what’s the starting minimum wage? Are these salary jobs? What kind of benefits are you going to include? Tuition waivers? And so these are the questions that we are supporting residents and asking and teaching them how to negotiate, or how not to negotiate, but teaching them about knowing their own work rights. And again, we want industry, we believe that industry can be great. But the type of industry that is not extractive. The type of industry that will not literally put our health at risk just so that we can have a decent job, we want to make sure that these jobs are like - benefiting our communities. We just don’t want a company that shows up and just ignores everything that’s happening outside of their industry walls, right? We want active participants of our community.