Amazon is an evil company and Jeff Bezos is an evil man. Not only have they destroyed businesses and whole industries in their campaign to be the single, supreme consumer monopoly, they’ve cut every corner to do it. While maintaining a friendly outward facing appearance providing honestly fantastic services to consumers, beneath the surface they are a toxic mess of human exploitation and abuse. When workers at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama tried to unionize, Amazon spent millions fighting the effort, and succeeded. Through intimidation and misinformation, they convinced the majority of workers to vote against unionization.
A union is not some outside force that comes in and agitates workers. Unions are workers. Yes, union organizers and members of coalition unions may come in to help with the work of establishing a union, but ultimately every union is no more or less than its membership. Unions don’t come into happy workplaces and start trouble; unions are built within unhappy workplaces for the protection and benefit of all those working there.
Every working person should want to be in a union. Every working person should understand that if a union were not beneficial for workers, companies like Amazon would not be fighting them. Amazon sold their workers tired threats about how the union would steal wages, and maybe be such a burden to the business that they’d have to shut down and fire everybody. They spent millions bombarding workers with the lie that the company cared for the workers’ best interests and that they had a better deal under the status quo than they would with a union. By definition that’s just stupid. Whatever pay and benefits you get from a company, they’d have to give you more and better if you were in a union. That’s how it works and that’s why companies like Amazon fight them. Companies will never willingly give employees anything if it is at the expense of their bottom line. “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Whether or not Amazon workers are ever able to successfully unionize may be a moot point, because efforts by the company indicate that they won’t have workers for that much longer. They’ve been treating human beings like robots for years, and as soon as they can Amazon will replace all their human workers with literal robots. They’re well on the way there. Much of the work that used to be done by humans in Amazon warehouses is now done by robots. Where once people had to rush from place to place in the huge warehouses retrieving dildos and canned tuna from shelves, they now have robotic shelves bringing the items to them. As soon as Amazon develops robots better able to grab things, because we all know from the crane games at diners and bowling alleys that robots suck at grabbing things, they won’t need humans with human hands at all anymore.
Warehouses will be filled with nothing but crap and robots. Driverless cars and drones will of course take over the delivery side of things. The last handful of customer service serfs will give way to fully automated interactions and transactions. The entire workforce will be replaced by robots and algorithms, and then Amazon won’t have to worry about unions and human needs ever again. They won’t have to fret over bad press about workers peeing in bottles or pooping in bags, or workers being grievously injured or dying on the job, because those people will be on the streets or already dead.
Buckminster Fuller had a vision of the future that technology would bring us. Many decades ago, he predicted that robotics and artificial intelligence would be so advanced as to completely eliminate the need for human laborers. He saw this as a positive thing, that turning over menial and manual labor to robots would mean that workers would be able to instead do valuable and personally enriching things with their lives. He foresaw a future in which technology would produce such great communal wealth for all people that everyone could live comfortably and hardly anyone would have to work if they didn’t want to.
Bucky was a hell of an optimist. One could call him a utopist. Or delusional. His vision is possible, but not under capitalism, not under the rule of companies like Amazon, and not at the mercy of men like Bezos. Humankind has the potential to build a beautiful and just technological utopia, but it has to first overthrow the system which constrains it, and overcome the evil companies and evil men who hoard the wealth and the future of humankind for themselves.