Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

9

The other big advance that’s made life miserable for low-wage workers is algorithmic scheduling. Work schedules that used to be drawn up by managers now rely heavily on algorithms that analyze historical data to predict exactly how much business a store can expect in the upcoming week. As it’s most accurate with the most recent data, this means many workers’ schedules vary wildly week to week and are made and posted the day before they start—making it impossible to plan anything more than a week in advance.

Businesses also save a ton of money by scheduling the absolute minimum number of workers to handle the predicted business. And they save even more by scheduling slightly fewer people than can handle the predicted work at a reasonable pace. If workers can push themselves to cover the duties of a sick coworker, doesn’t that just mean they’re not giving it 100 percent the rest of the time? Why can’t they work that efficiently every shift?

The answer’s obvious if you’ve covered for a sick coworker at a fast-paced job—because you’re stuck in the weeds the entire day, and just because you can put up with a miserable day once in a while doesn’t mean that the weeds are a sustainable place to live.

From a boss’s point of view, though, the weeds are where workers should be—at maximum productivity, all day, every day.

—p.9 Introduction: In the Weeds (3) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

The other big advance that’s made life miserable for low-wage workers is algorithmic scheduling. Work schedules that used to be drawn up by managers now rely heavily on algorithms that analyze historical data to predict exactly how much business a store can expect in the upcoming week. As it’s most accurate with the most recent data, this means many workers’ schedules vary wildly week to week and are made and posted the day before they start—making it impossible to plan anything more than a week in advance.

Businesses also save a ton of money by scheduling the absolute minimum number of workers to handle the predicted business. And they save even more by scheduling slightly fewer people than can handle the predicted work at a reasonable pace. If workers can push themselves to cover the duties of a sick coworker, doesn’t that just mean they’re not giving it 100 percent the rest of the time? Why can’t they work that efficiently every shift?

The answer’s obvious if you’ve covered for a sick coworker at a fast-paced job—because you’re stuck in the weeds the entire day, and just because you can put up with a miserable day once in a while doesn’t mean that the weeds are a sustainable place to live.

From a boss’s point of view, though, the weeds are where workers should be—at maximum productivity, all day, every day.

—p.9 Introduction: In the Weeds (3) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago
16

Even the concourse is crowded, and it has to be twenty feet wide. My gawking has started to disrupt traffic, and, embarrassed, I merge back into the confused herd of new hires. We’re walking in a long train from the on-site temp office, where we’ve just received lanyards and white ID badges with our names and photos, to… somewhere.

Less confused people with blue ID badges—the mark of the full-time “Amazonian”—flow around us. Most of the year, roughly two-thirds of the more than three thousand workers who keep SDF8 running twenty-four hours a day are “blue badges,” while a third are “white badges” like me—temps hired through Integrity Staffing Solutions.

But right now it’s “peak”—the crazy holiday season between Black Friday and Christmas when Amazon’s business increases exponentially and fulfillment centers hire massive numbers of seasonal workers through a few associated temp agencies like Integrity.* There’s maybe a couple hundred of us starting this cold morning.

possibly useful details

—p.16 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

Even the concourse is crowded, and it has to be twenty feet wide. My gawking has started to disrupt traffic, and, embarrassed, I merge back into the confused herd of new hires. We’re walking in a long train from the on-site temp office, where we’ve just received lanyards and white ID badges with our names and photos, to… somewhere.

Less confused people with blue ID badges—the mark of the full-time “Amazonian”—flow around us. Most of the year, roughly two-thirds of the more than three thousand workers who keep SDF8 running twenty-four hours a day are “blue badges,” while a third are “white badges” like me—temps hired through Integrity Staffing Solutions.

But right now it’s “peak”—the crazy holiday season between Black Friday and Christmas when Amazon’s business increases exponentially and fulfillment centers hire massive numbers of seasonal workers through a few associated temp agencies like Integrity.* There’s maybe a couple hundred of us starting this cold morning.

possibly useful details

—p.16 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago
32

Next slide is policies and procedures. “The first one is going to be attendance,” says Miguel. “We expect you to work the full shift, including any scheduled overtime. You can expect us to tell you about required overtime as soon as we can, and no later than the start of the lunch break during the shift on the day before.

“Now, some of you might be looking for full-time job opportunities with Amazon. Which I’m not saying you’re gonna get. But you might get,” Miguel says, his tone suggesting that a full-time blue badge is a prize only to be claimed by the übertemp.* The best way to show we really want that blue badge, he says, is perfect attendance.

Miguel directs our eyes to the hotline number on the folder on our chairs. If we’re going to be late or sick, we must call in at least two hours before the start of our shift. If we’re no-call-no-show two days in a row, we won’t just be fired—we’ll be blacklisted. Our relationship with Amazon will never progress beyond the white badge.

“We will not consider excuses for being late outside of approved exceptions,” says Miguel. Temps don’t have sick days or vacation: instead, we have a point system that Miguel explains was developed to give us as much freedom with our schedules as possible.

also potentially useful

consider: new tag for details on shitty workplaces?

—p.32 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

Next slide is policies and procedures. “The first one is going to be attendance,” says Miguel. “We expect you to work the full shift, including any scheduled overtime. You can expect us to tell you about required overtime as soon as we can, and no later than the start of the lunch break during the shift on the day before.

“Now, some of you might be looking for full-time job opportunities with Amazon. Which I’m not saying you’re gonna get. But you might get,” Miguel says, his tone suggesting that a full-time blue badge is a prize only to be claimed by the übertemp.* The best way to show we really want that blue badge, he says, is perfect attendance.

Miguel directs our eyes to the hotline number on the folder on our chairs. If we’re going to be late or sick, we must call in at least two hours before the start of our shift. If we’re no-call-no-show two days in a row, we won’t just be fired—we’ll be blacklisted. Our relationship with Amazon will never progress beyond the white badge.

“We will not consider excuses for being late outside of approved exceptions,” says Miguel. Temps don’t have sick days or vacation: instead, we have a point system that Miguel explains was developed to give us as much freedom with our schedules as possible.

also potentially useful

consider: new tag for details on shitty workplaces?

—p.32 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago
34

There’s a few exceptions to the six-point rule—you can get some time excused with a doctor’s note or proof of a close relative’s death. You can apply in writing in case of other emergencies, but those are very, very rare, Miguel says. “I have a doctor’s appointment, I have court—it has to be more serious than that. Use your points.”

We will clock in and out by scanning our white badges four times a day. “Lunch is gonna be a thirty-minute break, unpaid, and you will also get two fifteen-minute breaks, paid.

“Now,” Miguel asks us, “what is it that you are not going to like about the breaks?”

A former worker raises his hand. “Your break doesn’t start once you get out the door. It’s your last item you scan—that’s where your fifteen minutes starts. And it takes you ten minutes to get out the door, so you’ve got five minutes to get back and make your first scan.”

Miguel nods at this correct answer. “Breaks are measured from last scan to first scan. So if your break starts at ten, then ten is when you make your last scan. And then by 10:12, or 10:13 at the latest, you head back in to your work area.… You know,” he pauses, “the easiest thing in the world is taking too long a break.”

motherfucker

—p.34 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

There’s a few exceptions to the six-point rule—you can get some time excused with a doctor’s note or proof of a close relative’s death. You can apply in writing in case of other emergencies, but those are very, very rare, Miguel says. “I have a doctor’s appointment, I have court—it has to be more serious than that. Use your points.”

We will clock in and out by scanning our white badges four times a day. “Lunch is gonna be a thirty-minute break, unpaid, and you will also get two fifteen-minute breaks, paid.

“Now,” Miguel asks us, “what is it that you are not going to like about the breaks?”

A former worker raises his hand. “Your break doesn’t start once you get out the door. It’s your last item you scan—that’s where your fifteen minutes starts. And it takes you ten minutes to get out the door, so you’ve got five minutes to get back and make your first scan.”

Miguel nods at this correct answer. “Breaks are measured from last scan to first scan. So if your break starts at ten, then ten is when you make your last scan. And then by 10:12, or 10:13 at the latest, you head back in to your work area.… You know,” he pauses, “the easiest thing in the world is taking too long a break.”

motherfucker

—p.34 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago
55

I’d expected the pain. I’d expected the monotony. I hadn’t expected so many people to regard this as a decent job.

Because Amazon does pay better than comparable jobs in the area. And I’d known, academically, that 80 percent of low-wage workers in the private sector don’t get any paid time off. I hadn’t really understood it, though. Unpaid time off still sounded like a laughable benefit to me, but tons of my coworkers were grateful for it, saying it really did give them more flexibility than most other jobs. White and blue badges alike say they’d take the worst job here over the best job in fast food, a sector discussed with a universal shudder. And if you hustle enough to get that blue badge, the health insurance is good, and there’s even the possibility of earning paid time off.

I went in expecting to find that Amazon’s system was uniquely strict. But if you don’t have a college degree, special skills, or a pristine criminal record, most jobs you can get will use the same kinds of productivity-managing equipment and techniques as Amazon does, though maybe a little less efficiently. It’s normal to have your thirty-minute lunch timed down to the second. It’s normal to work through pain and illness. It’s normal to have time to lean, time to clean enforced by constant monitoring and beeping.

—p.55 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

I’d expected the pain. I’d expected the monotony. I hadn’t expected so many people to regard this as a decent job.

Because Amazon does pay better than comparable jobs in the area. And I’d known, academically, that 80 percent of low-wage workers in the private sector don’t get any paid time off. I hadn’t really understood it, though. Unpaid time off still sounded like a laughable benefit to me, but tons of my coworkers were grateful for it, saying it really did give them more flexibility than most other jobs. White and blue badges alike say they’d take the worst job here over the best job in fast food, a sector discussed with a universal shudder. And if you hustle enough to get that blue badge, the health insurance is good, and there’s even the possibility of earning paid time off.

I went in expecting to find that Amazon’s system was uniquely strict. But if you don’t have a college degree, special skills, or a pristine criminal record, most jobs you can get will use the same kinds of productivity-managing equipment and techniques as Amazon does, though maybe a little less efficiently. It’s normal to have your thirty-minute lunch timed down to the second. It’s normal to work through pain and illness. It’s normal to have time to lean, time to clean enforced by constant monitoring and beeping.

—p.55 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago
59

Q: Your warehouse workers work 11.5-hour shifts. In order to make rate, a significant number of them need to take over-the-counter painkillers multiple times per shift, which means regular backups at the medical office. Do you:

A. Scale back the rate—clearly, workers are at their physical limits B. Make shifts shorter C. Increase the number or duration of breaks D. Increase staffing at the nurse’s office E. Install vending machines to dispense painkillers more efficiently

Seriously—what kind of fucking sociopath goes with E?

But that’s just how Amazon is—all about thinking outside the box. After just one week at SDF8, it’s so obvious how “hire ambulances to wait around so workers with heatstroke can get to the hospital faster” seemed like a clever, innovative solution to someone.

lol

—p.59 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

Q: Your warehouse workers work 11.5-hour shifts. In order to make rate, a significant number of them need to take over-the-counter painkillers multiple times per shift, which means regular backups at the medical office. Do you:

A. Scale back the rate—clearly, workers are at their physical limits B. Make shifts shorter C. Increase the number or duration of breaks D. Increase staffing at the nurse’s office E. Install vending machines to dispense painkillers more efficiently

Seriously—what kind of fucking sociopath goes with E?

But that’s just how Amazon is—all about thinking outside the box. After just one week at SDF8, it’s so obvious how “hire ambulances to wait around so workers with heatstroke can get to the hospital faster” seemed like a clever, innovative solution to someone.

lol

—p.59 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago
68

That’s another thing about Fred Taylor—he often claimed to respect and feel kinship with the men he’d labored alongside during his apprenticeships, but he constantly talks shit about them, and seems to regard them as almost another species:

One of the very first requirements for a man who is fit to handle pig iron as a regular occupation [is] that he shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type.… He is so stupid that the word “percentage” has no meaning to him, and he must consequently be trained by a man more intelligent than himself.

That’s the heart of Taylorism—the belief that workers given free rein will always default to the sort of soldiering Taylor observed working his way up from apprentice, which he saw as laziness and stupidity rather than self-preservation. He thus encourages the removal of “all possible brain work” and agency from the hands of workers—even the minimal amount involved in deciding how to best carry a heavy iron bar up a ramp without hurting yourself.

—p.68 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

That’s another thing about Fred Taylor—he often claimed to respect and feel kinship with the men he’d labored alongside during his apprenticeships, but he constantly talks shit about them, and seems to regard them as almost another species:

One of the very first requirements for a man who is fit to handle pig iron as a regular occupation [is] that he shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type.… He is so stupid that the word “percentage” has no meaning to him, and he must consequently be trained by a man more intelligent than himself.

That’s the heart of Taylorism—the belief that workers given free rein will always default to the sort of soldiering Taylor observed working his way up from apprentice, which he saw as laziness and stupidity rather than self-preservation. He thus encourages the removal of “all possible brain work” and agency from the hands of workers—even the minimal amount involved in deciding how to best carry a heavy iron bar up a ramp without hurting yourself.

—p.68 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago
80

“When you’re working in a life role with high demand and very minimal resources, you get very high levels of toxic kinds of stress. The job that you’re in is classic—you have no control over the demand that’s placed on you for productivity for any given hour that you work there. That is a contributing factor to the innate biological desire for relief. And that desire is part of what motivates the substance abuse,” he says.

I’m fascinated. “You know, since I started, I’ve—you know everyone’s inner four-year-old that just wants McDonald’s?”

“Yup!”

“Since I’ve started this job, I have a lot less control over my four-year-old. Like—‘Whatever, screw it, I’m going to McDonald’s.’ Is that related?”

“That’s right!” he says, excited. “That is exactly the same thing! Some people will turn to cigarette smoking, others it’s overeating, others it’s over-drinking, for others it’s drug use.”

Then he says something I haven’t been able to get out of my head to this day: “The human mind is designed to not feel bad. It does not like to feel bad. And it will tend to do things that it can to correct for feeling bad. And, unfortunately, things like drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and food—particularly carbs—make us feel better. It’s a native tendency to self-medicate into a better mental state, to get rid of this overwhelming negativity.

—p.80 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

“When you’re working in a life role with high demand and very minimal resources, you get very high levels of toxic kinds of stress. The job that you’re in is classic—you have no control over the demand that’s placed on you for productivity for any given hour that you work there. That is a contributing factor to the innate biological desire for relief. And that desire is part of what motivates the substance abuse,” he says.

I’m fascinated. “You know, since I started, I’ve—you know everyone’s inner four-year-old that just wants McDonald’s?”

“Yup!”

“Since I’ve started this job, I have a lot less control over my four-year-old. Like—‘Whatever, screw it, I’m going to McDonald’s.’ Is that related?”

“That’s right!” he says, excited. “That is exactly the same thing! Some people will turn to cigarette smoking, others it’s overeating, others it’s over-drinking, for others it’s drug use.”

Then he says something I haven’t been able to get out of my head to this day: “The human mind is designed to not feel bad. It does not like to feel bad. And it will tend to do things that it can to correct for feeling bad. And, unfortunately, things like drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and food—particularly carbs—make us feel better. It’s a native tendency to self-medicate into a better mental state, to get rid of this overwhelming negativity.

—p.80 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago
84

“Right,” Blair says with a giggle. “I’m mainly doing it for the thrill of the hunt. I want to know I can win; I want to know I can conquer. And I want to be noticed, hopefully, by management. The actual incentive is just a vendor dollar, usually.”

She has to explain vendor dollars, too, and I’m dumbstruck.

“So—wait. Let me get this straight. The prize for going as fast as you possibly can for an hour is a dollar coupon for some—but not all—of the vending machines in the building?”

Blair shrugs, saying she’s seen it go up to two and even three dollars. “And someone figured out you can put it in the machine and get change back, so you can get a regular dollar—that’s what a lot of people do.” Plus every time you win, they enter you in a drawing for various Amazon gift cards, which can be worth up to $500. “That’s really cool, especially since the number of pickers is dwindling. I think that’s why people are mad at me—my odds are a lot better to win that gift card.”

idea for gig company

—p.84 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

“Right,” Blair says with a giggle. “I’m mainly doing it for the thrill of the hunt. I want to know I can win; I want to know I can conquer. And I want to be noticed, hopefully, by management. The actual incentive is just a vendor dollar, usually.”

She has to explain vendor dollars, too, and I’m dumbstruck.

“So—wait. Let me get this straight. The prize for going as fast as you possibly can for an hour is a dollar coupon for some—but not all—of the vending machines in the building?”

Blair shrugs, saying she’s seen it go up to two and even three dollars. “And someone figured out you can put it in the machine and get change back, so you can get a regular dollar—that’s what a lot of people do.” Plus every time you win, they enter you in a drawing for various Amazon gift cards, which can be worth up to $500. “That’s really cool, especially since the number of pickers is dwindling. I think that’s why people are mad at me—my odds are a lot better to win that gift card.”

idea for gig company

—p.84 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago
87

“I just can’t imagine trying to do this job and be a parent, too,” I say.

“It’s been really hard. I’m extremely close with my son,” Blair says, then sighs. “Luckily, I have a very supportive mom; she keeps him for me. I had to wake up at three in the morning and leave the apartment at four to catch the bus, and my son gets on his bus at 7:30. It just wasn’t working. So my mom was more than happy to let him stay with her for now.

christ

—p.87 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago

“I just can’t imagine trying to do this job and be a parent, too,” I say.

“It’s been really hard. I’m extremely close with my son,” Blair says, then sighs. “Luckily, I have a very supportive mom; she keeps him for me. I had to wake up at three in the morning and leave the apartment at four to catch the bus, and my son gets on his bus at 7:30. It just wasn’t working. So my mom was more than happy to let him stay with her for now.

christ

—p.87 Part One: Amazon (15) by Emily Guendelsberger 9 months ago