When China became the world's sweatshop and number one exporter of cheap goods, this brought about a big leap forward for its ports and related industries. In mainland China, the Chinese government has been very capable in building a corporate state to mediate the interests of opposing classes through compelling all payers to join its state-sponsored organisations. At times the corporate state does pacify class antagonism, but there are also times when it fails to function, and class conflicts erupt into a triangular struggle between the employers, employees, and the state.
In the 2007 Yantian crane divers' strike, for instance, it was obvious that the official union was useless in conveying workers' grievances to the local authorities. This not only gave workers no other option but to go on strike, it also prompted them to target the official union and demand the right to set up an autonomous union. [...]
First, most blue-collar warehouse workers earn poverty-level wages, and at least two-thirds lack employer-provided health insurance [...] they earn $10.05 per hour [...] needed to afford rent and other basic living expenses: $11.59 per hour for a single worker [...] only about one out of five temporary warehouse workers reported having employer-provided health insurance, compared with 54 percent of direct hires. On average direct hires in the industry earned about $11.33 per hour and $21,444 per year. This compares with temps' average earnings of $9.42 per hour and $10,034 per year. [...] blue-collar warehouse workers earn an average annual income of only $16,800.
In part, low incomes reflect the lack of year-round employment, and sometimes the lack of full-time employment. Serving "just-in-time" consumer markets, the warehouse industry is highly seasonal. Moreover, in order to respond effectively to the fluctuating demand for consumer goods in the "just in time" retail economy while minimizing labor costs, many warehouse employees rely heavily on temporary agency workers (or temps). [...] between 46 and 63 percent of blue-collar warehouse workers are temps.
As a result, unemployment and underemployment among warehouse workers is common. Indeed, about 28 percent of all blue-collar warehouse workers in the region were found to be unemployed in the 2009-13 ACS. Unemployment is especially chronic among temps [...] 70 percent of all temporary blue collar warehouse workers in Inland SoCal were employed less than 10 months per year.
this has me thinking. any corporate bootlicker would defend the temp system as a way for the company to be flexible and save costs etc. but who picks up the costs for the worker? is the worker expected to just find another job for all the downtime? what if they can't, because all the jobs have the same up/downtimes? so the worker is supposed to just make less money due to factors outside their control?
reminds me of that part in my gig economy piece about expecting someone else to pick up the slack, who cares who
[...] Amazon warehouses are considered among the best in the industry relative to wages for both direct hire and temporary agency workers. A job ad posted by Amazon in 2017 for a full-time warehouse worker of "fulfilment associate" position in Rialto offered $12.25 per hour, somewhat better than the regional average wage rate cited above. Yet this wage is still below a living wage for the region, and no higher than the starting rate Amazon paid such workers four years earlier.
WWU did not pursue a traditional unionization campaign for several reasons. First, temps are highly vulnerable to employer retaliation, while undocumented immigrant workers face the further threat of deportation. Organizing temps into unions is not only practically challenging given their high turnover, but also legally complicated, as their employer of record and right to collective bargaining are complex and decided on a case by case basis. In light of this WWU sought to improve warehouse workers' employment conditions mainly through a combination of coalition building and collective action, while WWRC helped workers to file formal complaints against labor law violations.
Rather than targeting warehouse employers or temporary agencies, WWU targeted retailers which have the most power and resources in the goods movement industry. [...]
useful for tech contractor organising.
on p91, one method of retaliation is mentioned: failing to renew contract with the agency (citing this article by De Lara et al, 2016 in the Labor Studies Journal)
Warehouse workers have the capacity to make history, but not as they please--the circumstances inherited require innovation and novel forms of organizing and resistance. The obstacles to organizing posed by capital mobility, automation, political/legal uncertainty and the sheer structural power of capital requires multi-site, coordinated campaigns throughout the global supply chain and across the boundaries of firms. Workers face the daunting task of overcoming the tension between local demands and the demands of workers in other nodes of supply chain networks. Yet these impediments are not insurmountable. Just as capital has adopted new organizational forms to overcome the power of workers in the past, warehouse workers and other workers can and will adapt novel organizational forms in their struggle against neoliberalism and global capitalist hegemony.
Amazon allows workers to log into a system that monitors each worker's performance, and the data is used to set their obligatory work rates, such as the demanded number of products scanned per hour. As long as they do not do anything that can be registered in the system (like "scanning goods") the system records "time off task". That means even if they work -- doing something that is not registered -- this time is recorded as taking a break. Such periods are added up and calculated as illegitimate "extra breaks". If workers do not meet the rates (that is, they work "too slowly") or have too many "extra breaks," they get negative "feedback," and after several "feedbacks" they can get a warning and eventually be sacked.
Trying to reach the rates is stressful enough, but even worse are days when Amazon tries to set "records," like 1 million orders processed in one warehouse within 24 hours. Warehouses compete with each other, and Amazon uses those days to push workers to the limit, ordering obligatory overtime and cancelling breaks before midnight. If workers reach the desired "record," managers get a extra bonus and workers get T-shirts.
this is so fucked up
Before a strike in Germany in June 2015, the management the Poznań warehouse announced one hour of overtime during the upcoming strike day across the border. Workers in Poznań were already aware that Amazon tried to bypass and undermine strikes in Germany by shifting orders between warehouses (in this case to Poland). Growing local tensions in the Poznań warehouse and the prospect of being used as scabs led to vivid discussions among workers on how to resist. Eventually, during the night shift on June 24-25, 2015, a few dozen workers improvised a slowdown in one department, taking advantage of a bottleneck in the processing of orders and disturbing operations in other parts of the warehouse. They showed a collective will to resist, their solidarity with workers on strike in Germany, and a keen knowledge of the work process and how to disrupt it.
Workers from temporary agencies are in a more precarious situation. They are under pressure to work hard (should they want to "qualify" for permanent employment) and can be sacked easily. Some of them have been active in the union, and IP has tried to get them involved by addressing their specific situation, organizing rallies in front of agency offices, starting collective bargaining processes in the agencies, and including them in the strike ballot--but it remains difficult to bridge the gap created by the dual employment structure.
amazing how similar this is to other industries
Global value chains (GVCs) have reconfigured production processes over numerous geographies of the globe, leading to an international division of the labor process. This division has been congruent tot he plot of the expansion of transnational corporations, posited within the logic of capitalism, which continuously seeks to traverse to greenfield avenues. This process has been aided on one side by capital becoming increasingly mobile, and on the other by the financialization of markets. However, these transitions in the world economy have been made possible by the coming-in of a supranational state embedded in the international bodies that govern world trade, finances and credit structures in our present times.
In all of these processes, an important factor has been the "locking in" of economies to maintain their competitive advance. The shift of global capital from the developed to the developing world has been made possible by the extraction of relatively cheap labour, flouting basic regulatory mechanisms, and an expanded market opportunity. The logic of global capital would be to maintain the status quo of the developing countries by retaining their competitive advantage. Thereby, what has been witnessed is that even after changes in the world economy from the early 1980s onwards, production processes have bee delineated in specific pockets of developing countries that promise a higher output-input ratio. Moreover, any attempts to rectify this arrangement through the coutervailing force of worker organizations or trade unions have been met by the heavy hand of the state.
when it's laid out this way it all makes so much sense. kind of obvious yet describes it way more eloquently than i could
Since the emergence of precarity as "the central organising platform for a series of social struggles that spread across the space of Europe," there has been an effort, particularly by prearious activists, to build a subject that could be considered as the dominant form of the contemporary (post-Fordist) working class:
The precariat is to postfordism what proletariat was to fordism: flexible, temporary, part-time, and self-employed workers are the new social group which is required and reproduced by the neoliberal and post-industrial economic transformation. It is the critical mass that emerges from globalization, while demolished factories and neighborhoods are being substituted by offices and commercial areas. They are service workers in supermarkets and chains, cognitive workers operating in the information industry.
Nevertheless, it seems that the experiences of precarious workers cannot be accommodated in a unified subjectivity in analogy with previous patterns of class-based collective identities. Precarious labor exists only in the plural, as a multiplicity of experiences variously positioned, exploited, and lived within contemporary capitalism, and not as a unified subjectivity or "preciariat". Precarity is a multifaceted and ambivalent condition, including vulnerability, insecurity, and possibly poverty, but also ambivalences such as flexibility and mobility, as well as a strange kind of freedom. [...]
quoting some random paper