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The company ’s team also said that Parker’s plan to use volunteers to moderate content on the platform would not prove effective, according to BuzzFeed. It’s clear that Parker does not have an effective process to comply with the AWS terms of service,” BuzzFeed reported the email as saying.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve reported 98 examples to Parker of posts that clearly encourage and incite violence. It’s our view that this nascent plan to use volunteers to promptly identify and remove dangerous content will not work in light of the rapidly growing number of violent posts.
Given the unfortunate events that transpired this past week in Washington, D.C., there is serious risk that this type of content will further incite violence. AWS provides technology and services to customers across the political spectrum, and we continue to respect Parker’s right to determine for itself what content it will allow on its site.
However, we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others. Amazon, the global internet retailer, was opening a massive 950,000-square-foot distribution center, one of its first in California, and hiring more than 1,000 people here.“This opportunity is a rare and wonderful thing,” San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris told a local newspaper at the time.
In the months and years that followed, Amazon dramatically expanded its footprint in and around San Bernardino, a city 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The company now employs more than 15,000 full-time workers in eight fulfillment centers (where goods are stored and then packed for shipment) and one sortation center (where packages are organized by delivery area) in the Inland Empire, the desert region bordering Los Angeles that encompasses Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
This expansion provided a lifeline to the struggling region, creating jobs and contributing tax revenue to an area sorely in need of both. Some jobs Amazon creates are seasonal or temporary, thrusting workers into a precarious situation in which they don’t know how many hours they’ll work a week or what their schedule will be.
These places, often located in the outskirts of major cities, have lost retail and manufacturing jobs and, in many cases, are still recovering from the recession and desperate to attract economic activity. This often means battling each other to lure companies like Amazon, which is rapidly expanding its distribution centers across the country.
But as the experience of San Bernardino shows, Amazon can exacerbate the economic problems that city leaders had hoped it would solve. He started working at Amazon ’s San Bernardino distribution center in 2013, making $12 an hour, hoping that the job would help him support his new wife and two stepdaughters.
Amazon proved a stressful place to work, with managers chewing out employees for not moving fast enough, he told me, which was tough to put up with for meager pay. “I saw my brother doing the same type of work, but money wise, he had better credit, he could afford more, while I was barely getting by,” Gabriel told me.
In 2016, he used Amazon ’s tuition reimbursement to get his commercial driving license, attending school on the weekends while working during the week. The lack of other opportunities for people like Gabriel Alvarado illuminates the problem these communities face when deciding to offer tax breaks and incentives to compete for Amazon to build warehouses in their towns.
But the jobs the company is offering are indicative of how the economy has changed in San Bernardino in the past few decades. The jobs that used to dominate San Bernardino were unionized ones with good benefits, at the Kaiser steel mill, the Santa Fe railroad maintenance yard, and the Norton Air Force Base.
The company is growing even in places where it already has a substantial presence: Although it already has eight fulfillment centers near San Bernardino, Amazon recently announced it was adding two more facilities nearby, creating 2,000 more jobs. Amazon allows visitors to tour one of its warehouses in San Bernardino, and I went late last year to try and understand how distribution centers work.
The warehouse, called ONT2 internally, is a vast complex, where clean concrete floors stretch out in all directions covering the distance of about 16 football fields. Conveyor belts covering several miles whir throughout the facility, moving goods among floors.
But workers are required to be on their feet all day, and receive scant time for bathroom breaks or lunch. These employees work in the San Bernardino facility, as well as Amazon distribution and sortation centers in Moreno Valley, California; Jeffersonville, Indiana; and Kent, Washington.
All but one of the people I interviewed were full-time employees, not contract workers, and they didn’t think working directly for Amazon was so great, either. As one worker, John Burnett, a current employee in Indiana who has detailed his experiences on the blog Amazon Emancipatory, told me, “It’s very physically and emotionally grueling.
MW PVL Internationally people who start out at Amazon warehouses begin as “pickers.” These are the people who walk through the vast aisles in the Amazon warehouses where goods are stored, and, reading information from a handheld scanner, put items that have been ordered online into yellow bins, called totes. “Towers” take bins of items that have been shipped to Amazon and store them on the shelves for the pickers to grab when ordered.
Other employees work as “packers.” They take items from yellow totes, scan them, grab a box and packing tape, the size of which is recommended by a computer, and pack individual customers’ orders, putting the finished boxes on a fast-moving conveyor belt. Another man, a former carpenter who works in the stow department in Moreno Valley who didn’t want his name used because he still works for Amazon, said that without warning, Amazon changed the amount of timeworkers had to stow an item from six minutes to four minutes and 12 seconds.
Another Moreno Valley employee, who has been a picker at Amazon for two-and-a-half years, says the company constantly sends messages to workers’ scanners telling them to work faster. They’ll run competitions such as a “Power Hour” in which workers are encouraged to work as hard as they can for a prize.
Or not being timed when you’re sitting on the restroom,” said the man, who lives with his father because he and his girlfriend can’t afford their own place, and didn’t want his name used because he hopes to get promoted at Amazon. (Alana Sequels / The Atlantic)One woman I talked to in Moreno Valley, who didn’t want her name used because she is in the process of suing Amazon, said that working at the company strained her heart and caused her psychological problems that she’s still dealing with.
David Kopeck, now 34 years old, was one of the first workers hired by Amazon when the San Bernardino facility first opened. At the time, Kopeck, who graduated from high school but not from college, was running a company that administered diagnostic tests for high-school students.
The former carpenter says employees call workers approaching the two-year mark “the walking dead” because they are working hard not to get fired, but many of them will be. Most associates work four 10-hour shifts a week and only accrue a small amount of paid time off every pay period, workers said, which means it can take months to get another day off.
The new mayor, R. Carey Davis, told me that the city has seen a number of benefits since Amazon opened its first warehouse. Amazon ’s presence has signaled to other cities that San Bernardino is a good place to locate, with qualified workers, and an efficient city government, said Mike Burrows, the executive director of the Inland Valley Development Agency and the San Bernardino International Airport Authority.
It’s helped create jobs on the land once used by the Norton Air Force Base until it closed two decades ago. Amazon recently surpassed Stater Brothers, which had been the largest employer on the land formerly occupied by the air force base with 2,000 employees, according to the Inland Valley Development Agency.
The arrival of Amazon may have been good for other businesses in the Inland Empire, but its effects on individual residents seem less positive. A report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that Amazon paid 11 percent less than the average warehouse in the Inland Empire; a similar analysis by The Economist found that workers earn about 10 percent less in areas where Amazon operates than similar workers employed elsewhere.
After 11 years at Stater Brothers, Alvarado, who also plays on the company softball team, has no plans to leave. But that would require a wholesale change in Amazon ’s business practices, which would probably not sit well with consumers who have become accustomed to free shipping and cheap goods.
But organizing is difficult because there’s so much turnover at Amazon facilities and because people fear losing their jobs if they speak up. (Lindsey said that Amazon has an open-door policy that encourages associates to bring concerns directly to the management team.
“We firmly believe this direct connection is the most effective way to understand and respond to the needs of our workforce,” she wrote, in an email.) Gabriel Alvarado, too, said he talked with some friends about starting a union in San Bernardino, after contrasting his situation with that of his brother.
Amazon won $23 million in local tax incentives over two years to open distribution centers in three Texas cities. The company has received $48 million in state, county, and city financial incentives to build facilities in Florida.
“I don’t think the city of Stockton currently, with an unemployment rate double the state average, is in a position to make a ton of demands on companies who can go anywhere,” he told me. San Bernardino had tried to negotiate that it would get a portion of the sales tax of all the goods that came through its distribution center, but ultimately spent money to build roads and provide police and fire protection to the warehouse and does not get any sales tax revenues from the warehouse, Morris said.
“I think often, local policymakers are really eager to get companies in, they want employment, but they don’t necessarily give a lot of stipulations about how many of these workers are temps, how many are paid a living wage,” Ellen Reese, chair of the labor-studies program at the University of California, Riverside, told me. It’s true that cities desperate for jobs may find it difficult to attract companies if they pass minimum-wage mandates or other labor laws.
But the alternative, it seems, is jobs that don’t create a middle-class lifestyle for residents, which in turn affects local spending, the housing market, the tax base, and leads to a poor standard of living. Many cities, San Bernardino included, are calculating that any job creation is good news.