April 19, 2021
I read this book (Fulfillment: winning and losing in one-click America) over the weekend of April 17 and 18. I used half a pad of yellow post-ums for pages to read again more closely. It confirms everything I have found from searching the web since first publishing a letter to the Churchill residents about how Amazon behaves in forcing through its plans regardless of how it affects people or their locations.
If you are really concerned or question any of the statements I have made in these articles on the Churchill future web site, you owe it to yourself to commit to learning more about how Amazon operates its business and the negative effect it will have on our Churchill Borough community.
It is now evident that Hillwood is just the frontman. Amazon is calling all the shots with regard to their presentation. It expects the state to give it big tax credits, to pay for all the new parkway interchanges, all the peripheral roads, and even expect Churchill borough to pay for and upkeep the road parallel to the parkway, that only the Amazon employees and their semi-trucks will actually be using.
Only if we as citizens understand the tactics that Amazon uses, can we have any hope of minimizing the negative consequences.
I encourage you to buy and read this book. It is not a quick and easy read, but by the time you get to the end you will have an entirely different understanding of what the same date delivery requirements mean for the economy and the employees who make it happen.
…MacGillis lays out, with detail gathered through freedom of information requests, exactly how Amazon methodically built its presence in several communities: playing “the reluctant target rather than the suitor” to receive tax breaks and other financial perks, often demanding total secrecy. A recurrent spotlight falls on Amazon’s tax-avoidance, which MacGillis calls out as contributing to “the unraveling of the civic fabric:” the company’s facilities straining roadways, housing and utilities while eroding the governments’ ability to support them…
…Bodani’s young co-workers call him “Pops” and “Old Man”—he’s by far the oldest one around. He starts out making about $12 an hour, compared with the $35 an hour he earned at his steel job. Other indignities are more insidious. The company uses an algorithm to track how productive its workers are and how much time they spend off task, flagging people for termination if the data show them underperforming. In other words, a worker can be fired with minimal involvement by a supervisor. Time-limited bathroom breaks mean that Bodani sometimes pees in a quiet corner of the warehouse, parking the forklift to shield him. Yet he draws comfort from working on the same physical terrain where he began his career: He sought out the job at the old Sparrows Point because it gave him a sense of belonging. “It’s a feeling of being home,” he tells MacGill…
…All the while, Amazon has flourished, along with dollar stores and discount grocers. “It was a sort of reversal of Henry Ford’s philosophy in paying workers enough so that they could afford Model Ts,” MacGillis writes. “Now workers were making so little that they could afford only the cheapest goods.” If Amazon was creating so much wealth, where was all of it going?…
Workers who are flagged by an algorithm for possible firing if they lag in productivity. Massive tax breaks to attract enormous data centers supplied by power lines paid for by ordinary families. Small businesses squeezed by a 15 percent commission on sales to their longtime customers and undercut by a middleman that uses their own data to compete with them…
the book abounds with useful information for anyone weighing the costs and benefits of having an online behemoth come to town.
A sobering portrait of how Amazon is remaking America.
This is much more than a story of retail. It’s about real estate. It’s about lobbying, data centers and the CIA. It’s about revolving doors in Washington, D.C., and cardboard folders in Ohio. It’s about a social fabric disintegrating while corporations duck paying taxes. It’s about a stunning transfer of wealth into Amazon’s coffers, all before the COVID-19 pandemic began and the company reaped even more…
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
“A grounded and expansive examination of the American economic divide . . . It takes a skillful journalist to weave data and anecdotes together so effectively.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
An award-winning journalist investigates Amazon’s impact on the wealth and poverty of towns and cities across the United States.
In 1937, the famed writer and activist Upton Sinclair published a novel bearing the subtitle A Story of Ford-America. He blasted the callousness of a company worth “a billion dollars” that underpaid its workers while forcing them to engage in repetitive and sometimes dangerous assembly line labor. Eighty-three years later, the market capitalization of Amazon.com has exceeded one trillion dollars, while the value of the Ford Motor Company hovers around thirty billion. We have, it seems, entered the age of one-click America—and as the coronavirus makes Americans more dependent on online shopping, its sway will only intensify.
Alec MacGillis’s Fulfillment is not another inside account or exposé of our most conspicuously dominant company. Rather, it is a literary investigation of the America that falls within that company’s growing shadow. As MacGillis shows, Amazon’s sprawling network of delivery hubs, data centers, and corporate campuses epitomizes a land where winner and loser cities and regions are drifting steadily apart, the civic fabric is unraveling, and work has become increasingly rudimentary and isolated.
Ranging across the country, MacGillis tells the stories of those who’ve thrived and struggled to thrive in this rapidly changing environment. In Seattle, high-paid workers in new office towers displace a historic black neighborhood. In suburban Virginia, homeowners try to protect their neighborhood from the environmental impact of a new data center. Meanwhile, in El Paso, small office supply firms seek to weather Amazon’s takeover of government procurement, and in Baltimore a warehouse supplants a fabled steel plant. Fulfillment also shows how Amazon has become a force in Washington, D.C., ushering readers through a revolving door for lobbyists and government contractors and into CEO Jeff Bezos’s lavish Kalorama mansion.
With empathy and breadth, MacGillis demonstrates the hidden human costs of the other inequality—not the growing gap between rich and poor, but the gap between the country’s winning and losing regions. The result is an intimate account of contemporary capitalism: its drive to innovate, its dark, pitiless magic, its remaking of America with every click.
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