We may think of Amazon.com as a forward-thinking company, but when it comes to treatment of employees in Rugeley, England, it isn't.
Back in the day, a mine employed the good people of Rugeley. But it closed down in 1990.
Amazon came in, built a "fulfillment warehouse" where books are stored, sorted and packaged to be mailed off to customers… and it hired people from the town.
It sounds like a story with a happy ending, but conditions in the warehouse say otherwise: workers do repetitive, monotonous and unchallenging work and they can be fired for talking to one another. A photographer documenting the enormous barren warehouse, called it "shockingy quiet" and the workers "human robots".
In addition, these jobs have no future. Most jobs there are temporary, and can disappear overnight if Amazon says so. Not great for the employees, and not the great boost to the local economy that Rugeley residents had no doubt hoped for. Jobs in the mine were no picnic, but at least they were solid.
Miners have fought, and died, to establish unions and to defend their rights as working people – including better pay, benefits and safer workplaces – through Collective Agreements. But workers' rights are also about humane workplaces, where employees can feel they are making a meaningful contribution, rather than being treated like mindless, emotionless automatons.
Amazon's version of the workplace, at least in Rugeley, is not forward thinking at all – it's 1984.