by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It’s been a terrible year for the American worker, with a notable bright spot courtesy of one of the tech firms in the crosshairs of regulators and lawmakers.
If someone had said early in 2020, “A company is going to hire hundreds of thousands of non-college-educated workers during the pandemic at well above the minimum wage,” you’d think there’d be huzzahs all around.
That’s what the online retailer Amazon has done, but it still gets brickbats for how it pays and treats its workers. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the other day that Amazon jobs are a “scam.”
If so, a swath of the American workforce is falling for the grift. Since July, the online retailer has hired 350,000 workers and now employs 1.2 million people globally. This is a historic hiring binge. According to the New York Times, “the closest comparisons are the hiring that entire industries carried out in wartime, such as shipbuilding during the early years of World War II.”
On top of this, the company provides work for roughly half a million truck drivers.
Amazon has been buoyed by the surge of online retail during the pandemic, which has accelerated and entrenched e-commerce. Companies such as Walmart and Target have benefited, too, but Amazon leads the pack.
It overwhelmingly hires high school graduates. It doesn’t ask for a resume, gives its workers about a day of training, and then puts them on the job in its fulfillment centers.
The difficulty of the work shouldn’t be underestimated — it is taxing, repetitive, and so highly regimented that it would make the legendary apostle of industrial efficiency Frederick Winslow Taylor blush.
Yet, we’ve long complained about losing assembly-line jobs for non-college-educated workers. Amazon is hiring people for what is the 21st-century equivalent of such jobs, which were — despite the nostalgia for them — also tough and physically demanding.