Amazon SlavesThe New York Times is a competitor to the Washington Post and recently the Post was purchased by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.  So while whatever the Times has to say about the Post needs to be taken with a grain of salt, there was a shocking new story about Amazon having a “Darwinian” style culture.

The New York Times was shocked, shocked that high tech companies have aggressive in-your-face management-styles, work around-the-clock policies, no work-life balance, punishment for leaving early or taking family leave and culling of underperforming employees (who might simply not buy into a slave-like lifestyle).

In fact this is the typical culture of a startup or any other youth-oriented company where loyalty to the company is valued above all and measured by how much time you spend on its premises.

Large companies usually want experience and hire from startup ranks, so it’s easy to burn out in a small company, but get experience and then get hired by a larger firm.  You then expect the larger firm to behave in a more civilized, meaning less demanding, manner, but not at Amazon.  It seems larger companies are trying to infuse the startup culture — not the expression of new ideas, those MUST COME from management, but rather the work long hours without complaint ideology.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos denied that his company is such a demanding taskmaster saying that the Times has depicted Amazon as:

“…a soulless, dystopian workplace where no fun is had and no laughter heard.”

However the Times is sticking by its story and for those of us who have worked in the high tech industry it rings very true.

I love to order stuff off Amazon.  I always trust I’m getting a good price on whatever I order.  Would prices go up if Amazon treated its employees better?  I don’t frankly know.  I do know if Amazon’s prices were higher, I’d do more comparison shopping.  I already do check Costco’s prices on newly-released DVDs (and Target’s as well).  On other items I give Amazon the benefit of the doubt given the track record of good low prices I’ve found from them.

Still if they are a sweatshop where only Jeff Bezos is laughing, then it’s time for me to start buying elsewhere.

In this age where worker’s rights are being attacked everywhere, where unions have been pretty much destroyed and where Republican party candidates openly brag about confronting and weakening public employee unions, perhaps all I can do is shop elsewhere.  I don’t want to support a toxic atmosphere of intimidation and pain by my uninformed purchases.  This is the attitude we all have to have if high tech culture is going to change.

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