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John Oliver Makes Us Think About What Happens When We Click Amazon's Buy Button

“They’re the Michael Jackson of shipping,” Oliver said. “They’re the best at what they do, everyone tries to imitate them and nobody who learns a third thing about them is happy that they did.”

John Oliver is maybe the only powerful media figure who regularly stands up for workers, and this week, he took a look at the "brutal" working conditions inside Amazon warehouses

"The more you look at Amazon, the more you realize its convenience comes with a real cost," he said. (We know, John. We know.)

"Because, think about it, we used to have to drive to stores to buy things. Now those things are brought directly to us and they're somehow cheaper. That didn't just happen with a clever algorithm, it happened by creating a system that squeezes the people lowest on the ladder hard and all the while, the man behind Amazon is now worth $118 billion, more than anyone else in the world."

Oliver looked at the larger issues of e-commerce and the need for physical warehouses, and how that's affected the retail industry. He quotes a Bloomberg piece that said “the number of workers who lost their jobs at department stores like Sears, Macy’s and J.C. Penney since 2000 is about the same as the 444,000 hired by the warehousing industry.”

“It’s as if warehouses are absorbing America’s lost retail employees, which initially sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it?” he said. “It’s like hearing that there’s actually a farm upstate where Borders, Circuit City and Tower Records employees can run around and be free, when you always just assumed that was just a lie and that they were all euthanized.”

And he also talked about Amazon's union busting, the exhaustion of its workers, and the level of control they exert over employees -- including bathroom breaks.

"When people shorten their time in the bathroom, they don't shorten the bathroom part. They shorten the handwashing part, so the next time you order something online, it's safe to assume that it's been packed by urine-soaked hands," he said.


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