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Amazon the sweatshop
It has been apparent for years now that Amazon does not value the privacy or the dignity of its warehouse employees. The system it uses to "optimize" the performance of those responsible for bringing items from shelves to doorsteps is tyrannical. It is also, quite literally, dehumanizing. Employees are reportedly directly supervised not by other men and women but by automated computer systems. These programs allegedly track everything from how fast warehouse employees carry out various work-related tasks, such as packing items and sorting them for shipment, to how long it takes them to use the bathroom. The acronym for the latter — there is always an acronym with these people — is TOT, or "time off task."

But the situation appears to be much worse than all this. In addition to relentlessly policing their individual behavior at work, Amazon warehouse employees are reportedly collectively subject to an oppressive system of automated performance review. Whenever 75 percent of employees are meeting certain pre-assigned goals, the numbers reportedly can be increased. The majority of employees are then reportedly required to meet these new higher targets — the rest are placed in "training" programs or fired. Documents obtained by The Verge suggest that some warehouse locations lose as much as 10 percent of their staff annually because they failed to meet these arbitrary standards.
Amazon  monopolies  labor 
10 weeks ago by dwalbert
How America almost banned chain grocery stores | The New Food Economy
Fast forward to today, and anti-monopoly advocates are again questioning who should be protected under antitrust law. In 2017, lawyer Lina Khan published a paper called “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which argued that companies should not be allowed to engage in anticompetitive practices just because they offer low prices. The New York Times called the paper “a runaway best-seller in the world of legal treatises.”

In response to Khan’s paper, two former Federal Trade Commission officials published a paper that looked back at A&P and antitrust law. They argued that A&P was an innovator, that the government’s efforts to regulate its power was misguided. The Times writes that the officials were explicit in their efforts to paint the demise of A&P as a cautionary tale: This was a good, innovative company, and it was unfairly targeted by the government. A&P accomplished something so simple it’s accepted as fact in today’s economy: It made food cheap.

In a footnote on the first page, the authors acknowledge that they approached Amazon for funding. The company generously obliged.
food  economics  monopolies  Amazon 
11 weeks ago by dwalbert
Lina Khan: ‘This isn’t just about antitrust. It’s about values’
March 29, 2019 | Financial Times | by Rana Foroohar.

Lina Khan is the legal wunderkind reshaping the global debate over competition and corporate power......While still a student at Yale Law School, she wrote a paper, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox”, which was published in the school’s influential journal..... hit a nerve at a time when the overweening power of the Big Tech companies, from Facebook to Google to Amazon, is rising up the agenda......For roughly four decades, antitrust scholars — taking their lead from Robert Bork’s 1978 book The Antitrust Paradox — have pegged their definitions of monopoly power to short-term price effects; so if Amazon is making prices lower for consumers, the market must be working effectively.....Khan made the case that this interpretation of US antitrust law, meant to regulate competition and curb monopolistic practices, is utterly unsuited to the architecture of the modern economy.....Khan's counterargument: that it doesn’t matter if companies such as Amazon are making things cheaper in dollars if they are using predatory pricing strategies to dominate multiple industries and choke off competition and choice.....Speaking to hedge funds and banks during her research, Khan found that they were valuing Amazon and its growth potential in a way that signified monopoly power..." I’m interested in imbalances in market power and how they manifest. That’s something you can see not just in tech but across many industries,” says Khan, who has written sharp pieces on monopoly power in areas as diverse as airlines and agriculture. " Khan, like many in her cohort, believes otherwise. “If markets are leading us in directions that we, as a democratic society, decide are not compatible with our vision of liberty or democracy, it is incumbent upon government to do something.” Lina Khan has had a stint as a legal fellow at the Federal Trade Commission, consulted with EU officials, influenced competition policy in India, brainstormed ideas with presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren and — recently joined the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. The 2008 financial crisis she thinks “about markets, and the government’s response to them, and certain forms of intervention that they do take, and that they don’t take”.....Khan, Lynn and others including the Columbia academic Tim Wu have developed and popularised the “new Brandeis” school of antitrust regulation, hearkening back to the era in which Louis Brandeis, the “people’s lawyer”, took on oligarchs such as John D Rockefeller and JP Morgan.....Lina sees Amazon as not just a discount retailer but as a marketing platform, delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, auction house, publisher and so on, and to understand just how ill-equipped current antitrust law was to deal with such a multi-faceted entity......a Columbia Law Review paper out in May 2019 will explores the case for separating the ownership of technology platforms from the commercial activity they host, so that Big Tech firms cannot both run a dominant marketplace and compete on it. via a host of old cases — from railroad antitrust suits to the separation of merchant banking and the ownership of commodities — to argue that “if you are a form of infrastructure, then you shouldn’t be able to compete with all the businesses dependent on your infrastructure”....“The new Brandeis movement isn’t just about antitrust,” .... Rather, it is about values. “Laws reflect values,” she says. “Antitrust laws used to reflect one set of values, and then there was a change in values that led us to a very different place.”

21st._century  Amazon  antitrust  Big_Tech  digital_economy  financial_crises  FTC  lawyers  Lina_Khan  monopolies  paradoxes  platforms  policymakers  predatory_practices  Rana_Foroohar  regulators  Robert_Bork  Tim_Wu  wunderkind  Yale  values  value_judgements 
march 2019 by jerryking

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