Since becoming unemployed, demoralizing and dehumanizing experiences have become a regular part of life for me. I don’t know why I keep trying to work at this point.
If you thought backbreaking work was beyond your reach, or a thing of the past, let me enlighten you with a harrowing personal tale about its current availability. It is not gone by any stretch of the imagination. At one point during my hiatus from this blog, I drove over an hour to spend time as a slave. It was temporary and I did it for eleven dollars an hour until I got injured and then fired. At which point, my wage rate was to drop to nine dollars an hour as punishment in the final check. It just shows that it does not pay to be desperate when you are unemployed. Seriously, last November, Amazon.com nearly killed me just in time for the holidays.
After job application number 7217, I was starting to panic full-time, all the time. It wasn’t really me I was worried about per se, but meeting my children’s basic daily necessities. A local employment agency was advertising thousands of temporary jobs at Amazon for the holidays and I figured I would apply to work a graveyard shift so that I could continue to search and interview for a better new job during the day.
The agency required you to apply in person so I got dressed-up and went. It turned out to be in a strip mall in a bad-ass neighborhood. I could see a small mob of mangy people in flip-flops, tank tops, T-shirts and shorts waiting outside the door before I even got out of my car. I joined the hunger line wrapped around the front desk with my resume in hand, just knowing that this should be a no-brainer.
Wait. Crawl. Wait. Crawl. Wait. After losing hours, I get to the two agency employees at the front desk and hand them my resume. The woman on the right handed it back to me and said, “I need to see ID and your high school diploma or GED certificate.” Huh? I began to explain that my education was documented in my resume and could be independently verified but both employees just stared at me like I was speaking gibberish. The young man gave me an “I don’t know” shrug and the woman once again announced she needed my ID and proof that I graduated from high school. If I did not have it, I could not apply; I had to come back when I did. I had failed to comprehend that she was serious. Of course, I did not carry around my high school diploma so I would have to come back. What’s sad is that I did.
On my return visit to apply to work at Amazon for the holidays, I made it pass the diploma screeners. I was then subjected to a lot of repetitive questions about whether I had engaged in a variety of crimes and a series of computerized tests to see if I could read books titles and other media correctly and quickly count accurately. Even though it was hard to concentrate with the droning voice from the video that kept playing over and over in the background, I passed these tests with flying colors and then got to watch the truly disturbing video about how great it is to work at Amazon so long as I obey the rules. Rules like:
1. Wash. Do not come to work dirty or smelly. It makes you and your co-workers sad.
2. Dress for success. T-shirts are perfect attire so long as they are not torn, stained or have marijuana symbols, racist slogans or sexually explicit pictures.
3. Do not be late your first week or you are immediately fired.
4. Do not accidently oversleep because you work under a point system. You accrue points for every violation like using the wrong entrance, losing your ID badge which must be worn at all times, being late to work or from breaks and drinking anything other than water on the floor. Accrue a few points and you will be fired.
5. Overtime is mandatory. No exceptions. You will work at least a 10 hour shift and a minimum of 50 hours a week.
6. Stretching before your shift is mandatory because it supposedly helps prevent injuries during your 10 hour shift.
7. Work faster than humanly possible and do it safely.
8. Exercise constant vigilance and report your co-workers who file false worker’s compensation claims. If they are convicted, Amazon will pay you $500.
I could not believe you have to tell people some of this stuff covered but the strange little people in the video kept breaking the rules and getting fired.
Anyway, I was finally called back to a desk and entered into the computer under the job of my choice (picker, packer, receiver, etc.). I signed the necessary paperwork for the agency to verify everything and check my credit. Apparently, the agency that had me provide my own high school graduation proof because they do not verify education, does run an extensive background and credit check. They also made me take a do-it-yourself oral drug test while I was sitting there. To work as low-level, untrained sub-contracted employee in Amazon’s warehouse you have to pass all of this and have never have gone to prison. Some high level jobs I have held in the pass did not even require all of this. Go figure.
My data entry person wishes me the best of luck in my new job and says who knows, maybe I will be one of the lucky few who will get a permanent offer of employment as an Amazon associate at the end of the season. Really? I am well aware I am one of thousands hired for Amazon and this is not a real attempt at a career change for me. My shift is from 5:30 pm to 3:30 am, except during overtime, when I would get off at 5 or 5:30 am. I started on a Sunday and was I in for a treat: the yelling, the crying, the crippling foot pain, back strain, swollen hands, dust mites, the shorten break periods, impossible goals, man’s inhumanity to man and more. Oh, and along with iPods and other electronics, I picked a lot of dildos and handcuffs for people I never want to meet.
To be continued…