October 4, 2023

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What if Amazon becomes a staple in America’s cities?

Erika Hayasaki recently wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine about Amazon’s impact on the Inland Empire, a region east of Los Angeles where the company is the largest private employer. More than 40,000 people in the region process or deliver Amazon orders, around twice as many as two years ago.

I spoke to Hayasaki, a professor of literary journalism at the University of California at Irvine, about what she has learned about researching Amazon workers in the area and the implications – good and bad – of having Amazon come to town.

Shira: What made you write about Amazon in the Inland Empire?

Hayasaki: My family moved to a town called Eastvale in 2018, and the presence of Amazon was instantly recognizable. Near the Costco you will see two huge Amazon warehouses with a total of more than 6,000 employees. You see Amazon tractor units and new homes with built in Amazon products like Alexas.

Officials from the nearby Ontario International Airport showed me runways, some of which were under construction for Amazon goods flying in and out. We see Amazon as a buyer all the time, but it’s different here. I started talking to workers about how it was for them.

What did the Amazon warehouse staff tell you that they like and dislike about their jobs?

They appreciate that Amazon offers them health and retirement benefits – and that they have jobs at a time when many others have lost their jobs.

The biggest concern I heard was safety. This is not new, but when the pandemic broke out it was intense to hear workers’ fears for their lives.

And some Amazon-related jobs are precarious. I drove around with an Amazon delivery driver who also worked for an app-based delivery company. His girlfriend too. They lined up different forms of income for themselves and their five children. It’s not an easy way of life.

Amazon is create many new jobs with the starting salary, that is more than double the minimum wage. Is not that good

Most of the employees I’ve spoken to would say that given the company’s financial success, Amazon can get better results. I heard workers ask why the company was increasing their pay by $ 2 an hour, but only temporarily. You’re working harder than ever and it’s still a pandemic.

What did it do for Eastvale that Amazon was there?

City officials said they appreciated the new jobs Amazon was creating, but they feared automation could slowly eliminate the work. And because of the structure of state taxes, the city receives less tax revenue than Amazon expected.

City officials also said there is a lot of wear and tear on roads with so many Amazon vehicles. And with so many people on the Amazon website, many calls are made to the police and emergency services about worker injuries or just fender benders. That puts a strain on local resources.

Your article was about “corporate cities” – cities like Hershey, Pennsylvania that were once dominated by a single employer. Is that Eastvale?

No, unlike previous corporate cities, Amazon does not control employee housing or replace government functions. But there are some elements in the Inland Empire that are reminiscent of corporate cities. One that impressed me was an Amazon career program for high school students. People talked about it a lot, but others in the community asked questions about whether teens are being put on their way to an Amazon job.

Shoshana Zuboff, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, told me that Amazon goes beyond the corporate city phenomenon. It’s a corporate world. Given Amazon’s presence in our lives, its size, and the number of people the company employs, this is a combination we haven’t seen before.

Tip of the week

Wondering how old is too old for that TV or internet router in your living room? The New York Times personal technology columnist Brian X. Chen explores when to consider replacing four of the most important devices in our lives.

I’m an advocate for your technology to work as long as possible. But at some point, it’s time to swap out your phone, computer, TV, and internet router. However, it’s hard to know when. Here’s a cheat sheet on when to retire your current models:

Smartphones: It is advisable to replace your device when your phone can no longer receive operating system updates. In this case, some of your favorite apps may no longer work properly, and you may not be able to easily get security enhancements that will protect you from attacks and malware.

Apple iPhones can typically receive software updates for five years, and Android phones typically receive software updates for two to three years.

Computers: If your computer is no longer able to receive critical software updates, it is probably time to do so. However, Windows and Mac PCs usually receive these updates for much longer than smartphones – from nine to 15 years. (I still rock an iMac that I bought nine years ago.)

However, other parts such as the hard drive, laptop battery or screen can fail during this period. When repair costs add up and become impractical, it may be time to look for a newer model.

TV sets: You could be stuck with a TV for decades if you don’t mind missing out on improvements in video quality. But also think about what is associated with your set. If your TV is so old that you can’t plug in any modern devices you want to use – video game consoles, streaming video sticks, and audio devices – it is probably time to put it out of service.

Internet router: Your Wi-Fi hub is an important infrastructure that affects everything that is connected to your home internet. In general, new Wi-Fi technologies appear every five years. If your router is over five years old, consider upgrading to the latest Wi-Fi technology as you will likely see significant improvements in speed and coverage.

Beware of the horrific sight of a cat riding a Roomba pirate ship. (Turn the sound on for this one. And thanks to my colleague Erin McCann for tweeting it.)

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