I’m counting: Amazon’s ‘last mile’ delivery centers will be the ‘last’ of us

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If you’ve read at least one of my articles, you know that I’m not the biggest fan of e-commerce giant Amazon. From an environmental point of view, it is terrible. From a labor rights perspective, Amazon is about the worst employer you can get. It is precisely its blatant disregard for these two aspects that has helped fuel its unprecedented expansion in recent years, and as of September 2020, Amazon has pledged to expand its delivery presence in suburbs and cities.

In my old playground in Atlanta, Amazon has moved in full force. Data from Colliers International reveals that there are 22 million square feet of distribution center projects under construction in Atlanta, second only to Chicago and Dallas, but beating less populated cities like Riverside and Phoenix. If you’re a city leader, you could very well tout this as a way for Atlanta to create new jobs. But for residents, the prospect of more business in the city means more traffic on notoriously congested roads and environmental effects that metro Atlanta’s predominantly black population would suffer the most from.

Let’s not forget that Amazon is such a grim employer as a nightmare to live through. In the past, Amazon enforced strict productivity goals and invasive workplace monitoring. But really, are we surprised? Amazon already knows what its average customer likes to buy or read through its powerful use of technology. Now it uses the same monitoring and tracking principles to essentially tell Amazon workers who want to unionize that they are being watched. Besides timed restroom breaks and grueling hours, Amazon is clearly not the kind of employer you’d want to work for or the kind of company you’d want to exist near you.

Unfortunately, in our corner of California, Amazon is starting to blow into suburbs and towns in the southern region of the state. Orange County Register writer Jeff Collins wrote that Amazon added 12 new delivery stations in Los Angeles County — 12 not-so-small facilities in growing locations like Anaheim, Torrance and Burbank.

Look, faster delivery isn’t bad at all if it’s done with respect for ethical labor and environmental standards. That’s why people pay more for Priority Mail Express at USPS or overnight shipping at UPS. People in these cases are paying for a service at a fair price. In the hypothetical case of Amazon v. Workers, however, you are paying for a booming industrial giant to overwork its employees, limit them to meager breaks, and leave them dry with little or no substantial benefits. – all for a delivery speed that’s just days faster than Amazon’s competitors. All this to satisfy an ephemeral need for material goods which will surely disappear after the arrival of the last parcel… right?

Of course, I have no platform to stand on when it comes to shaming people into using Amazon. Whether you’re a busy student or a professional who doesn’t have time to run to physical stores, Amazon is probably the most appealing alternative. But I would ask that we all do something with the time we have while we wait for packages.

The only thing holding Amazon back is the slow approval process for warehouse plans in city councils and their respective planning committees. This is where students come in. Mark your calendars for upcoming board and planning meetings and attend. You can also check meeting minutes, keep an ear or an eye out for warehouse projects, call the people at city council, and just ask around.

You’ll almost never find Amazon’s name on a development proposal, and it won’t be easy to root them out at first glance. But dedicate an hour every two weeks or so, and you might be able to pick up on and block a future Amazon hub from coming to a city near you.

Quynh Anh Nguyen is a sophomore who writes about the implications of current political events in the South in her column “I Reckon”.

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