A new book by CSULB professor Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and UC Riverside professor Ellen Reese attempts to put the unprecedented wonders – and challenges – of the Amazon economy into critical focus.
In “The Cost of Free Shipping: Amazon in the Global Economy,” the authors examine the residual, often negative effects that rapid, exponential growth has brought to e-commerce industries and the communities that comprise their workforce.
As a sociologist and labor scholar, Wilson has studied logistics and commerce workforces for over 17 years. In presenting the complex picture of Amazon’s delivery infrastructure, Wilson draws not only on scholarship, but on hours of first-hand experience with Amazon warehouse workers and “Last Mile” delivery drivers – the folks who courier orders from delivery station to doorstep. The book is informed by the stories and contributions of activists, labor leaders, and front-line workers who are working overtime to maintain worker protections in the face of rapidly evolving labor, wage, classification, and surveillance structures, which many consider to be exploitative of a primarily minority workforce.
Though the challenges that Amazon’s monolithic stature presents are many, Wilson provides a platform for regional and international labor unions and cross-industrial coalitions working to create awareness for these issues and grass-roots action to address them. As regulation catches up to Amazon’s exponential growth, the onus will be to prioritize worker rights, consumer privacy, and community and environmental health in the age of ‘Amazon Capitalism.’