Book "review" - "On the Clock" by Emily Guendelsberger

I don't know if this is anyone else's cup of tea, but I just read an outstanding book titled "On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives American Insane" by Emily Guendelsberger.

Years ago, a journalist named Barbara Ehrenreich wrote "Nickel and Dimed", which "On the Clock" credits with inspiration for the current project. Both are women journalists who "went undercover" (although used their real names and never lied about their journalism backgrounds) taking low-wage jobs to see what it was like. Ehrenreich did Walmart, hotel housekeeping in Florida, and housecleaning in Maine, if I recall correctly.

In the new book, Guendelsberger does an Amazon "fulfillment center" (employees are not allowed to call them warehouses), a call center, and McDonald's.

I was eager to read the new book because I worked briefly at a call center years ago, and I did about 5-6 weeks of McDonald's drive-through during Covid. Her experiences were much worse than mine, but mine were none too good either.

Three of the biggest takeaways for me were:

1) Apparently fast food deliberately understaffs. Someone figured out that if an employee has called out sick, the other workers naturally band together to cover the gap. So the employers decided "Oh, well clearly they can work at this frantic pace all the time, so we'll schedule even fewer employees!" I will say that in the 5-6 weeks I spent at McDonald's, often doing 8 hour shifts overnight, I think I got an actual break only one time, in part because I was covering two drive-through lanes, taking cash at the first window, and was expected to wash dishes in between customers.

2) Amazon warehouse workers are so physically taxed that they were lining up at the infirmary for over-the-counter pain meds, which wasn't "productive" for Amazon. So Amazon installed vending machines to dispense free OTC pain meds for workers, who swipe their badges to get the meds. Guendelsberger points out that while an initial reaction might be "oh, that's nice of Amazon to give away the pain meds for free," an *actual* nice way of dealing with the problem might be to give workers shorter shifts or more breaks.

3) Not only do call centers time their employees *to the second* on bathroom breaks, the one she worked at had a lovely little practice of changing employee's time clock records. For instance, an employee clocks in and then walks over to their desk, sits down, and logs into the phone system. Management went and changed the time clock records to reflect when the employee logged into the phone system, with the justification that the time spent walking to the desk and sitting down to log in was not "time on the phones" and was therefore not "time spent working."

I highly recommend both books. (I have no association with either author or publisher, so this isn't intended to be self-serving!)

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/23/2022 07:01PM by amyann2.

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I read Nickled and Dimed years ago. I may have to pick this one up (hopefully from the library).
LOL, I was reading the print book from the library when I left on a trip and didn't want to lug it with me -- so I bought the e-book to finish the second half!
I used to work at Amazon. The vending machines contained personal protective equipment (gloves, safety vests, etc), over the counter medications, electrolyte additives for water, etc. These types of vending machines are offered at many different companies and are not unique to Amazon.

When employees are new, they are doing work that is new to their bodies: moving heavy carts, lifting and pushing packages, etc. Theses new activities are going to cause the body to suffer soreness. Again, this is not unique to Amazon.

@amyann2 wrote:

2) Amazon warehouse workers are so physically taxed that they were lining up at the infirmary for over-the-counter pain meds, which wasn't "productive" for Amazon. So Amazon installed vending machines to dispense free OTC pain meds for workers, who swipe their badges to get the meds. Guendelsberger points out that while an initial reaction might be "oh, that's nice of Amazon to give away the pain meds for free," an *actual* nice way of dealing with the problem might be to give workers shorter shifts or more breaks.

I highly recommend both books. (I have no association with either author or publisher, so this isn't intended to be self-serving!)

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
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