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President Obama’s speech at Amazon in Chattanooga

31 July 2013

From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, the text of President Obama’s speech at a large Amazon warehouse yesterday:

Hello, Chattanooga! It is good to be back in Tennessee. It’s great to be here at Amazon.

. . . .

So this is something here. I just finished getting a tour of just one little corner of this massive facility — size of 28 football fields. Last year, during the busiest day of the Christmas rush, customers around the world ordered more than 300 items from Amazon every second, and a lot of those traveled through this building. So this is kind of like the North Pole of the south right here. Got a bunch of good-looking elves here.

. . . .

Jobs are about more than just paying the bills. Jobs are about more than just statistics. We’ve never just defined having a job as having a paycheck here in America. A job is a source of pride, is a source of dignity. It’s the way you look after your family. It’s proof that you’re doing the right things and meeting your responsibilities and contributing to the fabric of your community and helping to build the country. That’s what a job is all about. It’s not just about a paycheck. It’s not just about paying the bills. It’s also about knowing that what you’re doing is important, that it counts.

. . . .

Amazon is a great example of what’s possible. What you’re doing here at Amazon with your Career Choice Program pays 95 percent of the tuition for employees who want to earn skills in fields with high demand — not just, by the way, jobs here at Amazon, but jobs anywhere — computer-aided design or nursing. I talked to Jeff Bezos yesterday, and he was so proud of the fact that he wants to see every employee at Amazon continually upgrade their skills and improve. And if they’ve got a dream they want to pursue, Amazon wants to help them pursue it.

Link to the rest at Times-Free Press

Croissants have been violently smashed against walls all over Manhattan this morning.

If overseas visitors have never witnessed an American political speech, the text will provide an example of the genre.

In its report on the Obama speech, the New York Times said:

The choice of Amazon was meant to illustrate Mr. Obama’s theme of a job revival in America. The company recently announced plans to hire 5,000 more workers at 17 fulfillment centers, where it packs and ships customer orders. But the White House came under fire because many Amazon jobs pay only $11 an hour, and the pace of the work in these warehouses has been described as exhausting.

On his tour of the plant, Mr. Obama stopped at stations where workers were sorting and packing bottles of Metamucil and bags of pistachio nuts. “I’ve got a bunch of orders in there,” the president said, gesturing to a bin filled with boxes.

Mr. Obama’s appearance here also raised the hackles of independent booksellers, who blame Amazon, with its deep discounting and massive selection, for putting bookstores out of business.

Link to the rest at New York Times

For clarification, $11 per hour is the starting salary at Amazon. Raises happen as the employee gains more experience.

PG would bet a bag of croissants that the starting salary at Barnes & Noble or a typical independent bookstore in Chattanooga is very close to minimum wage – $7.25 – and that it takes quite a while before it rises to $11 per hour.

PG will allow former Barnes & Noble employees to comment about whether they were reimbursed for 95% of tuition fees or received any shares of stock in addition to their salaries.

Amazon, Big Publishing

16 Comments to “President Obama’s speech at Amazon in Chattanooga”

  1. ditto

  2. Me too. Ditto to Bob’s ditto.

  3. Cronuts are the big thing now. Croissant/donuts.
    I’m just here for the food.

  4. PG

    I hope you don’t mind but I used your term “Amazon Derangement Syndrome” in a comment to Salon’s anti-amazon post of the week. But I also worked in a subtle PG plug so you essentially got credit. 😉

    Also, Zon haters love to cite the “horrific” work conditions and the labor required by people working in fullfillment centers. I would challenge any of these commentators to produce resumes detailing their hourly job history. I doubt any of them have experience working in any one of hundreds of chain retailers, home improvement, supermarket, paint, lumber, club retail, warehouse, beverage or resturaunt businesses. If they did I doubt they’d find the conditions so horrifying. They sound pretty par for the course for hourly jobs I used to have.

    If you’re able to go from a cushy dorm to a cushy internship to a cushy columnist job, great for you! But you might want to get a clue about what tens of millions of regular people are content to do everyday for income before you vilify a company that provides jobs.

    • If you’re able to go from a cushy dorm to a cushy internship to a cushy columnist job, great for you! But you might want to get a clue about what tens of millions of regular people are content to do everyday for income before you vilify a company that provides jobs.

      Damn straight, D.L.!

      I’ve worked my share of crap jobs from the retail floor of Target to delivering pizza to waiting tables before I settled into my long term career. None were my ‘dream’ and I often disliked going into work, but it’s like I’ve always said. The only worse than having a job is not having a job.

      Sometimes getting paid is all there is and you just suck it up to feed the family. The great majority of the world works with this mentality. Happiness in one’s job is secondary most of the time and you’re damn lucky if you achieve it.

      My current job as a medic is far more exhausting then working in a warehouse (24 hour shifts, often no sleep, sometimes missing meals, working in all weather conditions, sometimes back to back calls for 8 hours straight without a real break) but I also get paid far more than $11 and I’ll be retired with a pension is 7.5 yrs. There’s always a trade off.

    • My first job was cleaning up in a slaughterhouse.

      And not a nice factory slaughterhouse with UV disinfectants and respirators and weekly OSHA inspections, either. Ever seen a bloodfall? Trust me, you don’t want to know. (Although as long as you were upwind of it it was really kind of fascinating in a horrific way.)

      I find the idea that working in a modern American warehouse, for a publicly traded company which is zealously monitored by its enemies, is somehow straight out of Dickens quite, quite laughable.

      • Marc, you need to write an urban horror/fantasy with that setting, because I need to read it.

  5. I’ve done warehouse work (specifically in the textile industry). It was, in fact, “exhausting.” It wasn’t, however, “unfair” or “deplorable” or the other scary words I’ve heard. I also did piece work for some food wholesaler … same deal. Some jobs are just more physically intensive.

    Not everyone’s cut out for warehouse work, but the more I hear of Amazon, the more I wish they’d been around when I was 19.

    • Not everyone’s cut out for warehouse work, but the more I hear of Amazon, the more I wish they’d been around when I was 19.

      Ditto. When I was 19, my summer job was shoveling oily hydraulics parts from one bin to another. If Amazon had been around I’d have taken their job without a second’s hesitation.

  6. “…but the more I hear of Amazon, the more I wish they’d been around when I was 19.”

    Oh hell yeah!

  7. I’d also like to point out that most authors under the major publishers are not even making minimum wage. Because, you know, they’re supposed to be doing it for the love and get paid in validation.

  8. Makes me think the pundits are mad because “job creation” no longer means $40/hour unionized “job for life” type jobs. Because those were so sustainable in the auto industry.

  9. PG, you are my hero… Thanks for the breath of fresh air and common sense you bring to the table.

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