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Amazen: Because Who Needs Bathroom Breaks Or A Living Wage When You Have A Mobile Despair Closet?

Abby Zimet

 by Common Dreams


Colony of Hell. Getty

In what's been dubbed "some next-level dystopian shit," the $315-billion, let-them-piss-in-bottles Amazon, whose infamous worker abuses have prompted at least 190 suicide attempts, has installed a "ZenBooth" or "Mindful Practice Room" in their robo-warehouses so burned-out workers can "recharge that internal battery" in what was quickly trashed as "a cry box" before they try to kill themselves again. Yup: The behemoth that fired workers who tried to organize - or cited COVID hazards during a pandemic that saw company profits soar 220% - and refused to pay them a living wage and  boasted about rebranding its brutal 10-and-a-half-hour "megacycle" shift into an almost-as-brutal "single cycle" decided, in its greed and brokenness, that rather than address any substantive issues they'd offer their vassals a 2-by-2-foot interactive kiosk where they can "navigate through a library of mental health and mindful practices." A press release that sounds like it was written by Monty Python - "The health and safety of employees is Amazon’s number one priority" - says the AmaZen is part of a new WorkingWell Program to help Bezos' bleak phantasmagoria become "Earth’s Safest Place to Work." A short video posted on Twitter but taken down after it was savaged - alas, the Internet does not forget - shows a coffin-like box with a computer full of meditative videos and some small plants, probably with surveillance cameras in them. All in all, notes one sage, it's "a spiritually dark solution for late capitalism." Also: "Or you could pay your employees well, not treat them like garbage, and accept unionization. But sure, a Futurama suicide booth works too."

It got worse. It was likened to a baleful refrigerator, phone booth, coffin, Porta-Potty, though given corporate hold-it-or-bottle-it edicts, that would obviously be more helpful. It was suggested as possibly useful for sex, screaming, crying or peeing, maybe in the plants? It was deemed a "mobile despair closet," a "nervous breakdown stall," a "spiraling out of control booth," and "Oh look! Amazon invented hell!" New horrors were proposed for warehouse workers still not sufficiently chilled out: A robot could deliver a mild electric shock when fatigue sets in, dormitory-style nap pods could mean never having to say you're going home, a vending machine could dispense catheters. Or, you know, they could just pay people more and let them have bathroom breaks. Still, many questions remain. Amazon says its "wellness" (sic) program has to date been offered to 859,000 employees at 350 sites - figures that make us reluctant to know just how much of Planet Earth in total they cover - but it's unclear if they plan to put their damn cry closets in all their damn warehouses or how many they've delivered or how long it will take before some righteously aggrieved, unconscionably overworked serf will chuck the meditation video he's been trying to watch and just burn the sucker down. Also, when are said overworked serfs supposed to use the AmaZen given their no-break schedules if they use it more than once a week will they get fired like for everything else, can they take naps/will they get paid while they do, and if you scream in an AmaZen and nobody hears you, can you still be fired? Also, do you have to get Prime to use it, and where is Orwell when we need him?



Because it's always 1984 at an Amazon warehouse

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, thinning the carrots, hauling too much water, experiencing true if ragged community, and writing. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. 

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