Boycotts Revisited

Harold linked to a very scary article.  I was shocked that the work conditions at an Amazon warehouse could be that nasty.  Perhaps Amazon wants to make sure that global warming doesn’t take place by having a minimal air conditioning bill?

Now, could a boycott of an international firm succeed?  I don’t think so.  If RBC  wants to have an impact, it could invest in Amazon stock and start to attend the shareholder meetings and stir up the pot.   Neva Goodwin offers an example of setting things right at Exxon-Mobil by playing the “inside” shareholder card.

The article highlights the costs of recession and non-wage attributes of a job.  When the economy starts to boom again, will Amazon turn on the air conditioning?   Like health insurance, this is a non-taxable “job attribute” and firms should be happy to offer that.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

15 thoughts on “Boycotts Revisited”

  1. High unemployment taking working conditions and wages off the table has become baked into western economies ever since Volker. Firms have come to expect multiple desperate people fighting over every job opening. If that begins to change to the point that outfits like Amazon need to raise compensation to attract employees, outfits like Amazon will scream ‘inflation’ directly into the Fed’s very receptive ears.

    Labor costs don’t go up unless the Fed wants them to and the Fed is very happy to keep providing a flexible, low cost, work force to employers. That’s not going to change anytime soon.

  2. I’m not so sure. I think bad press and a lawsuit or two might shape them up. Treating people this way is bad business, at least once the public finds out about it. The only thing really irreplaceable about Amazon is the ratings, imho. And you can get those other places too.

  3. A few years of overemployment will balance things out, when all this unemployment nastiness has spent itself.

  4. Matthew Kahn really knows his Econ 101, so it is time to introduce him to Econ 102. Today’s lecture is on “collusive monopsony power,” which is ostensibly illegal, and “conscious parallelism,” which is quite legal. Low-wage employers don’t have to pay a market clearing wage if they know that other low-wage employers will act the same. And they generally do, the odd Costco excepted.
    Matthew Kahn might also want to drive this Nation’s fine Interstates. If he had been doing so for the last 15-20 years, he would have seen that most fleet trucks seem to have a “truckers wanted” sign on their rear. As we all know, truckers are the elite, and our nation’s educational system is not up to producing them in adequate numbers, so we must hand out more work visas to foreign truckers.

  5. Ís it really a good idea for Exxon-Mobil to go into renewables, where they have no experience and no comparative advantage, merely lots of capital? BP under Browne made a big thing of greenery, and still owns s solar panel business, but it was rightly perceived as essentially a PR stunt. They should just go out of busines nicely by giving the money gradually back to shareholders, and stop funding denialists.

    Two possible exceptions: geothermal energy, which now depends on sophisticated geology, deep drilling and steam fracking, all very close to oil´s core technology; and efficiency in the use of the remaining oil. Power kites for its oil tankers!

  6. If RBC wants to have an impact, it could invest in Amazon stock and start to attend the shareholder meetings and stir up the pot.

    Well actually the prior post itself (and many more like it) will help stir Bezos to bring his bozos to heel.
    After all, the conditions described are a reflection of Bezos values.
    And we do know he is a micromanager who pays attention to his press:

    From the wikipedia:

    Bezos is known for his attention to business details. As described by Portfolio.com, he “is at once a happy-go-lucky mogul and a notorious micromanager. … an executive who wants to know about everything from contract minutiae to how he is quoted in all Amazon press releases.”

    So it is on him.
    Totally + totally on him.

  7. If RBC wants to have an impact, it could invest in Amazon stock and start to attend the shareholder meetings and stir up the pot.

    That’s Neva Rockefeller Goodwin to you, peon.

    Yes, let’s all emulate the heirs of robber barons, those of us with top .01% private fortunes to finance the effort, and the kind of connections among the owner class that will get us listened to.

    I really do not find that Matthew Kahn adds value to the discussion here.

  8. When will the economy start booming again? It hasn’t been booming for the bottom 80% for 30-40 years! GDP growth is a terrible measure of the wealth of a countries’ citizen when the wealth is so lopsidedly distributed. That 65% households make below the average household income tells me that booming isn’t coming back until the rich bleed. I’m not saying I relish that day or look forward to it, but I don’t see any other way with our fantastic mix of political capture, mythology and police state.

  9. I was shocked that the work conditions at an Amazon warehouse could be that nasty.

    Come now. Unless you mean “I was shocked…shocked to find gambling…”, then yes of course. And I LOL’ed.

  10. Matthew ‘Chicwh*re’ Kahn

    “Harold linked to a very scary article. I was shocked that the work conditions at an Amazon warehouse could be that nasty. Perhaps Amazon wants to make sure that global warming doesn’t take place by having a minimal air conditioning bill?””

    At this point I’m convinced you’re just a nasty troll. And, of course, a Chicago economist, which is pretty much the same thing.

  11. Two words…….Reagan Democrats…….they only have themselves to blame for this and the rest of the collapse of the middle class in this country. Maybe we should eat them!

  12. BTW, Mark – you’ll get on my case for this, but frankly you deserve abuse for bringing a man with no redeeming features onto your blog.

  13. I don’t really understand all the anger at Matthew Kahn. He’s right about the boycotts not working…..at least I’ve never heard of one doing any good against a truly gigantic international corporation. The hard fact is that the way you have an effect in 2011 is to do what he says…..buy stock……show up at the meeting……raise hell.

    The big problem with boycotts (as I see it) is that you can’t get enough people to get on board. Unfortunately people are stupid and they won’t stick together in large enough numbers to really do any good in a situation like this (maybe Amazon is different….who knows). With the stock/annual meeting plan it probably wouldn’t take as many people to get some attention.

  14. “I don’t really understand all the anger at Matthew Kahn.”

    Kahn: “I was shocked that the work conditions at an Amazon warehouse could be that nasty. Perhaps Amazon wants to make sure that global warming doesn’t take place by having a minimal air conditioning bill?”

    And before you continue, no, he’s not joking – this is in line with his other stuff.

    Mark, I’m going to ask again – WTF do you allow this guy to post on your blog?

Comments are closed.