Audit Notes: The FT does labor reporting, minimum wage, OC Register

An excellent look inside an Amazon warehouse in the UK

The Financial Times has an excellent story on the dystopian work culture at Amazon warehouses:

Inside, hundreds of people in orange vests are pushing trolleys around a space the size of nine football pitches, glancing down at the screens of their handheld satnav computers for directions on where to walk next and what to pick up when they get there. They do not dawdle - the devices in their hands are also measuring their productivity in real time. They might each walk between seven and 15 miles today. It is almost Christmas and the people working in this building, together with those in seven others like it across the country, are dispatching a truck filled with parcels every three minutes or so. Before they can go home at the end of their eight-hour shift, or go to the canteen for their 30-minute break, they must walk through a set of airport-style security scanners to prove they are not stealing anything. They also walk past a life-sized cardboard image of a cheery blonde woman in an orange vest. “This is the best job I have ever had!” says a speech bubble near her head…

Every warehouse has its own “continuous improvement manager” who uses “kaizen” techniques pioneered by Japanese car company Toyota to improve prod¬≠uctivity. Marc Onetto, the senior vice-president of worldwide operations, told a business school class at the University of Virginia a few years ago: “We use a bunch of Japanese guys, they are not consultants, they are insultants, they are really not nice … They’re samurais, the real last samurais, the guys from the Toyota plants.”

— Here’s the lede of a Journal story on the president’s pitch to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour, which would bring it to within a dollar and a half of where it was (in real dollars) 45 years ago:

President Barack Obama’s proposal Tuesday to raise the federal minimum wage is likely to rekindle debates over whether the measure helps or hurts low-income workers.

I have an idea: How about we just let low-income workers vote on whether or not they think the minimum wage should be raised? What do you think the result would be?

— In a USA Today column, AJR’s Rem Reider talks to Aaron Kushner, whose startling investment in journalism at the Orange County Register is the most contrarian of newspaper industry bets:

“It was very difficult to envision a scenario where you could cut your way to prosperity,” Kushner says. The real question, he adds, is, “How do we grow our way to prosperity?” The answer: Give Orange County more.

While it’s early in the game, Kushner says there are signs the strategy is paying off. “We’re starting to see as we give the community more, they are engaging more with us and spending more money with us,” he says. Both circulation and ad revenue are up, he says. They better be, given the huge investment the company is making.

Kushner takes issue with the notion that his is a “print first” model. Rather, he says, it’s a “subscriber-first” model. While digital is important for the future, right now, 90% of the paper’s revenue comes from print, he says, adding, “the numbers are the numbers. The vast majority of the benefits are in print.”

As Ken Doctor has said, “Aaron Kushner is the anti-Advance.”

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,