Book Title: The Warehouse
Author: Rob Hart
Release Date: 08/20/19
Star Rating: Unflinching look at the corporatization of the world.
Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.
Before I get up on my soapbox with my feelings about this book let me say, read this book, it’s not as heavy as I’ve made it out to be. It’s exceedingly readable, quick and absorbing. It’s excellent.
We are going to start this review at the end of the book. Not the end of the story … don’t worry, this is a spoiler free review. I mean we will start in the acknowledgements. I do love acknowledgements in a book, because sometimes you can glean a lot of information in what the author chooses to share. In this case, the author explains his choice of dedication to a “Maria Fernandez”. Maria Fernandez, was a woman who, in 2014, worked 3 part-time jobs at Dunkin’ Donuts trying to make ends meet. She would sleep in her car between shifts and one morning accidentally died from suffocation on gas fumes. She made so little from her 3 jobs, she struggled to make her expenses including $550/month rent on a small apartment. As Mr. Hart notes, that year “Dunkin’ Brands chief executive Nigel Travis earned $10.2 million.” This tragic story was part of his inspiration for this book.
The Warehouse is dystopia cleverly disguised as a utopia. Who doesn’t want to work for a company like The Cloud (a thinly disguised Amazon)? You get a nice, though tiny apartment, are close to work, shopping, restaurants. It’s a safe place to work and raise a family. Of course, employees are also overworked, exposed to workplace hazards, micromanaged, surveilled within an inch of their lives, and exist in constant dread of their employment being terminated. But … the devil you know, right? The Cloud has nearly completely taken over distribution of goods worldwide. It controls legislation in multiple countries. Where else can you go if you can’t make it at The Cloud? You starve or you work for them.
The main story follows two new employees and their very different reasons for applying for work in The Cloud. I have to admit that the descriptions of the company itself were most interesting to me. How does it maintain its stranglehold over competition, how does it exert so much control over its employees. I found echoes of the dilema of the Joad’s in The Grapes of Wrath. On finally reaching the paradise of the fields in California, they soon learned that their meager wages would just as quickly be sucked up by obligations to the company for their living space and for goods bought at the Company Store. It’s a vicious cycle, that I believe, can be found in today at any local Walmart. Employees are hired at a pittance, trained to apply for state aid and encouraged to then spend those dollars in the stores they work at. Walmart gets cheap, cheap labor, offsets the cost to Federal aid programs, and then reaps the benefits that their underpaid workers receive. But hey, Walmart makes bucks, and we get to buy really cheap stuff. Win … win … right?
All that to say, The Warehouse is a fiction in the style of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series. Just close enough to real life as to be completely believable, and a harbinger of coming attractions if nothing is done to protect workers like Maria Fernandez, like all of us. It’s an unflinching look at the results of the corporatization of the world, and a kick in the behind motivating us to do something about it. Ok, off the soapbox for today.
Bonus link: For a Worker with Little Time Between 3 Jobs, a Nap has Fatal Consequences – New York Times
Song for this book: Pa’ alante – Hurray for the Riff Raff