“It all started with a really bad day,” said Pete Rogelski, a frontline package handler at a large internet retailer’s warehouse.
“I was sweating my ass off because there’s no air conditioning. I had already used my pee break and wouldn’t get one for another eight hours. I was angry. Resentful.”
Despite the inhumane conditions, Rogelski stays for the same reason anyone would: survival.
“I hate my job. It’s monotonous, back-breaking, and I make minimum wage. In my state, that’s seven dollars an hour. You can’t live on that working a standard forty hours. I do overtime every day. Then I read an article about how much our CEO was making and I was pissed. I folded my arms and let the orders pile up. My own little work stoppage.”
Despite warnings from co-workers, Rogelski continued his protest, causing his supervisor to inquire.
“I laid it out. ‘Look,’ I said. ‘Our CEO makes 28,000 dollars per hour. That’s 4,000 times as much as me. So he should be able to process 4,000 orders for every one I do. Tell him to get his ass down here and do 4,000 packages in the five minutes I have to do one, and I’ll go back to work.’”
What happened next surprised everyone. The supervisor didn’t fire Rogelski, but instead, walked back to his office.
CEO Chip Jayhossen arrived on the warehouse floor shortly after.
“He was strolling towards me,” Rogelski said. “A herd of managers following like a celebrity’s entourage. I thought, oh this is bad, they’re not just going to fire me. They’re going to fire everyone.”
Instead, CEO Jayhossen spoke to the assembled workers.
“I hear some of my partners on the frontline have been talking smack about my pay. Some say, if I make 4,000 times as much as you warehouse folk, then I should be able to process 4,000 times as many orders. Well watch this!”
You can see the amazement in Rogelski’s eyes as he recalls the event. “He rolled up his sleeves. And then disappeared. At least I thought he did, but no. He was just that fast!”
“The job is simple. Get a printout of an order, get the stuff off the shelves, box it, tape it up, drop it on the outgoing conveyor belt. There was a blur, and stuff started piling up on the loading dock to be shipped out! I was shocked. You could barely see him move! All I heard was whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! And there were little clouds of dust as he zipped past! People’s hair would flop up in his wake. It was like a cartoon! He was that damn fast.”
“His productivity counter hit an even 4,000 packages in five minutes. The loading bay was stacked high. [CEO Jayhossen] stopped, smacked his hands together and said, ‘Didn’t even break a sweat.’ Then he and his managers went back to wherever they came from. What a badass!”
Rogelski shook his head.
“That’s all we workers want. A little bit of fairness. If you’re going to be making 4,000 times more than I am, then all I ask is you prove you’re worth 4,000 times as much. And he did it. I stand corrected. And speaking of stand, I got to get back in line to meet my quota. This interview burned up some time, so only another seven hours until my pee break.”