Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Bryan C. Taylor

Second Advisor

Jody Jahn

Third Advisor

Ruth Hickerson

Abstract

This thesis is concerned with public discourse and cultural controversy around labor precarity in high-technology organizations. Through analyzing a case study, in which a New York Times exposé of Amazon’s treatment of white-collar workers inspired thousands to join a conversation on labor rights, this thesis contributes to discovering how organizational identity is co-constructed with the public and journalism’s (constrained) role in labor activism. Just as the New York Times article exposed the still present reality of labor exploitation in the “new economy,” this project seeks to rupture the myth of utopian labor conditions in the high-technology sector. This thesis examines how organizational rhetors discursively maintain legitimacy and authority while depicting labor precarity by reframing these practices as allowing employees freedom and choice. The project also uses the methodological tool of external organizational rhetoric to uncover how external stakeholders interpret and add to controversy, expanding the scope the story through their discursive representations of labor precarity. I conclude this project with some thoughts on the lasting impact of the controversy on Amazon’s organizational identity, as well as some future possibilities for labor resistance against precarity.

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