With 6,000 new warehouse jobs, what is Amazon really delivering?

 

With 6,000 new warehouse jobs, what is Amazon really delivering?

By Jessica Bruder

June 17, 2015

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A worker gathers items for delivery from the warehouse floor at Amazon’s distribution center in Phoenix, Arizona November 22, 2013. REUTERS/Ralph D. Freso

Some people showed up before dawn. Others spent an hour waiting on a line that stretched out the door. That was the scene last month when hundreds of job seekers converged on an Amazon hiring event in Chattanooga, Tennessee. All hoped for full-time work picking, packing and shipping orders at the online retailer’s local distribution center, a warehouse the size of 28 football fields. “I’m blessed to be here!” one smiling 23-year-old applicant told television reporters.

That spectacle could be coming this summer to a city near you. On May 26, Amazon announced 6,000 new full-time job openings at 19 of its distribution centers. Many are in communities that doled out generous tax credits and other incentives — including $10.3 million in Kenosha, Wisconsin, alone — to bring Amazon jobs to town.

So it’s a good time to ask: Are Amazon’s warehouse jobs worth lining up for? Should they be subsidized with taxpayer dollars? And what do they mean to the long-term economic health of their host communities?

On his 2013 jobs tour, President Barack Obama stopped to deliver a speech at the aforementioned Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga. The audience cheered when he called for restoring the middle class through “good jobs with good wages.” But today that same warehouse is hiring at $11.25 an hour. That’s $23,400 annually, or $850 below the poverty line for a family of four.

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Jessica Bruder