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Amazon begins hiring hundreds for warehouse work

Aug 15, 2017

Amazon is in the process of hiring full-time warehouse workers for its distribution center currently under construction in Livonia.

In the past year, Amazon announced plans to build two warehouses in metro Detroit: the Livonia facility, and another in Romulus.

Cynthia Richardson, director of talent attraction and resources at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, says the MEDC is working with Amazon to help recruit job applicants for 850 full-time warehouse positions at the Livonia facility.

The jobs start at $12.75 hourly plus benefits.

She says the grant money (which promises $7.5 million to Amazon for creating jobs at the Livonia plant) was a good investment in order to provide more low-skilled workers in Michigan job opportunities.

“Absolutely, it’s a good starting wage for somebody who only needs to have a good attitude,” Richardson said. “There are definitely workers available for these types of jobs in Michigan.... We talk about the skills gap and the cost of education. Here’s an employer that’s offering with very minimal skill, a good-paying wage.”

The Michigan Strategic Fund agreed to grant Amazon a total of $12.5 million to lure the company to Michigan. Richardson says the grant money will only be dispersed when Amazon reaches job-creation milestones at each of the project sites.

A memo presented to the members of the Michigan Strategic Fund Board in December 2016 cites Michigan’s low unemployment rate as a reason to approve the grant to Amazon:

“The low unemployment rate in Michigan has raised concern for the Company’s ability to hire the appropriate workforce. Incentive assistance will help the Company cover some of these costs and allow them to make the decision to move forward in Michigan.”

Read the entire memo here.

For example, according to a summary of the grant terms, Amazon is eligible for a disbursement of just over $2.6 million after the creation of 350 “Qualified New Jobs” at the Livonia warehouse.

Speaking about the grant for Amazon’s facility in Romulus, Josh Hundt, vice president of business development at the MEDC, says Amazon has to create full-time jobs to qualify for the grant money.

“These will be full-time employees,” Hundt said. “There may be some other seasonal and temporary work but these are full-time employees of the company.”

Hundt says there’s no specific stipulation in the terms of the grant agreement for what wages Amazon has to play its employees in Michigan.

Read a summary of the terms of the grant awarded to Amazon for creating jobs at the Livonia warehouse here.

The jobs in Amazon’s warehouses have a reputation of being physically demanding, tightly regimented labor. The job description states, “[an applicant] must be able to lift up to 49 pounds with or without reasonable accommodation, stand/walk for up to 10-12 hours, and be able to frequently push, pull, squat, bend, and reach.”

Richardson said there’s at least passing concern about employee burnout.

“Well it’s a concern always, but warehouse jobs are never easy. And at least Amazon, they are very concerned with their employees and they put them in an environment that is safe. Safety is absolutely their priority.”

In a report of Amazon’s macro-level impact on the American economy, the Institute for Local Self-reliance describes the work environment in Amazon’s fulfillment centers (or warehouses) as “dehumanizing,” based on interviews given by Amazon employees.

Read the entire Institute for Local Self-Reliance report here.

In 2015, The New York Times published a story detailing the demanding atmosphere of Amazon’s corporate culture.

Amazon’s Livonia facility is slated to open in October, in time for the holiday season. The Romulus distribution center is expected to be operational in 2018.  

A spokesperson for Amazon was not immediately available for comment. 

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