Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Should Amazon Be Receiving City Incentives?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Should Amazon Be Receiving City Incentives?

Article excerpt

Byline: David Jaffee

It says something about the state of the Jacksonville labor market when, according to the Times-Union, hundreds "brave summer heat and long lines to apply for Amazon jobs."

While we should always welcome expanding job opportunities, it is also important to recognize that Amazon has received $13.4 million in economic development awards from the city in the form of incentives, grants and subsidies.

The first thing to understand is that Amazon is not locating a corporate office or headquarters in Jacksonville but rather "fulfillment centers." This is the term Amazon uses to describe what will be, in one Jacksonville location, a sprawling 800,000 square foot distribution center designed to rapidly fulfill the orders of its customers in the region.

Second, despite the media hype, Jacksonville has not captured some rare commodity - there are already at least 70 such fulfillment centers nationwide.

Third, and at the risk of being labeled a jobs buzzkiller, the vast majority of Amazon jobs - Amazon anticipates employing 1,500 workers at one site- will be warehouse jobs. As an Amazon press release indicates, "At the facility, Amazon employees will pick, pack and ship small items to customers such as books, electronics and consumer goods."

What can we learn about these kinds of jobs from the media reports at other locations? The news is not good.

One story leads off this way:

"It's unspeakably awful to work in an Amazon warehouse. You have to walk between seven and 15 miles a day, enter and exit the buildings through a set of airport-style security scanners that take 30 minutes to get through and you're constantly being watched."

One publication interviewed 20 former and current Amazon employees. Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain.

In fairness to Amazon, job postings are candid about the physical aspects required of prospective applicants.

They note that one must be able to lift heavy items, walk long distances, climb stairs, squat/bend/reach, work extra hours, withstand temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and tolerate loud noise. …

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