At the corner of Division Street and Costner Avenue in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood, a giant 140,000-square-foot Amazon delivery station is lined with white and blue paint and no employees.
Amazon originally said the facility was expected to open by the end of 2022 and employ about 500 full-time and part-time workers. said it will open in the second half of 2023. Construction of the facility is underway, and supply chain concerns and “business reasons” have delayed the opening of the facility.
The delay came as Amazon pulled back on warehouse expansions after a big push during and pre-pandemic, including in the Chicago area.The company plans to cut about 18,000 corporate and tech jobs earlier this month announced. Locally, Amazon plans to open a delivery station in North Pekin in February, the company said.
On Thursday, about 20 community members and allies staged a protest outside the West Humboldt Park facility, calling for Amazon to open a delivery station and hire workers from the surrounding area. They criticized Amazon and local elected officials for their lack of transparency about the work of community members.
“We are sick and tired of companies and elected officials telling us we have to get along,” said Eddie Jacobs, director of employment agency Get to Work. “We do not have the right to attend meetings where plans are made.”
When Amazon first announced plans to open a facility in the neighborhood, local activists asked Amazon for promises, including a starting salary of $28.50 an hour and hiring 60% of its workers from the surrounding area. . Some wanted Amazon to sign a Community Benefits Agreement that stipulated certain benefits Amazon would provide to the community in return for supporting the project.
“Amazon is not God,” said Anthony Stewart of the Austin-based worker group Black Workers Matter on Thursday. “They use our sweat to make money. They use our streets to run vans. They take our money for their services. It’s a two-way street.”
Kelly said Amazon typically begins hiring employees about a month before a facility opens.
Amazon did not respond to questions about the percentage of workers it hires from the surrounding area or about the wages the company pays. announced that it would be lifted. The minimum starting salary was $16 an hour, the company said at the time.
“We look forward to working with local community organizations regarding employment opportunities and community initiatives,” Kelly said. said in a statement.
Department of Planning and Development Deputy Secretary Peter Strazabosco said Amazon received no local tax incentives for the project. The building is located in a Federal Opportunity Zone and is therefore eligible for tax incentives. Kelly said Amazon has received no tax incentives or relief for the project and has no plans to pursue it.
A day before Thursday’s protest, Amazon was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exposing workers to serious musculoskeletal injuries at its Waukegan facility. This is his second time in two months that he has been cited by OSHA for alleged violations at the company’s facilities. In December, OSHA accused Amazon of misclassifying the injuries as less serious than some cases. The company has appealed both citations.
OSHA officials said Wednesday that the incidence of certain types of serious workplace injuries at Amazon is almost double the average for the warehouse industry.
At West Humboldt Park, where members of the Get to Work and Black Workers Matter groups joined Teamsters and mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson, community members said any job is better than no job.
“There’s no better job than any job,” said ward resident Yvette McCallum. “People just want to work,” said McCallum, who volunteers with both Black Workers Matter and Get to Work.
Aldo. Emma Mitz, who has a planned Amazon site in the 37th Ward, is supporting the project.
When it was announced, she said the project “will inspire new hope in an already disadvantaged region that has been ravaged even more recently by the economic shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mitts said he spoke to Amazon representatives about his concerns about the company’s working conditions and was confident they were making changes.
“They shouldn’t treat people like hard workers,” Mitz said. She said Amazon hopes to hire at least 50% of the facility’s workers from the surrounding West Side.
“We thank Alderman Mitz for his support of this facility and look forward to working closely with her office on employment opportunities and more in the coming weeks and months,” Kelly said in a statement.
Amazon offers slightly higher starting salaries and access to benefits not often found in warehouse workers, according to Beth Guterius, director of research at the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago. tend to. But the company’s injury rate raises “genuine questions” about the long-term impact of its work on the community, Guterius said.
“If you get injured or develop chronic pain while working for Amazon, it will affect your ability to work in the future,” she said.
“It’s kind of an indicator of how uninvested some communities have been in being the best jobs available for these communities,” Guterius said.