Hourly wages approaching the poverty level. A supposedly flexible workplace where students are told, "We don't work around school schedules." A bonus program for employees that never pays out because of bionic expectations.
Minnesotans may soon be able to apply for jobs offering these perks. Internet giant Amazon is in negotiations to erect a distribution center on 66 acres in Shakopee.
The facility would employ up to 1,000 people during the crazed holiday shopping season. Industry insiders speculate that it would be a "small sort" facility, meaning it would handle items small enough to fit onto conveyer belts.
The operation would most likely mean that Twin Cities residents would be offered same-day shipping for orders placed before noon. But such convenience comes with a cost. While Amazon may be a popular destination for consumers, its employees offer less than flattering views of the company.
Start with low wages. Amazon pays warehouse workers around $12 an hour -- or $1.50 an hour less than the national average.
The average warehouse employee pockets just shy of $25,000 annually -- below the federal poverty line for a family of four. Even Walmart is more benevolent, paying an average of $15,000 more over the course of a year.
In the past, Amazon has claimed its low wages can be attributed to a largely part-time workforce. But it's something of a disingenuous defense, since the whole part-time thing is a common scheme to allow companies to skate on paying benefits. (Amazon didn't respond to interview requests.)
The company has also been accused by employees of running a bait-and-switch on performance bonuses. It reportedly dangles extra pay before workers who perform without error. But the goals are set so high that they're nearly impossible to reach.
Workers further complain that they're treated like cattle. They're subject to airport-style security checkpoints each time they leave the floor, including at breaks. That means employees spend half of their break in line at checkpoints. If an employee happens to be working at the far end of the complex and lunchtime hits, actual eating time might be 10 minutes.
Amazon has yet to publicly acknowledge it's looking at the Shakopee site. However, this past October produced a telltale sign something was afoot. That's when it began collecting sales tax on purchases made by state residents. In other states that's proved to be a tip off that Amazon is on the move to build one of its facilities.
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