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Amazon's New Tallahassee Warehouse Promises Jobs. Who Will Get Them?

A brown package sits on a post in front of a green field.
Patrick Sternad
/
WFSU Public Media
Bison lounge in a nearby pond outside the construction zone for the new Amazon fulfillment center that has just broken ground. The warehouse is said to open in 2022 and will be located at 6720 Mahan Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32308

Will Amazon meet the expectations of Leon County? 

It started as a mystery. What was this “Project Mango” local government officials had been talking about? In August, the mystery was solved: Project Mango was code for a new Amazon fulfillment center coming to Tallahassee.

Leon County and the City of Tallahassee are giving Amazon more than $2.5 million in incentives. In return, the company is promising 1,000 new jobs. Still, questions remain over whether those new jobs will result in overall job growth, or if Amazon will pull workers from other local industries. The question has come up often, said Cristina Paredes, director of the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality. 

“We’re working closely with Amazon and our community partners to help build that talent pipeline. We anticipate that going into the summer of next year, we will start ramping up some recruitment efforts. The goal is to have this facility online and open in the third quarter for them in 2022,” Paredes said. 

A 2018 report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute found “when Amazon opens a new fulfillment center, the host county gains roughly 30% more warehousing and storage jobs.''  

The report also notes that there is no net job gain overall because those job gains in warehousing are likely offset by losses in other industries.  Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey sees the Amazon jobs question as a regional opportunity, instead of a local conundrum—mostly, due to the ability to recruit workers from outside the county.  

“I think that people from across many different industries will have the opportunity and even geographically, not only does it benefit Leon County but the Big Bens region, which is great,” Dailey said. 

The jobs questions don’t just extend to local officials. Since Amazon announced Tallahassee as one of its newest locations, the prospect of getting a job with the employer has created a lot of conversation. Amazon is promising to pay workers $15/hour and also offers health and educational benefits. But the company has also been plagued by accusations that its quota system for employees is abusive. This week, California became the first state to prevent companies like Amazon from firing workers who miss packaging requirements that could interfere with required bathroom and rest breaks.

In May, the Seattle Times reported that the mega-retailer ran afoul of Washington state regulators over its productivity demands for workers. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries issued a report finding Amazon’s work pace leads to greater employee injuries and exacerbates them. Former Amazon employee, Nyeisha Cummings, said though the health benefits were good, she won’t be going back. 

“I believe the $15 doesn’t compensate for the stress that we have to go through," Cummings said. She criticized a fast-paced work environment and requirements for package processing that she called excessive. 

“The fast-paced environment and the time that you have to put into getting these orders out. I would rather be employed by an employer that is sensitive to their employee’s needs,” Cummings said. 

The job isn’t easy, said another former Amazon employee who didn’t want to be named because the company is presently paying their tuition. The benefits—especially the company’s tuition promises—made employment worth it, they said. 

“They pay for it [tuition] upfront,” said the former employee. “Amazon is the only company that I saw throughout my career that does that. All of the other companies that I’ve worked for have tuition reimbursement options.” 

Amazon is still paying the former employee’s tuition—even though they no longer work for the company.  

“As soon as I got verification, I said that I wasn’t doing school and this. The good thing about it is you don’t have to continue to work for them to get the benefits,” they said.