Binge-hiring at Amazon
Amazon puts the emphasis on speeding things along.
As one worker told prospective warehouse workers in Troutdale last Thursday morning, "You promise to get the package to the customer as fast as possible."
Until the end of August, Amazon is recruiting new employees at the Holiday Inn Express in Troutdale, seven days a week, from nine in the morning until five in the evening.
Amazon also likes to get job prospects through as fast as possible. As it tries to hire for 1,500 full-time positions at their new robotics fulfillment center in Troutdale, which opens fall 2018, it has a system that bypasses traditional hiring processes. Jobhunters lined up outside the hotel, were checked in and then filled out applications at a bank of laptops in a back room. This included selecting the shifts they would like to work.
Once through, they sat for a presentation, which included taking a drug test on the spot. Candidates received clear instructions about taking out a popsicle-stick sized wand and putting it between their cheek and gum for 10 minutes while they listened to the presentation about Amazon values. These include:
n No cell phones on the work floor — emergencies are dealt with through a central phone number.
activity: the job requires lifting and it may take three weeks to get comfortable with muscles that are not used to being used.
n Quality is key: prospective workers were reminded that it's important that if they are supposed to be packing a red jacket for someone's order, to make sure they have the right item, for instance not a blue jacket.
"All team performance is measured," read one bullet point, and the Amazon facilitator explained that the learning curve is four to five weeks. Workers get a 4 percent bonus if they show up for work on time all the time, and they get a further 4 percent bonus if their whole building does so.
Another point read "The building is not just big, it's VERY BIG." This is certainly true of the 855,000-square foot-plus facility in Troutdale. (Two more will open next in Salem and West Portland.)
There were a variety of jobs on offer but the classic one is pick and pack. Pay starts at $14 an hour with benefits from day one.
Lining up outside was Gregory Reese, age 47, who is currently a cart pusher at Walmart Hayden Island, via the temp service People Ready. "I'm looking to get $14 an hour," he said of his main motivation. Currently he makes $13. He wants to get into driving an Amazon delivery truck but is prepared to start anywhere.
Marissa Bower, a mom of two with one on the way, said she had already been working assembling large storage bins inside the Amazon facility but had stopped because the work was too tough. "We had a rubber mallet, it was hell on earth!" she told the Business Tribune. She grew up on a farm in Joyce, Washington, with cows and orchards. Right now, she is looking for work "All day, every day, and I hope this will be my last one."
Having worked at Habitat for Humanity in their warehouse, and done 27-hour, once-a-week shifts with Crosspoint Northwest car auctions, she was looking for something less demanding and more regular. As for the promised 20 weeks of paid parental leave, she was interested but said "It sounds too good to be true."
Jacob Davies, 19, of Gresham, was there hoping to jump ship from a 60-hour-a-week seasonal forklift driver job with Townshend Farms (whose berries sell at Costco) to a 40-hour warehouse job with Amazon. He's also a bagger at Fred Meyer.
"Doing four 10-hour days would be perfect for me, because I'm at Mt. Hood Community College studying architectural engineering." He hopes to transfer to Oregon State University. "I'm definitely interested in their tuition assistance program," he said of Career Choice, one of the perks, by which Amazon will pay for tuition in fields it approves. Amazon will pre-pay for regular full-time employees up to 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. These include degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology.
Amazon was assisted by Goodwill Industries of the Columbia and Willamette, which found the venue and publicized it to its huge bank of jobseekers. Simmon Redman, a senior employment specialist with Goodwill, was outside corralling workers and handing out clipboards to register them for Goodwill too. "Three years ago, it was very hard getting employers to look at job seekers or put on job fairs. Now they're calling me all the time," she said.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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