Amazon is coming to Fall River. The on-line giant announced yesterday that it will occupy a million-square-foot building that’s going to be built on the Fall River-Freetown line. The new warehouse, which in Amazon-speak carries the name “Fulfillment Center,” will join 50 or so similar facilities around the country.
So who among us can look forward to being fulfilled by the Fulfillment Center?
For starters, Amazon customers in Massachusetts, who can look forward to next-day delivery of their $600 premium foosball table with enamel screen-printed graphics and a one-inch Moroccan finish or their Natura Bisse Oxygen Cream (immediately softens the most dehydrated skin, only $88 for a 2.5 ounce jar).
Second, Amazon itself, which in addition to its profits gets more than $6 million in state and local tax breaks for choosing the Fall River site.
Third, Governor Charlie Baker, who’s pretty excited about it all.
Anybody out there who’s not going to be so fulfilled?
Well, construction companies in Massachusetts, which lost out on the building contract. That went instead to a company from East Rutherford, N.J.
And the people who will be working in the new Fulfillment Center? Amazon is promising 500 full-time jobs at an average salary of $35,000. Which might well sound great to people in Fall River right now, where the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. But then again, when you figure that by the time the Fulfillment Center opens, a $35,000 salary will translate into a minimum wage job for only 32 hours per week, maybe not so much.
The Allentown, Pennsylvania, Morning Call newspaper has been covering the working conditions at Amazon’s nearby Lehigh Valley Fulfillment Center for the past five years. Anybody contemplating an Amazon job in Fall River and anybody who is unequivocally keen on Amazon’s arrival in the state might want to take a look at the Morning Call‘s stories about life in an Amazon warehouse: punishing productivity quotas that result in the firing of workers unable to meet them and injuries to many who try; a management structure in which the real employer is not Amazon itself, but a temporary help agency called “Integrity Staffing Solutions,” which can take advantage of laws that limit its liability for unemployment insurance and can help reduce the risk of encroachment by labor unions through constant employee turnover; triple-digit temperatures in the warehouse during the summer (on this point, Amazon was at pains to say that it had arranged for paramedics to be in ambulances parked outside the warehouse to treat the severely dehydrated).
If you take another look at Governor Baker’s enthusiastic comments about Amazon’s arrival, you’ll notice that while he’s very excited to help Amazon meet its needs, he seems to regard the Massachusetts residents who will be working there as merely an afterthought:
“Our collaboration and partnership with Amazon is a good example of where the state has worked with, and will continue to work with, companies and help them meet their needs for everything from tax incentives to training new employees to permitting so that they can continue to grow in the Commonwealth.”
Points for honesty.