Retailers struggle to hire warehouse workers ahead of the holidays, with brutal hours and poor working conditions taking their toll, a report says

·3 min read
warehouse worker
Warehouse workers are in high demand. Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • Retailers are scrambling to fill warehouse jobs as holiday season approaches.

  • Workers have been put off by brutal hours and poor working conditions, per a Washington Post report.

  • Perks and incentives, such as college tuition fees and sign-on bonuses, aren't luring people.

Hiring warehouse workers in the US is becoming a near-impossible task, with incentives such as free college tuition, sign-on bonuses, and PlayStation prizes failing to attract enough new staff, according to a report by The Washington Post.

The impact of the labor shortage is expected to tighten as the upcoming holiday season nears.

"Every year we say, 'Wow, this is really difficult' - and every year, it gets more challenging," Sabrina Wnorowski, vice president of HR at Radial, told The Post. Radial runs fulfillment centers for brands such as Cole Haan and Aeropostale. Her firm is offering PlayStations as raffle prizes and hosting pizza parties as it seeks to employ 27,000 warehouse workers this year, The Post reported.

Workers are increasingly put off by working conditions, low wages, and lack of career progression in the sector, experts told The Post.

The number of job openings in the warehouse and transportation industry hit record highs in July. Retailers are getting more creative in how they attract these workers, offering financial incentives, free tuition, or lowering the barriers to entry, but it hasn't been enough to trigger a rebound, The Post reported.

Some experts said the big retailers were partly to blame for this issue. Amazon, for example, has created thousands of jobs in warehouses, and in some local areas has helped to push up wages - but some argue it is has made working conditions worse overall, which eventually puts people off the jobs.

"Amazon is the standard-bearer, and it is dragging down working conditions for everybody," Irene Tung, senior researcher and policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, told The Post.

In a statement shared with Insider, a spokesperson for Amazon said that "a large percentage" of workers were "rehires," without giving any specifics.

The spokesperson also said that the company is investing in safety training, tools, and technology.

"The safety and well-being of our employees is always a top priority. We recognize that helping employees stay safe in physical roles takes a lot of focus and investment, which is why we're investing hundreds of millions in safety," she said.

Earlier this summer, a New York Times investigation revealed that Amazon was burning through warehouse and fulfillment center workers to the point that executives were concerned that they would run out of people to hire.

The report found that many of the more than 350,000 workers Amazon hired between July and October had only stayed at the company for a matter of days or weeks.

In response, Amazon acknowledged some issues with people leaving their jobs, but said some of the problems mentioned in The Times' report were outliers.

Speaking to The Post, one worker, David, who did not reveal his full identity through fear of retribution, said many of the people that join the Amazon distribution center he works at in Washington state quit on the first day.

"The job is brutal ... 10 hours on your feet," he said.

A spokeswoman for Amazon declined to comment on the claims to The Post.

Workers from different warehouses around the US, run by other businesses, described being overwhelmed and said that the lack of workers is putting extra strain on their jobs.

"I feel like I'm doing the work of six people," worker Ricardo, who wished to keep his full name anonymous, told The Post. "You know when you're worked to the bone, and you just want to go home, eat and sleep? It's like that all the time."

If you are a current or former warehouse worker with a story to share please contact this reporter at mhanbury@insider.com or via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 768-4716 using a non-work phone.

Expanded Coverage Module: what-is-the-labor-shortage-and-how-long-will-it-last

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