A delivery worker for Amazon Prime wears a mask and gloves on her route in Los Angeles. Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Amazon continues hiring spree to meet demand from pandemic

Meghan McCarty Carino Sep 14, 2020
Heard on:
A delivery worker for Amazon Prime wears a mask and gloves on her route in Los Angeles. Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

Earlier this year, Amazon hired about 175,000 additional workers as stay-at-home orders sent shoppers online. Now the e-commerce giant is seeking to hire 100,000 more warehouse workers in the United States and Canada, and more than 30,000 corporate tech workers. 

Those highly paid positions will be remote for now, with several thousand of them spread across the country near planned satellite offices in cities from San Diego to Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit and New York. The hiring plan strikes a contrast to the search for one big second headquarters, called HQ2, several years ago.

When Amazon announced its HQ2 search in late 2017, it turned into a battle royal between cities competing for tens of thousands of good-paying tech jobs.

But all the slick videos and billions of dollars in incentives weren’t enough to stop Amazon from choosing the rather predictable New York and Washington, D.C., areas, said Greg LeRoy at Good Jobs First.

“You know [it was] the biggest trophy hunt ever in U.S. economic development history,” he said. “So it’s fascinating to see this backflip now.”

With the pandemic sending most tech workers home, Amazon and other large tech companies may finally be shifting their working model, said Steven Pedigo, a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Rather than all of these workers being concentrated in, say, this new HQ2 facility in Washington, D.C., or in Seattle, maybe you’re more open to these sort of remote hubs,” he said. “For many second-tier cities, that’s probably a good thing.”

He said it’s easier for smaller cities to sell themselves to individual remote workers with affordable housing or charming downtowns than it is to meet the infrastructure demands for a big company headquarters. 

Richard Florida, an urban studies professor at the University of Toronto and author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” said tech companies still consider major hubs like Silicon Valley as key to innovation and growth.

“I think that you’re not going to see a big departure from the pattern of corporate headquarters location that we’ve seen,” he said. “But you will see some adaptation and some tweaking at the margin,” like more satellite offices outside city centers that allow workers to be closer to affordable housing but within easy reach of the big cities he said are the engine of big ideas.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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