According to a LinkedIn report, warehouse workers on the frontlines of e-commerce are the most in-demand employees. Hiring for these roles grew 73% year-over-year. A Randstad Report substantiates this demand as well according to a Supply Chain Dive article. Furthermore, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in September warehouse employment reached the highest level ever recorded with 1.25 million workers.
Indeed, the latest US Bureau of Labor statistics, indicate a 0.6% increase (seasonally adjusted) in warehousing employment from November to December and an 8.7% increase from December 2019. Year-to-date, warehousing employment increased 2.2% from 2019. However, compared to 2017 data, warehousing employment has increased 18.3%.
E-Commerce Growth is Key Driver
This growth in warehousing employment is clearly due to the rise in e-commerce which saw a 23.9% in sales during the 2020 holiday season to $209 billion. However, the average hourly rate of warehouse workers slipped in November to $21.02 an hour, the lowest reading since March. Average weekly hours worked ticked upwards to 42.7 hours in November, up from 41.4 hours in October.
According to Randstad, businesses may need to increase salaries by as much as 3.5% to compete for talent for high-demand roles. Amazon and a host of other employers who depend on warehouse workers have increased hiring efforts and raised pay. Amazon hired 427,300 employees between January and October, and now employs more than 1.2 million people globally. As for pay, in 2018, Amazon raised its starting pay to $15.00 per hour.
The COVID-19 pandemic raised an awareness of warehouse workers particularly those in e-commerce focused facilities. Considered essential, workers received various types of bonuses, temporary pay increases and other short-term benefits to remain in positions. Warehouses often lacked social distancing capabilities due to the layout of the facility and in some cases poor handling on the part of the company to provide adequate supplies for their employees such as masks and hand sanitizer.
E-commerce depends on speed and thus pressure is intense on warehouse workers to pick, pack and ship out items in a timely and efficient manner.
In a recently opened Amazon facility located in Bessemer, Alabama, 6,000 workers were granted approval by the National Labor Relations Board to vote in February for union representation.
A number of Amazon’s facilities in Europe are unionized but none so far in the States. According to NPR, the last vote on unionization at the company in the U.S. happened in 2014, when a small group of maintenance and repair techs at a Delaware warehouse voted against joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
A potential vote to unionize at one Amazon facility could have a domino effect on Amazon’s other facilities in the US as well as on other e-commerce facilities. What it would mean for shippers is unknown of course. But it is important for businesses to not just talk the talk in terms of recognizing the importance of warehouse workers. Instead, it’s time to walk the walk.