Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Meet the Camperforce, Amazon's Nomadic Retiree Army"

Wired:

Chuck still remembers the call from Wells Fargo that brought the 2008 financial crisis crashing down on his head. He had invested his $250,000 nest egg in a fund that supposedly guaranteed him $4,000 a month to live on. “You have no more money,” he recalls his banker saying flatly.

...

In the mid-2000s, Amazon had a problem. Every year, the company scrambled to find temporary workers during the peak months of hectic commerce leading up to Christmas. In some areas of the country, reliable on-demand labor was so hard to come by that it resorted to busing in workers from three to five hours away. Then, in 2008, a staffing agency came up with something new: inviting a team of migrant RVers to work at the facility in Coffeyville, Kansas.

Pleased with the results, Amazon brought in more RVers the following year, expanding the program to warehouses in Campbellsville, Kentucky, and Fernley, Nevada. Amazon gave the new initiative a name—Camper­Force—and a logo: the silhouette of an RV in motion, bearing the corporation’s “smile” logo.

Many of the workers who joined Camper­Force were around traditional retirement age, in their sixties or even seventies. They were glad to have a job, even if it involved walking as many as 15 miles a day on the concrete floor of a warehouse. From a hiring perspective, the RVers were a dream labor force. They showed up on demand and dispersed just before Christmas in what the company cheerfully called a “taillight parade.” They asked for little in the way of benefits or protections. And though warehouse jobs were physically taxing—not an obvious fit for older bodies—recruiters came to see Camper­Force workers’ maturity as an asset. These were diligent, responsible employees. Their attendance rates were excellent.