Amazon hiring additional 75,000 employees

SEATTLE — Unemployment numbers are reaching new heights. But now Amazon is adding 75,000 workers to meet demand nationwide.

But some are asking what's the cost to those who apply?

The 75,000 additional Amazon jobs are definitely needed.

After all, half-a-million people in this state alone have filed unemployment claims since last month.

But activists say these essential new employees need to be safe at work, too.

The message from Amazon is clear: if you want to work, the tech giant has work you can do: picking, packing, and shipping customer orders and delivering packages from delivery stations to meet the rising demand.

"It makes sense that they are hiring," said Rachel Lauter, executive director of Working Washington. "There's lots of folks who don't want to risk going outside right now."

Lauter says Amazon's jobs are good for the nation's devastated job market.

"I think the real question is what kind of jobs are these?" she asked. "Are they temporary jobs? Are they gig jobs? Do they pay a living wage? And do they come with essential protections? Hazard pay? Sick pay? Safety supplies? To us that's the critical question."

Indeed, some Amazon workers staged protests over what they said were unsafe working conditions. A handful of them have been fired; the company says for other reasons.

But last week, Amazon sent out a video touting the more than 150 process changes to ensure safety, even bringing out CEO Jeff Bezos at a Texas warehouse to drive home the point.

Dr. Albert Erisman, an Executive-in-Residence emeritus at Seattle Pacific University and business ethics experts, says the pandemic has shown just whose work is essential.

"And that includes people like janitors and nurses and delivery people," says Erisman. "And my hope is what will come out of this is we will carry that on and recognize the value and importance of everybody's work."

Amazon says the people filling these jobs are out-of-work bartenders, servers, flight attendants, teachers, even retirees who want something to do. They are people who, presumably, will return to their old jobs, if or when they can.

No one has said how many Amazon jobs will go to people in this state. More than 3,000 Washingtonians got jobs in the first round of hiring.