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Amazon is eliminating a Seattle team that supported the company’s contract-delivery drivers and moving the jobs to Phoenix, where salaries start at about 75 percent of Seattle’s minimum wage.
About 130 people worked in the retailer’s Seattle central operations center, routing the drivers who deliver groceries and other items, according to a member of that team. Earlier this year, the group was informed the work was moving to Arizona by the end of June.
“They just made this blanket announcement that everybody was getting laid off, but that they were going to try to find [other] jobs for everybody,” the employee said.
An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed the move, adding that Amazon’s growing Arizona unit is home to other centralized operations teams and has more space to grow.
The closure comes as debate rages in Seattle about a head tax on large employers, aimed at funding affordable housing and homelessness services, that the city council passed this month. Amazon, which strongly opposed the measure, is financially backing an effort to repeal it, and says what it calls a hostile business climate in Seattle has caused executives to question Amazon’s growth in the city.
The Amazon spokeswoman said, however, that relocation of the central operations center was a business decision unrelated to the head tax. She declined to comment on how many jobs were being eliminated in Seattle, or what portion of those workers had found other Amazon jobs. Earlier this year, Amazon conducted layoffs at its Seattle headquarters, parting with several hundred employees.
Salaries at the dispatch center in Seattle, based in Amazon’s South Lake Union headquarters, started at $15.45 an hour, the employee said. An Amazon job listing for an identical role in Phoenix starts at $11.25 an hour.
Many workers at the Seattle center were part-time employees, capped at 30 hours a week, the employee said. Managers and more senior employees worked full-time.
“I’d say a majority are not interested in transferring to Phoenix,” the employee said. “They’re students, or they’ve got homes here. They are not interested in leaving town for an Amazon part-time job.”
The Seattle center supported Amazon’s range of delivery services — including Prime Now, Amazon Restaurants, and Amazon Fresh businesses — across the Western U.S. A similar facility in Orlando, Fla., handles other markets.
The Phoenix facility handles that same work, plus the logistics of deliveries from Whole Foods Market locations.
The Seattle center employee suspected Amazon was trying to cut its costs by moving relatively portable jobs outside of the city center. “All [the job] takes is a telephone connection and an internet connection and you’re up and running.”
On a recent shift, movers came in. “They were packing up about 30 workstations, and shipping them all to Phoenix.”