For the past several months residents of Chicago’s West Side have driven and walked past a massive 140,000 square foot warehouse on the corner of Division and Kostner wondering when the Amazon facility would open and begin offering employment to folks in the neighborhood.
When the project was first announced in 2021, Amazon promised that the warehouse would open in 2022 and create nearly 500 jobs. However, that deadline has come and passed as the building sits in a federal economic opportunity zone that makes it eligible for tax breaks. The project has been supported by Alderperson Emma Mitts, whose 37th Ward includes the warehouse.
On Thursday, Jan. 19 community members with groups like Black Workers Matter, Get To Work, Teamsters, and Chicago mayoral candidate Brandon Johnson gathered in front of the building demanding answers to the promises that the company made.
In a statement Amazon said the facility will now open sometime in 2023 citing a variety of reasons from supply chain concerns to business reasons and more.
Yvette McCallum, a member of Black Workers Matter, lives just down the block from the Amazon facility. She said when she heard it was opening she was excited about the opportunity to have a job so close to her home.
“And now they’re saying that it’s not going to open. So what are we going to do about that?” McCallum said. “We want some answers. We want Amazon to be accountable.”
Edie Jacobs is the CEO of Get To Work, a job placement services organization on the West Side. According to her, in May 2022 Amazon had promised that 50 jobs at the warehouse would be local hires through Get To Work.
“When Amazon did not follow through on their commitment, this raised a red flag,” Jacobs said.
Activists also claim the company has a burdensome application process that makes it difficult for locals to even apply for jobs at surrounding warehouses in places like Cicero and Melrose Park. According to them all interviews are conducted in Skokie, which makes it difficult for West Side residents to even complete the application process due to the distance.
In a statement to ABC7 Ald. Mitts said she “continues to be staunchly supportive of the forthcoming Amazon facility … Rest assured that this Amazon distribution center is scheduled to open during 2023.”
However, organizers with Black Workers Matter are not convinced. In a letter to her office after the press conference they wrote, “we can’t ‘rest assured’ of anything with this Amazon facility, given the non-transparency, lack of information and broken promises around this development by Amazon and city officials.”
Local residents have called on the company to sign a community benefits agreement, but the company has refused. They are also demanding that if the company does not open the facility that they give the facility to the Chicago Park District to run youth programming and offer mental health services.