On Valentine’s Day a group of West Side residents and elected officials including Representative Delia Ramirez, State Representative and Chicago mayoral candidate Kam Buckner, and others gathered on the corner of Division and Kostner to show their love for their neighbors and called for more jobs in West Humboldt Park.
“Love is a two way thing,” said Anthony Stewart, a member of Black Workers Matter. “It can’t just be one side giving and the other side taking. … Amazon may be big, but it still needs to be held responsible.”
The Amazon warehouse they were standing in front of had been sitting vacant for the past several months with little to no employees present. However, over the past two weeks construction crews have been seen outside the premises with renewed activity.
This comes after community groups in the neighborhood such as Black Workers Matter, Get To Work, the Teamsters, and more called on both Amazon and Alderperson Emma Mitts for more transparency around when the warehouse would open and how many local jobs would be created.
When the facility was originally announced in September 2021, Amazon had said the warehouse would open by the end of 2022. However the date came and went and instead of jobs, the only thing the surrounding community got was an empty warehouse that sat in a federal economic opportunity zone collecting tax breaks.
Activists accused the company of not following through on its promises of creating 500 jobs, with 50 of those jobs being promised to participants of Get To Work’s job placement program which assists West Side residents find work.
After community groups held a press conference in front of the warehouse on Jan. 19 and publicly raised questions regarding its delay, they say they’ve seen momentum grow to get the warehouse open sooner. The first sign was given by statements from Mitts to reporters after the January press conference where said residents could “rest assured” that the facility would open in 2023 and that she supported jobs for local residents.
Another indication that the warehouse may be opening were sights of construction crews and other personnel engaging in various activities at the warehouse.
However, West Side activists aren’t taking these signs for granted and are asking for commitments from Amazon in writing. In a letter sent to Mitts on Jan. 26, Black Workers Matter and Get To Work asked her to urge Amazon to commit to opening the facility in 2023, provide the 500 jobs originally promised with 50 percent of the workforce to be West Side residents, and to honor its promise of collaborating with Get To Work to hire a minimum of 50 of their clients.
They haven’t heard back yet.
“We didn’t get anything. No response,” said Yvette McCallum, a member of Black Workers Matter. “There’s been reactions, we have a little more sweet talk flirting. But nobody has shown enough respect to tell us, direct or indirect, what’s going on.”
“Amazon has continually indicated that it is scheduled to open here during 2023 and will institute local community hiring opportunities,” Alderperson Mitts said in a statement.
Amazon did not immediately respond to request for comment.