Louisville-area warehouses have huge demand for seasonal workers - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Louisville-area warehouses have huge demand for seasonal workers

Posted: Updated: Oct 18, 2013 05:30 PM EDT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- UPS is offering a semester's tuition for college students. Cafepress is offering free, catered lunches. Amazon is advertising a "new higher pay rate" of up to $11 an hour for its Shepherdsville location – and nearby Best Buy is topping that by 50 cents an hour.

It's all part of the annual competition for seasonal warehouse workers in the greater Louisville area.

Americans are increasingly ordering their holiday gifts online, creating a frantic rush at the dozens of local distributions centers that pack up merchandise and send it off to UPS' Worldport global air hub in Louisville.

"We have attracted of a lot of companies here tied to UPS Worldport, and those companies' shipments are never more acute than they are during the holidays," said Daryl Snyder of Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce.

For a short period between mid-November and Christmas, these distribution centers have huge demand for unskilled workers for $10-an-hour jobs. And they compete for workers even as the metro area unemployment rate remains at 7.4 percent – with about 47,000 unemployed, according to the latest figures from August.

Local companies could hire 10,000 people for the peak period, based on early estimates. Amazon alone plans to hire up to 5,000 between the former Zappos.com warehouses in Shepherdsville and Amazon's new warehouse in Jeffersonville, according to Integrity Staffing Solutions, which is handling the hiring for Amazon.

Several of the companies – almost all of whom do their hiring through temp agencies – have been thinking of new ways to attract and retain seasonal workers.

The Gilt Groupe, which operates a three-year-old distribution center in Shepherdsville for merchandise ordered at gilt.com, has been "kicking around" ideas like retention bonuses and pay boosts based on productivity. Gilt will need about 250 seasonal workers this year, said Chris Halkyard, chief supply chain officer at Gilt's New York City headquarters.

"We want to make an attractive package to keep them so they don't go down the street for 5 cents more," he said. "It was problematic last year."

At the Best Buy Distribution Center in Shepherdsville, "every year it gets more difficult; it's more and more competitive" to recruit seasonal workers, said Jenny Byrd of the York Companies, the staffing agency that handles hiring for Best Buy. This year, 500 workers will be needed, she said.

Byrd said Best Buy's selling points include the chance to stay on the job a month or two longer than most distribution centers and the lack of a required high school diploma or GED.

The increased competition has led to some pay increases for seasonal warehouse workers, though the current range of about $9 to $11 an hour is still well below the metro area's median wage of $15.84, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Amazon is paying up to $11 an hour in Shepherdsville and up to $12 in Jeffersonville. Megan Couch of Integrity Staffing couldn't say what Amazon paid last year, but she noted that fulltime seasonal workers can get a "limited medical (health) plan" after only eight hours on the job.

Cafepress, which makes and ships customized gifts like t-shirts and coffee mugs from its distribution center in Jefferson Riverport, offers up to $15 an hour for seasonal employees who have the skills to be "team leaders" in minor supervisory roles, said Bob Marino, CEO of the Louisville-based company. Seasonal jobs typically pay about $10 to $10.50 an hour at Cafepress, which will need 1,200 to 1,300 workers or the equivalent of 750 to 800 additional fulltime jobs, Marino said.

Last year, the Best Buy distribution center raised its pay from a flat $10 to $11 or $11.50, depending on the shift, and plans to keep those rates this year. "That really seemed to help a lot" with attracting workers, Byrd said. She said it's the highest seasonal pay available in Shepherdsville.

In addition to hourly pay starting at $8.50 for package handlers, UPS is willing to pay a semester's tuition for any University of Louisville or Jefferson Community & Technical College student who works on the "day sort" (10 am to 3pm) starting at least by Oct. 31 and through Dec. 31.

UPS spokesman Jeff Wafford said the $8.50 starting pay is negotiated with the air hub's union; the company could not raise it for seasonal workers without raising it for permanent employees. That led to the tuition reimbursement idea, he said.

"What we looked at was other ways we could bring those seasonal employees on," he said.

UPS is also offering seasonal workers a retention bonus of up to $400 (the longer the employee stays, the more the bonus).

One reason warehouses might have trouble retaining workers is that the jobs are lot more physically demanding than other seasonal work, such as folding shirts or spraying cologne in a department store.

Integrity's ad for the Amazon jobs in Shepherdsville says employees must be able to lift up to 49 pounds "without reasonable accommodation"; to stand or walk for 10 to 12 hours; to "frequently push, pull, squat, bend, and reach" and to "continuously climb and descend stairs."

At Ebay Enterprise (formerly GSI Commerce) in Shepherdsville, the work involves "extended periods of standing, walking, bending, kneeling, and reaching," according to Adecco Staffing's ad.

It's also fast-paced. During last year's peak season, Cafepress received up to 200,000 orders a day to process in its Riverport plant, Marino said.

Still, the company has a family-oriented culture that allows employees to go off and deal with issues such as sick children at any time, even if some seasonal workers might abuse the privilege, Marino said. That's why seasonal employees often end up staying on in permanent roles, he said.

"Everyone you see working here started as a temp-to-hire, including the people who manage their shifts," he said.

Copyright 2013 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

Links to seasonal jobs opportunities:

UPS in Louisville: http://www.upsjobs.com

Amazon in Shepherdsville, Ky.: http://jobs.integritystaffing.com/job/Shepherdsville-Warehouse-Jobs-Shepherdsville-KY-Seasonal-Job-Up-to-%249_75hr-KY-40165/2780619/

Amazon in Jeffersonville, Ind.: http://jobs.integritystaffing.com/job/Jeffersonville-Warehouse-Jobs-Jeffersonville-IN-Up-to-11_00hr_-IN-47130/2141605/

Ebay Enterprise in Shepherdsville, Ky.: http://www.adeccousa.com/jobs/transportation-warehousing/us_en_2_011897_346034/warehouse-order-picker-packer-entry-level-job-in-shepherdsville-ky

Ebay Enterprise in Louisville (Riverport): http://www.adeccousa.com/jobs/transportation-warehousing/us_en_2_011897_346030/warehouse-order-picker-packer-entry-level-job-in-louisville-ky

Best Buy in Shepherdsville, Ky.: http://www.york-companies.com/current-jobs/best-buy-seasonal-positions-available-shepherdsville-ky---115340

Cafepress in Louisville (Riverport): Apply at Delta Direct Staffing, 5338 S. Third St. #104

Fanatics in Louisville: http://www.kellyservices.us/US/Kelly-Fanatics/

Rue La La in Shepherdsville, Ky.: http://www.aplitrak.com/?adid=bXB1czU1MTk3LjA1MDEwLjE3NjBAbWFucG93ZXJkb25hLmFwbGl0cmFrLmNvbQ&utm_source=Indeed&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=Indeed

Gilt in Shepherdsville, Ky.: http://www.gilt.com/careers or in person at 3208 East Blue Lick Road 

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