WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — West Humboldt Park neighbors are frustrated at the delayed opening of an Amazon distribution center, saying if the space isn’t going to be used to create local jobs it could benefit the community in other ways.
Teamsters Local 705 and Black Workers Matter members and officials called on Amazon to be more transparent about the future of the facility, 1260 N. Kostner Ave., during a Thursday news conference. The city signed off on Amazon creating a large distribution center there in 2020, and Amazon promised it’d create 500 jobs — but it’s still vacant.
Brandon Johnson, a Cook County commissioner who’s also running for mayor, said the jobs would be crucial to the community, helping fight poverty and violence in the area.
“Anything short of giving an opportunity to working people is unacceptable,” Johnson said at the news conference. “This is a multibillion-dollar corporation that is refusing to share in its wealth, wealth that the city of Chicago is bringing [to them].”
Amazon spokesperson Steve Kelly said the center is slated to open sometime this year.
“We’re thankful to be part of the communities across Chicagoland, including in West Humboldt Park,” Kelly said in a statement. “Construction is ongoing at this facility and we plan to launch later this year. We look forward to working with local community organizations regarding employment opportunities and community initiatives.”
Amazon bought the property from Allied Metal in June 2021 for $30 million. Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said the facility would give a boost to the community, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But neighbors said they don’t know why the facility hasn’t opened and hired more locals.
Mitts said in a statement opening the facility this year is still a major priority. The pandemic led to various issues and delays, such as restrictions on large-scale renovation schedules and securing city building permits, she said.
“The Alderman continues to be staunchly supportive of the forthcoming Amazon facility and the good jobs and economic opportunity it will bring to West Humboldt Park,” her office said in a statement. “Notably the Alderman is in collaborative communication with their regional policy and development teams regarding the process moving forward.”
Neighbors’ questions come as Amazon and other tech giants are slashing their workforces, with Amazon cutting about 18,000 workers since November. Amazon has also delayed or closed several facilities throughout Illinois in recent months.
Edie Jacobs, founder of job placement program Get To Work, said Amazon coordinated with her to hire 50 people she had found jobs for — but only for its suburban Skokie facility. The Skokie facility is 30 minutes away from West Humboldt Park and is largely inaccessible to people relying on public transportation.
Jacobs said the closed facility is wasting a valuable resource to the community, as it could be used for a recreation center or a mental health facility.
“We are not going to take this lying down,” Jacobs said at the news conference. “I want these people to have jobs so that people can take care of their families.”
Black Workers Matter organizers Anthony Stewart and Dan Giloth said the community has been largely left in the dark surrounding the deal made by the city and plans for the facility.
“This mega-corporation sneaks their into communities, tries to exploit the working class,” said a Teamsters organizer. “But we’re not going to let them. We’re not going to decide when they feel like showing up.”
Black Workers Matter has pushed for Amazon to provide better protections and pay at the facility once it does open, demanding politicians support a $28.50 minimum wage, require local hiring and refuse donations from Amazon.
Last year, an Amazon spokesperson said the company will offer jobs with immediate health care, parental leave and tuition support to be a good partner with the community.
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