Labor leaders and Democrats decry Amazon for not using local contractors to build fulfillment center | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Labor leaders and Democrats decry Amazon for not using local contractors to build fulfillment center

Back in July, the announcement that Amazon would be opening up a fulfillment center in Findlay Township was received well by just about everyone, and local leaders were excited to announce the 800 jobs the center would bring.

But labor leaders are now raising concerns about the jobs for the people constructing the Amazon facility.

Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council President Darrin Kelly issued a searing statement yesterday alleging that Amazon was using out-of-state contractors to do work that local labor unions could do.

“Pennsylvania’s workforce is second to none,” said Kelly. "It is appalling to find out that Amazon is rejecting our workers and bringing in multiple out-of-state contractors to build its new facility in Findlay.”

Kelly accused Amazon of bringing in “cheaper labor from out of state,” and said he wished the large tech company would have communicated more with local officials and labor leaders before starting construction.

“This council has always worked with and respected members of the business community, but Amazon undercut us from the beginning,” said Kelly. “That’s not how we do things in Western Pennsylvania. If you want to come here and do business, you sit at the table with us.”

Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty disagreed with Kelly’s assessment. She said both union and non-union local subcontractors were given an opportunity to bid for work on the site, and eight contractors from Pennsylvania and Ohio were currently under contract.

“Amazon is proud to support the creation of job opportunities for area residents before our new fulfillment center in Findlay Township even opens,” said Lighty. “Amazon, local Pittsburgh company and property owner Chapman Properties, and the project developer, Hillwood Properties, are currently working with various local construction crews from Pittsburgh and across Western Pennsylvania, as well as across the state, for our future fulfillment center project.”

Kelly called Amazon’s statement “vague and misleading,” and said it doesn’t “change the fact that the vast majority of this work is being done by multiple out-of-state contractors."

Warehouse projects typically require dozens of individual contractors, and the scope of the work varies widely. For example, steel contractors costs much more than contractors that install fire-safety sprinkler systems.

Lighty directed City Paper to Hillwood Properties for further details on contractors. Hillwood didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Kelly said he appreciated Gov. Tom Wolf and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald for their work in helping to secure the fulfillment center site. But he urged local elected officials to stand with the labor council.

Many have so far, including Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-Braddock), U.S. Reps Mike Doyle (D-Forest Hills) and Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon), and state Sens Lindsey Williams (D-West View) and Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills).

Incoming Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam (D-Ross) went even further and criticized the financial incentives given out to Amazon for this site, noting that Amazon doesn’t even collect the Allegheny County sales tax that is used to fund parks, libraries, and distressed municipalities. She specifically called out Fitzgerald for not securing any concrete agreements that Amazon use local labor in building its facilities in the county. The Amazon fulfillment center receive $1.6 million from the state.

Amie Downs, spokesperson for Fitzgerald, told WESA that the county hoped to work out the concerns with Amazon, but declined comment on incentives.