Thousands of elderly workers living in mobile homes across the US, Evan Blake reported, “have begun grueling, months-long temporary jobs at Amazon facilities as part of the company’s ‘CamperForce’ program.” Launched in 2008, CamperForce targets elderly migrant workers who have “been forced to live in mobile homes after losing their homes, retirement and life savings in the 2008 housing crisis and ensuing economic recession,” Blake wrote.
Although Amazon promotes the program’s wages (up to $11.50 an hour), potential paid time off, and benefits, CamperForce workers have begun to speak up about the conditions in which they work and the failings of Amazon’s promises. Some CamperForce workers reported walking thirteen miles during one shift and horrible campsite conditions.
Jessica Bruder, the author of Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, spoke with Chuck and Barb Stout about their exhausting labor as CamperForce workers. The Stouts and their coworkers made references to the campsites feeling like Hoovervilles from the Great Depression era, because so many of the people living there are struggling financially due to the devastating, long-term consequences of recession. The 2008 recession caused many people to lose their retirement funds, which led to an increase in elders taking on part-time, full-time, and seasonal jobs to help pay the bills. The Stout’s stories of work-related injuries and exhaustion from long shifts are echoed by other CamperForce employees.
Amazon has refused to comment on the Stout’s accusations and very few corporate news outlets have covered the story of Amazon’s CamperForce or the criticisms of CamperForce workers. Instead, what corporate coverage there is has tended to focus on the program’s recruiters and information on CamperForce locations and events.
Evan Blake, “Amazon’s CamperForce Program Exploits Elderly Workers,” World Socialist Web Site, November 6, 2017, http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/06/camp-n06.html.
Jessica Bruder, “Meet the CamperForce, Amazon’s Nomadic Retiree Army,” Wired, September 14, 2017, https://www.wired.com/story/meet-camperforce-amazons-nomadic-retiree-army/.
Student Researcher: Guadalupe Palomera and Stephanie Rickher (Diablo Valley College)
Faculty Advisor: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)