Amazon to hire 5,000 at warehouses -- many in California

Published: Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jul. 30, 2013 - 6:55 am has gone from fervent tax avoider, ready to go to war with California over the issue, to one of the state's most aggressive job creators.

The Internet merchant said Monday it's hiring 5,000 workers at warehouses around the country. Much of the hiring is likely to take place in California, where the company is building two warehouses in the San Joaquin Valley to go with its recently opened facility in San Bernardino.

All told, Amazon is increasing its nationwide warehouse employment by 25 percent – a testament to the retailer's recent focus on building warehouses near population centers. The goal is to dramatically shrink delivery times, especially to frequent buyers.

The company didn't say how many jobs would be added at each of the 17 distribution centers where it's hiring, or how quickly.

Local officials were scrambling to find out, too. In Patterson, where an Amazon warehouse is opening in October, City Manager Rod Butler said Monday that the company won't give specifics on hiring.

"All they continue to say is, 'hundreds of full-time positions,' " Butler said.

Amazon is also opening in Tracy this fall. The first California warehouse opened last fall in San Bernardino.

Amazon used to be wary of building warehouses in populous states like California. Having a physical location in California would allow the state to begin charging sales tax to Amazon's California customers – something the company desperately wanted to avoid. That's the reason Amazon chose Seattle instead of the Bay Area when selecting its headquarters in the 1990s.

When Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in 2011 forcing e-commerce companies to collect California sales tax – regardless of whether they had a warehouse or other physical site in the state – it triggered an all-out rebellion from Amazon.

First, the company fired thousands of California "affiliates" – small businesses and nonprofits that earn fees by referring people to Amazon. Then, the company launched a referendum drive to overturn the law.

The showdown ended in compromise. Amazon got a year's grace period on collecting the tax. In return, the company rehired its affiliates, dropped the referendum and unofficially pledged to eventually bring 10,000 jobs to California. It's unclear how close Amazon is to that goal.

Amazon cut similar deals with at least seven other states in the past two years – giving in on the sales tax issue in order to build warehouses near big markets in Texas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

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