IWLA California Chapter Member Defends Warehouse Jobs in Inland Empire

Riverside City Panel

A panel of experts gathered on Feb. 27, 2014 for the University of California Riverside Randall Lewis Seminar Series, “Warehouse Work: Road to the Middle Class or Economic Uncertainty.” Photo credit: CSSD, UCR

IWLA California Chapter member and chairman of the Inland Empire Logistics Council, B.J. Patterson, CEO and president of Pacific Mountain Logistics, LLC, recently spoke on behalf of the warehousing and logistics industry on the benefits of warehousing jobs in the region.

The Feb. 27, 2014, event, part of the University of California Riverside Randall Lewis Seminar Series, “Warehouse Work: Road to the Middle Class or Economic Uncertainty,” included a panel of experts.

Joined by fellow pro-business advocate and economist John Husing, vice president of Economics & Politics, Inc., Patterson outlined trends and growth areas of the logistics industry in the last 20 years, emphasizing e-commerce as the latest growth factor.

Patterson explained how the online retailing boom shifts retail workers to logistics workers as the economy improves. One outcome related to the shift in online purchasing is the adoption of new technologies in the warehouse that require highly trained supply-chain technicians to operate.

Patterson describes e-commerce fulfillment warehouses as high-paced, technologically advanced environments with GPS, RFID, high-speed sorting, sensors and robotics.

Patterson cites another positive trend: jobs. Despite the blue-collar perception of warehouse jobs, Patterson explained that skilled logistics workers who can adapt to new technologies and multi-task are in high demand, and can earn on average $46,665 annually with no college degree.

“And the upward career ladders are open to those who work at it,” Patterson says. Given the right circumstances, Patterson estimates that someone could earn up to $100,000 within 10 years.

Other panelists who represented union interests pointed to recent examples of poor job conditions in Inland Empire warehouses.

“They’re bringing up two cases of bad conditions. It’s a statistical anomaly. They’re focusing on a few bad apples and leaving out the big picture,” Patterson says.

One of the big-picture issues is lack of enforcement of labor regulations. “It puts the good guys at a competitive disadvantage if no one is there to enforce the rules that we have,” he says. “When the consequences are hit and miss, you end up with a few guys who do the wrong thing, and it builds the case against all of us.”

The negativity surrounding seasonal labor is another undeserved perception when comparing warehouse jobs with other highly seasonal jobs such as retailing, construction, food service, tourism, hospitality, etc.

Amid significant development and construction of warehouses in areas surrounding Riverside City, Patterson says the dialogue between logistics owners and and those representing other segment of the industry in California will continue as the industry begins to lift the region out of poverty.

“It furthers the message that manufacturing is not coming back. Logistics is the new industry in the Inland Empire. We need to learn to work together with our opponents, to dispel the myths and strengthen the economy,” Patterson says.

Other panelists: Juan D. De Lara, assistant professor, American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California; Sheherya Kaoosji, executive director, Warehouse Workers Resource Center. Listen to an audio recording of the panel here.

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