CAMPBELLSVILLE, K.Y. — In the run-up to Christmas, Amazon has hired 120,000 seasonal employees to sort, pack and ship millions of orders.
And a small percentage of those workers are unlike the others.
It’s 4 a.m. in Campbellsville, Kentucky, and the night shift is heading home from Amazon’s fulfillment center here.
Home is across the street, in an RV park.
“And how old are you guys?” a reporter asked.
“How old are we?” Jim said.
“I think we’re 67,” Rhonda said laughing.
Amazon’s fulfillment centers will ship an estimated $50 billion in goods this holiday season. The company needs lots of seasonal workers.
Enter CamperForce: a group of nomadic retirees who cluster their mobile homes near certain Amazon warehouses each fall.
Ken Keranen is 72 and used to work in real estate.
“Wha-chu! Down the chute, like Lucy at the chocolate factory,” Keranen said. “I wanted to see how that system worked. I thought it would be more robotic and I didn’t know it would be human robots.”
CamperForce is being used at four fulfillment centers across the country. The job includes an RV site and starts at $10.75 an hour, enough to fund a nomad’s travels, though the work isn’t easy.
“The woman who was right here, in this spot, she couldn’t take it,” Keranen said. “She just pulled out and said, I’m bored to death and hurting all over.”
But Jim Fitzpatrick, 62, retired Air Force, doesn’t mind the 13 miles of walking in a typical 10-hour shift.
“I’ve heard some people describe it as a weight loss regime,” a reporter said.
“You know it can be. As of this morning, I’ve lost 53 pounds,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Wait, you’ve lost 53 pounds?” the reporter asked.
“I have, I have,” Fitzpatrick said.
“It’s definitely a lot of physical work.”
Not everyone here is supplementing their retirement.
“So this is your whole life,” a reporter asked.
“This is my whole life,” Dena Nebergall said.
Nebergall, 36, made this minivan her home when rent became hard to afford.
“Just basic living expenses was taking everything and not able to save up and get ahead to dreams of the future, just basically surviving,” Nebergall said.
Nebergall said she’s thankful for the chance to get ahead, but doesn’t plan to come back next year.