Warehouse workers are finally seeing meaningful pay increases, but many are still forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet

Scott Olson/Getty ImagesWarehouse workers are finally being paid more.
  • Pay for warehouse workers is going up, after years of no increases.
  • The majority of warehouse associates can expect to make at least $US12 an hour, according to a recent study.
  • But in many areas, a warehouse worker’s salary does not meet the standard for a living wage.

Foster Hines, who has been a warehouse worker for 40 years, knows there’s a shortage of warehouse workers. More and more warehouses have been opening up near his home of Denver, Colorado.

But the starting pay at these jobs seems low to him – $US12 an hour. “Warehouse work is not easy, by no means, but they continue to keep those wages low,” Hines told Business Insider.

While $US12 per hour might seem untenable for Hines, who is a Teamsters Union Member and can earn up to $US25 an hour with benefits, it’s actually a huge step up for the typical warehouse worker.

Pay for warehouse employees didn’t budge for around 12 years, said Brian Devine, senior vice president of staffing services firm ProLogistix. The pay wasn’t increasing for inflation, either.

“Year after year, they kept basically making less money as their standard of living became more expensive,” Devine told Business Insider.

Around 2014, when the labour market started to tighten following the recession, wages began to see an upward tick. Now, according to a recent ProLogistix survey of nearly 16,000 warehouse employees, the majority of warehouse workers are being paid $US12 an hour or more. In 2014, just 26% of warehouse workers were being paid that amount.

“There are more and more companies who have more and more distribution centres, and therefore there’s a greater need for talent in that space,” Devine said. “The combination of low unemployment rates and high demand for labour has driven up pay rates.

“The market is correcting wages that should have been going up the whole time,” Devine added.

One way they’re getting those raises is by moving to new jobs, which 61% said they did in the past year. Nearly a third of workers who said they left their last job did so because they got a raise of $US2 or more, according to the study.

But conditions and pay both have serious gains to make. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, living wage in the Denver area, where Hines lives, is $US13 to support one adult. So, a warehouse worker in that area earning $US12 an hour is still unable to afford housing, medical care, transportation, and other essentials, unless he or she works an additional job.

And many do. Nearly half of warehouse workers have a second job in order to make ends meet, according to the survey. Of those with a second job, 40% work 31 hours or more at that second job in addition to their full-time work.

A standard 40-hour workweek isn’t feasible for most low-wage workers. To afford a one-bedroom rental home at minimum wage, one must work 109 hours a week in Virginia, 101 hours in New York, or 82 in Texas.

While jobs in sectors like warehousing may be seen as temporary, warehousing can actually be a long-term career – if properly compensated.

Hines has worked at the grocery section of a Safeway warehouse for 40 years. At 66 years old, he’s now eligible for retirement with a pension and Social Security benefits.

“When I started working here, I thought, ’10 years and that will be it,'” Hines said. “But it provided a good living. I raised my kids, I have two daughters. It provided a good sustainable wage.”

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