Landing at the Louisville, KY airport always leaves you with the sense that the city is a lot bigger than it is; in reality, only a small portion of the airport is allocated for civil aviation – most of the space is occupied by United Parcel Service planes. UPS’ Worldport in Louisville is one of the largest distribution centers in the US, employing over 25,000 people, and is a key logistics engine supporting the e-commerce boom. The unemployment rate in the Louisville Metro region has fallen to 3.2% in October of this year, far below its pandemic peak of 16.8% and below the 4.6% national average.
With e-commerce showing no signs of slowing down, UPS has raised wages to attract and retain workers, bringing the hourly pay at Louisville’s Worldport from $16.50 to $20.00 for its daytime sorting operation, and from $18.50 to $21.00 for its nighttime sorting operation. Elsewhere in the country, the base hourly rate for UPS package handlers is $15. According to UPS spokesman Jim Mayer, workers are also getting longer shifts to boost pay. While the day shift typically used to start at around 11:30 a.m. and end in mid-afternoon, it is now common to start shifts closer to 9 a.m. to deal with the larger number of overnight and two-day air service packages.
“It’s working very well,” Tony Georges, UPS Airlines’ vice president for human resources, said of the changes. “We’ve seen improvements in both flow and retention” of workers after raising wages and boosting hours.
In this age of the Great Resignation, the battle for workers has reached the front lines. Louisville-based fast food operator Green District has plans to expand to 30 restaurants by next year, and getting qualified staff is a key component of their expansion plans.
Green District co-founder Chris Furlow says, “We’re fighting for those part-time employees who say, ‘Hey, should I go work for Amazon, should I work at McDonald’s, should I work at Green District, should I work at Kohl’s?”
Hourly employees at Green District earn around $19 an hour including tips, and general managers make a starting salary of $45,000 to $65,000, with the chance to make $5,500 in bonuses each quarter.
Demand for growth in a stable work force has prompted the local chamber of commerce, backed by major local employers, to change its ad campaigns to bring job seekers to Louisville. Previously focused on recruiting professionals and college graduates, the campaigns have shifted gears toward a broader appeal.
“You can have a good life here in our community without a degree,” said Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, chief executive officer of Greater Louisville Inc., the regional chamber of commerce.
Overview by Don Apgar, Director, Merchant Services Advisory Practice at Mercator Advisory Group