Cedar-Riverside workers aim to expand Amazon partnership

The event focused helping local workers establish direct contracts with Amazon, which officials say will give employees more independence.

Hundreds of people attended Ahlan Amazon, an event held April 30 at Cedar-Riverside's Brian Coyle Center. Many meeting attendees were there to network with Amazon representatives and expand their partnership with the tech giant.

Photo by James Netz

Hundreds of people attended Ahlan Amazon, an event held April 30 at Cedar-Riverside’s Brian Coyle Center. Many meeting attendees were there to network with Amazon representatives and expand their partnership with the tech giant.

Emma Dill

Cedar-Riverside community members met with Amazon representatives Tuesday with hopes of expanding the neighborhood’s relationship with the tech giant.

Although Amazon has hosted previous events in Cedar-Riverside, this event, called Ahlan Amazon, was the first to focus solely on transportation and logistics jobs. Many people in the East African community already work for Amazon as subcontractors with outside companies, driving trucks and delivering packages. But some workers are pushing for direct contracts with Amazon.

Direct contracts with Amazon cut out the “middleman” and give East African workers more independence, said Ward 6 Minneapolis City Council member Abdi Warsame.

“Getting a sub-contract is not good for the community, right? You do all the work and somebody else is taking some of the money. So they’re interested in getting direct logistics contracts, direct transportation contracts from Amazon,” Warsame said. “For me, cutting out the middleman is very important because it gives benefit, it gives value to the community.”

Jobs in transportation and logistics offer workers independence and the chance to become entrepreneurs, which makes them popular in the community, said Saeed Bihi, manager of the Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center. 

“People of my community like independence and they found that this is a niche that they can get their own independence and can also create small business ownership opportunities,” Bihi said.

The event also brought together local transportation companies who are looking for contractors. 

Nimo Farah attended the event to represent Minneapolis-based transportation company Time Express. Time Express currently employs three drivers but is looking to expand. The company also aims to encourage women to become drivers.

“A huge part of [the event] is also to make information more accessible so that people know these opportunities exist,” Farah said. 

Amazon spokesperson Amanda Ip said the event aimed to inform current and potential workers about Amazon’s range of job offerings.

“Here today, our goal is to really introduce the East African community to a wide variety of job opportunities in the rapidly growing field of transportation and logistics,” Ip said.

Hundreds of community members attended the event, surpassing turnout at previous Amazon events, Bihi said. 

“I wasn’t expecting this large of a crowd,” he said. “It shows you how this community [has] embraced transportation and how they are eager to find ways to have a direct contract.”

A broader dialogue is needed between Amazon and Minneapolis’s East African community beyond this event, Warsame said.

“We want it to be something substantial,” Warsame said. “We have the drivers. We have the manpower. We have the knowledge. We have the know-how. The community has met all the requirements. What they need is a partner in Amazon and that’s what we’re looking forward to having.”