by Jason Conder
Amazon’s recent announcement that the company will be scaling back its drug screening policy is making news and making waves nationally. Being one of the most valuable brands on the planet and the second largest employer in the US gives Amazon a tremendous amount of leverage in the fight for fairer and more inclusive hiring practices. Their position in the market affords them the ability to influence not only public policy on a national scale, but also the business practices within the private sector. At face value, Amazon’s announcement is a big step toward eliminating what amounts to an unnecessary and discriminatory barrier to employment and opportunity.
Amazon’s new policy has the potential to greatly affect us here in the Bluegrass State. According to the Cabinet for Economic Development, as of 2017, Amazon ranked “…fifth in the state with 7,232 full-time jobs in its list of Kentucky’s largest manufacturing, service and technology firms...” Already one of the largest employers in the state, Amazon is continually expanding. A new fulfillment center in Fayette County, for example, is currently in the works. The retail giant’s relaxation of their pre-employment screening policy will expand the opportunity to earn above average wages to Kentuckians who would have previously been needlessly excluded from the labor pool.
The impact of the policy adjustment is not limited to Amazon itself. By removing themselves from the private life of current and potential employees, Amazon immediately becomes more attractive to job seekers. In order to compete for labor, other companies will need to follow suit or risk struggling to fill open positions or retain their current staff. Amazon’s decision will likely impact the hiring practices of no less than a dozen fulfillment centers in the Shepherdsville area alone. At a time when companies are already lamenting a lack of labor participation, competition between firms is heating up. And Amazon just added fuel to the fire.
The fact of the matter is that KY has, for too long, lagged behind nearly every other state in terms of employment and poverty rates. It is ludicrous for KY firms to continue to exclude qualified candidates from opportunities based on what they do in their own time and in the privacy of their own homes. Eliminating the discriminatory practice of pre-employment screening for cannabis is good for business, good for workers, and good for Kentucky. Amazon knows this. And with a goliath like them leading the way, other firms are sure to follow.
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