May 25, 2012, 4:01 PM

Amazon will install air conditioning in warehouses

Amazon is spending $52 million to add air conditioning to its fulfillment centers. 

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Amazon.com Inc. announced this week that is spending $52 million to install air conditioning in warehouses that don’t already have it. CEO Jeff Bezos confirmed the move at Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday in Seattle.

Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has attracted criticism over complaints that temperatures in some U.S. distribution centers can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Last September, The Morning Call newspaper in Pennsylvania described the hot conditions within an Amazon warehouse in the eastern part of that state that lacked air conditioning.

An Amazon spokeswoman says today the e-retailer has already began installing air conditioning in warehouses; she did not say how many fulfillment centers the effort involved. Amazon operates 69 fulfillment centers worldwide. Amazon operates 39 fulfillment centers in the United States, says Scot Wingo, CEO of e-commerce services provider ChannelAdvisor Corp., whose services include helping retailers sell on such online marketplaces as Amazon and eBay. The e-retailer also is building nine more, he says. 

The shareholder meeting reportedly drew at least 100 protestors who not only dislike Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers, but also the company’s membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative advocacy group. Amazon didn’t say how much it paid to belong to the group, but the company says it will not renew the membership.

“Each year we evaluate all of our association memberships and we’ve decided not to renew our participation in ALEC, in part because of positions that group took on issues unrelated to our business,” the Amazon spokeswoman says.

The June issue of Internet Retailer magazine will include a story about how e-retailers hire, train and motivate seasonal warehouse  and customer service workers.

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