CamperForce, A Sobering Film About Amazon’s Recruiting of Retired RV’ers for Seasonal Positions

CamperForce” is a brilliant yet sobering short documentary by Brett Story, Field of Vision and Jessica Bruder. The film, which is adapted from Bruder’s book “Nomadland”, tells the story about workampers – older people who were bankrupted by the Great Recession of 2008 and decided to downsize their lives in every way they could. Living in RV’s, campers and vans, many these workampers retired from well-paying jobs, only to find themselves thrust back in the workforce, doing physically demanding jobs for a lot less money. This new section of the workforce is very appealing to companies like Amazon because of low overhead, who has a targeted recruiting plan to bring in these modern migrant workers for seasonal warehouse fulfillment work in exchange for $11 per hour, overtime, bonuses, paid campsites and free health coverage (after a waiting period). From the Amazon recruiting site.

The Amazon CamperForce program brings together a community of enthusiastic RV’ers who help make the holidays bright for customers of Amazon. As a CamperForce Associate, you’ll begin this seasonal assignment in early Fall and work until December 23rd. The program lasts 3-4 months in the winter, and your responsibilities will be in the areas of picking, packing, stowing, and receiving. …Amazon offers great pay, a paid completion bonus, paid referral bonuses, and paid campsites for its CamperForce associates.

According to workers Barb and Chuck, however, the job was quite demanding, to the point of physical pain and there are very few young people working these jobs.

It was harder than I thought it was going to be. I mean, I didn’t think I’d be in pain. I knew that it was going to be a physical job, but I didn’t think that I was going to be in pain after the job. At night, after using those scanners, although after year three I think they made them a little less. …they cut down on the weight of them, but at night you’d wake up and there’d be no feeling in your hand afterwards.